A woman lifts up a dying man’s head. This is drama in stone. It’s also a telling of the conclusion of the most significant battle in English history because the dead man is King Harold and the woman is his wife Edith Swan-neck (honestly, yes). And what ended poorly for them in life is also not going well for them now. This sculpture, listed as being by Charles Augustus William Wilke in some places, and by Charles Augustus Henry Wilke in others, was described in a 2007 survey of Sussex’s public art, as being in ‘poor’ condition and at ‘immediate risk’.
It should have remained indoors of course. Commissioned initially for the Brassey Institute (now Hastings Library) it has been exposed to the elements since 1953, residing at the corner of what some people call West Marina Gardens and other people (me) call ‘that space next to the bowling green, just before you get to Bensons for Beds’. On the windswept day I was there the only other sign of life was a woman clinging on to a dog lead in fear that the hound might blow away.
There are plans to save it. A 1066 centre has been proposed. An idea of moving it to the Town Centre, perhaps indoors. But the sad reality is that so much of this piece is now lost. It almost needs to be outside in horrible conditions now so that you aren’t in opulent air-conditioned interiors wondering where Harold’s face has got to. Maybe the nice lady from the, erm, Lady should have it for her garden.