The Burton Cooper by James Walter Butler
The Burton Cooper is probably the most well-known and one of the oldest pieces of artwork in the town. It depicts a cooper at work making a barrel, just as thousands of men did over the years in the town. Coopers were very important to the brewery trade, as they hand made and repaired the barrels used in the brewing process. Over the years, the profession has all but died out, barrels now being made of more durable metal. Cooperages were a huge operation in Burton on Trent in its heyday of brewing, but these have all disappeared as the method of brewing beer has changed.
The statue was commissioned in 1977 by Pensman Nominees Ltd and was funded by most of the large brewers operating in the town at the time, including Bass-Charrington, Marstons and Allied Breweries, as well as Burton Civic Society. The artist visited a cooperage at Bass-Charrington and took notes and photographs to ensure 100% accuracy in the bronze statue. It depicts a man in the cooper’s traditional overalls hammering a temporary shaping truss to hold the wooden staves in place before the permanent iron hoops are fitted to the barrel.
The Burton Cooper was unveiled in 1977 and was originally located at the end of St Modwen’s Walk, across the road from the market place (the entrance of the shopping centre where Primark is, in modern terms). In 1994, the then-outdoor shopping centre (then called Burton Shopping Centre) was refurbished and covered over, as well as being renamed Coopers Square. The Burton Cooper was moved inside the centre to its present location, much to the chagrin of some local people who insisted that it should be permanently outside so that people can enjoy it at any time, not just when the shopping centre is open. Two time capsules were also buried under the statue in the 1990s, with five items representing Burton in the 1990s as chosen by local school children.
Malt Shovel by Andrew Hazell
The Malt Shovel on the corner of High Street and New Street was installed in 2001 at a cost of £45,000 of National Lottery-funded money (£66,500 in 2021 money). It is supposed to depict a maltster’s shovel, used for turning grain in maltsters during the brewing process. This process is now largely redundant, with many of the old malthouses in the town having been demolished in the last 50 years. The sculpture has a bottle-shaped hole through which pedestrians can walk.
The sculpture drew a large amount of controversy and criticism from locals. Former maltsters claimed it looks more like a scoop than the flat shovel used for malting. The then-editor of the local newspaper The Burton Mail declined his invitation to attend the unveiling in October 2001 as a “matter of principle”.
Nevertheless, the 30ft high steel shovel has remained where it is for almost 20 years and has become part of the fabric of the town centre.
Burton College Sculpture
This stainless steel sculpture sits outside the entrance to Burton and South Derbyshire College, on the corner of Lichfield Street and Abbey Street. It was designed and built by students of the college and unveiled by The Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward, in July 2003. He was in town to officially open the new college building where the sculpture is located.
A second sculpture in the form of a bench used to sit nearby. It had two ornamental books on either side, with details of the Prince’s visit in 2003 and quotes from Nelson Mandela, Plato and the principal of Burton College. I don’t know where it is now; it wasn’t there when I had a look for it in April 2021.
Mysterious Round Stones
Located on a small patch of grass between the college grounds and the market place car park, these three round stones with holes in the middle are a complete mystery to me. If you have any information about them, then please contact me using any of the methods on the About and Contact page.
Font by Doug Cocker
This 4.5 metre tall bronze sculpture is located at the end of Evershed Way, near the junction with Dale Street. It is located up a short flight of steps and is partially obscured by trees. Font was unveiled in January 1995 and is meant to represent four figures holding up a copper vat, as a homage to Burton’s place as the centre of the brewing industry. It was a controversial piece of art at the time, with one councillor likening it to a “public toilet”.
Caskade by W.J. Giles
Caskade was formerly a working fountain located in the courtyard of the Bass Burton Brewery (now Molson Coors) entrance off Station Street. It was installed in 1995 and designed by W.J. Giles. Caskade was created from beer casks (hence the name). Water would flow from the casks, creating a fountain. It was an imaginative creation, but has been neglected in recent years. It was moved to the brewery site across Station Street at some point, and it was given a clean-up a few years back, but it doesn’t work any more. Many people pass by this every day, but not many people would notice it or know what it is. At the time of writing, the site where it sits is up for lease, so the future of Caskade is unclear. I personally think it would look good somewhere in the town centre, fully restored and working.
Ithuba by David Storm
This sculpture is located at Middleway Park near the car park entrance. To my shame, I hadn’t been aware of it at all while I was compiling the previous sculpture posts on this blog. Like the “Reel Ale” sculpture nearby, it was designed by students at Burton College and unveiled in November 2000 to mark the opening of Middleway Park, a former brewery site which is now a leisure and shopping park. The word “Ithuba” means “opportunity” in South African dialect.
I think this and the other two previous blog posts (this one and this one) covers all the artworks and sculptures in Burton on Trent. If I find any more, I will do another post. There is another one planned for the railway station at platform level, but at the time of writing it is still in the planning stages.
Thank you very much for reading, and don’t forget that you can follow the blog on all the social media sites at this link here.