Horse Hoe and Labourer


Wilstead Art Feature

When planning permission was given for the Westbury Homes development  off Luton Rd a certain amount of money was ring-fenced for an Art Feature at the junction of Longmeadow Drive and Church Farm Avenue.

In 2002 on the development plan of the site the art feature was just a cross on the plan. There was no design specified. The only thing that was specified was that the money could only be spent on a piece of art.

After a year or two Barry Huckle, the then Chairman of the Parish Council, came up with the idea that the art feature should commemorate Wilstead’s connection with farming over the centuries. Very appropriate, as where it now stands was, not so long ago, part of Church Farm.

The Crouch and Wisson families offered an old horse drawn hoe they had lying, until then, forgotten in a corner of the farmyard. With this and Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charities (BRCC) suggesting Bedfordshire sculptor Paul Pibworth as a producer of the art feature, the project could now move forward.

Paul came up with the idea of a farm labourer steering the hoe and following chats with local farmers he suggested forming the labourer out of their recollections and sayings associated with the period when the hoe was used.

The Parish Council also wanted to commemorate people who had been involved in farming and so the twelve most common names that were identified as ‘Agricultural Labourer’ in the 1901 census were also included in the make up of the Labourer. There were 5 Burrs, 3 Berringtons, 2 Bostons, Cooper, Sugars & Irons etc and these names make up the torso of the labourer.

Having got a design, the exact position was selected to avoid the various storm drains and service cables / pipes which had been installed in the intervening years. Permission to build the sculpture was then sought from and granted by Bedford Borough Council under permitted development.

Additional funding from Persimmon (who had bought Westbury Homes) and the Bedford Borough Ward Fund meant there was now nothing to stop the art feature actually coming to fruition instead of being just an idea on paper.

It still took a couple of years to get the Horse Hoe and Labourer made and installed but on the 29th November 2014 it was formally unveiled by Mrs Sheila Crouch and Mrs Enid Wisson who could both remember the hoe being used.

At the unveiling ceremony the Parish Council Chairman, Nigel Jacobs, gave the crowd of over 50 villagers a brief history of the project and introduced Paul Pibworth who then explained how the Labourer had been made. Firstly the letters that made up the names and phrases were cut out of stainless steel sheet and then welded together around a stainless steel skeletal structure to form a human figure. The final stage was to pour concrete into the empty human figure. This gave the illusion that the letters are floating and making up the skin of the labourer. In parallel with this work the hoe had been refurbished and painted in traditional colours.

It had been decided not to include a horse in the sculpture but its presence is depicted by the use of horseshoes set in the grass to represent the hoof prints left by the horse.

Paul had been assisted in the creation of the Horse Hoe and Labourer by three students from Bedford College.

The unveiling revealed an interpretation panel which explained the history of the sculpture and gave a brief history of farming in Wilstead over the centuries.

After the unveiling Mrs Wisson patted the labourer on the head and proclaimed him to be “A Good Ole Boy”.

There follows a selection of photos which record the unveiling and show the sculpture.

Other examples of Paul’s work can also be found on the internet at