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The Whitehead Gates

Posted in Portfolio

The Whitehead Gates were designed and created by Clive Duncan Sanderson. They are a unique art piece, designed specifically for the Fellows’ Garden, to coincide with the St Hugh’s College 125th Anniversary celebrations.

The gates were created using hand-made craftsmanship skills, including metalworking and blacksmithing. In its design, Clive Sanderson was inspired by the flowers that adorn the College grounds and the space and atmosphere of the Fellows’ Garden, whilst carefully incorporating these themes into those aspects of design undertaken by David McQuitty (BA Hons, DIPLA MLI). This is evident in the design of the gates, which incorporates rose, honeysuckle and plant forms.

“The Whitehead Gates are unique to the Fellows’ Garden and I feel proud of my achievement, a culmination of my skills and experience in design.”

The floral spearheads were modelled in clay, then cast in plaster, from which a resin model was created to cast the spearheads in metal.

Mr Sanderson’s design includes allegorical references to growth, both in the vegetal and intellectual sense; the burgeoning plant life a symbol for the blossoming of academic maturity. The gates have a strong visual movement upwards. At its base, the gate features new shoots. The centre of the gate contains opening leaves and unfurling buds, spiralling upwards to the ornate flowering spearheads. At its allegorical peak, the gate features mature blooming roses and honeysuckle, representing the culmination of lifelong learning.

Clive Sanderson’s inspiration for the design of the gates drew heavily upon the works of William Morris (1834-1896) and Dr Arthur Harry Church (1865-1937), chosen both for their interest in the botanical and their connection with Oxford University. Mr Sanderson has long admired the work of William Morris and the 19th century Arts and Crafts Movement with which he is associated. William Morris studied at Exeter College in 1852, and lived and married in Oxfordshire.

“I wish to express my gratitude to St Hugh’s College for their enthusiasm in embracing the commission.”

William Morris is most well-known for his botanically-inspired narrative artworks, which greatly influenced Mr Sanderson’s design of the gates. The brilliant botanist Dr Harry Arthur Church (MA DSc FRS), produced several illustrations and watercolours of plant structure and mechanisms. A graduate of Jesus, 1891, he taught at Exeter and Jesus and at the Botanical Gardens, and was a Fellow of the Royal and Linnaean societies. Both Church’s illustrations and his works ‘Oxford Botanical Memoirs’ 1922- 1925 and ‘Types of Floral Mechanism’ 1908, inspired Mr Sanderson in designing the framework for the gates.

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