architecture, Art, Essex, eyecatcher, garden history, Outsider Art, Statue

Mr Saville’s Garden, Matching Green, Essex

In 1959 the inhabitants of Matching Green, east of Harlow in Essex, were horrified by the appearance of a 6 foot 3 inch statue of a naked lady in a village garden. The figure was the work of Horace Saville, the village blacksmith, and he claimed it was a model of how he wanted his future wife to look.

The statue had originally stood 5 feet high on Saville’s lawn, but after ‘somebody’ knocked it down he rebuilt it on a sturdy concrete plinth. The outraged locals included Mrs Harold Smith who thought the statue a ‘hideous monstrosity’ and Mr George Burnett who lived next door to Saville. He worried that the statue would attract day-trippers who would come to ‘gawp’. And presumably that is exactly what happened when Burnett spoke to the Daily Mirror and the paper published a photo’ of the statue. Saville was unperturbed and told the reporter that he was a ‘genuine bachelor’ who didn’t really know what a lady looked like ‘without her clothes’.

Saville (1904-1980) was 54 when he erected the statue of his dream wife and it doesn’t seem to have found him a partner. Nine years later he was still single, and it seems doubtful that his latest wheeze would attract suitors: he had taken to moulding his own dentures in concrete and coating them in a secret formula to make them sparkle.

Raymond Fieldhouse sent this working drawing of the statues to his friend Barbara Jones. He later produced a watercolour but its current whereabouts are not known. Courtesy of a private collection.

The statue of a naked lady was soon joined by some other garden ornaments. In the years after her appearance Saville had sculpted a whole range of figures with no apparent connection. By 1973 there were statues of the Queen, Prince Philip, General de Gaulle, the broadcaster Cliff Michelmore, the Earl of Avon (presumably former Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden), the devil waving a top hat and Horace Saville himself. One of best records of the garden found to date is this sketch which Raymond “Tim” Fieldhouse sent to his friend Jones in 1973. Fieldhouse had met Saville in Matching Green and described him as ‘a great old Essex character […] every bit as weird as one of his own creations, a real old eccentric’.

Photo c.1970 from Barbara Jones’s research files. Courtesy of a private collection.

Further statues included a policeman, a racegoer, a huntsman, an army officer, a horse and jockey, and a gorilla with a bunch of bananas. Smaller sculptures could be found in the long grass of Saville’s wild garden, all with piercing blue eyes made from marbles.

Photo c.1970 from Barbara Jones’s research files. The sculpted head bottom left is probably Saville himself. Courtesy of a private collection.

Saville was very serious about the project to which he had dedicated his retirement, and a sign in the garden announced his creations as ‘Concrete Art’.  Whilst perhaps not always popular in the village (they became known locally as ‘Horace’s Horrors’), today the body of work would be celebrated as Outsider Art, defined by the Tate as ‘art that has a naïve quality, often produced by people who have not trained as artists’.  But sadly there is nothing left to see: after Saville’s death in 1980 the statues were swept away.

You can at least see the man himself – here he is promoting margarine in 1954.

From the Coventry Evening Telegraph 14 December 1954.

Does anyone remember the garden and statues? Your thoughts and comments are warmly welcomed – please scroll down to the foot of the page to get in touch. Thank you for reading.

The Needle’s Eye, Wentworth Woodhouse. Subscribe and discover many other fascinating follies.


Subscribing to The Folly Flaneuse ensures you will never miss a post. All you need to do is provide me with your contact information and you will automatically receive an email each Saturday when I post new content on Your email address will never be sold or shared

 You can remove yourself anytime by contacting me.

* indicates required

21 thoughts on “Mr Saville’s Garden, Matching Green, Essex”

  1. Edward Mirzoeff says:

    There are gardens with similar creations in the BBC film I made with Candida Lycett Green in 1980, ‘The Front Garden’. One, I seem to remember, had thirteen concrete cathedrals. I believe the film can be found on YouTube.

    1. Editor says:

      Good morning Edward. A quick google reveals that this film is indeed on YouTube so I will enjoy watching this later, and I am sure other readers be interested to watch too. Thanks so much for getting in touch.

  2. Sally Paque says:

    What a great quirky article! Poor Horace – what a shame that a kindred spirit lady didn’t appear on the scene!

    1. Editor says:

      Hello Sally. I think Horace might have been quite a handful to live with! I was really delighted to learn about him and his wonderful creations.

  3. Kate Dyson says:

    What an interesting find! So sad Horace’s statues disappeared. I love the thought of the outraged villagers!
    That was an excellent bit of digging.

    1. Editor says:

      Hello Kate. I only discovered Horace and his sculptures very recently and I had to put all other research to one side so I could find out more about him. What a great character he must have been.

    1. Editor says:

      Good morning John. I dared to click and I can’t say I was impressed with what I saw. Thanks for sharing this story.

      1. Clare says:

        So lovely to see these images Horace’s sculptures, I thought I would never see these again. My father was born in matching green in 1940, and all through his childhood he was a good friend to Horace providing him with all the marbles for the sculptures eyes. As a child I always knew I was near to grandmas house when we past the figures just as you got to the bend in the Road opposite the village green. I don’t know if you know that he made a full size concrete horse in is kitchen which was so heavy it had to stay in the middle of the kitchen. It was a sad day when we drove past and it had all gone!! Wish there had been more pictures. Clare Garnham.

        1. Editor says:

          Hello Clare. Thank you so much for sharing your memories of Horace. How lovely to have that family connection. I didn’t know about the horse – another wonderful addition to the story.

  4. Sue says:

    These sculptures reminded me of The Owl House in South Africa where Helen Martins sculpted owls and lots of other birds and animals out of concrete.

  5. Editor says:

    Coincidentally Historic England has just published a blog about Henry Moore. He had a sculpture in Harlow which ‘initially suffered scathing public criticism, with the heads vandalised with a tea cosy and green-painted whiskers and the baby’s head broken off’. Harlow is close to Matching Green so one wonders whether Horace knew Moore’s work, and what the villagers of Matching Green thought of it.

  6. Gary says:

    Great article, as usual! I was disappointed, however, not to see a photo of the statue of his “perfect” wife.

    1. Editor says:

      Sadly I could only find a very grainy image that didn’t do the ideal Mrs Saville justice!

  7. Clifford Dean says:

    I saw these sculptures during a cycling tour of East Anglia in summer 1972. In fact I made a detour to find them but cannot recall how I had heard of them. I suspect I could have been alerted to their presence by a newspaper article, possibly reporting on reactions of neighbours.
    Unfortunately I took no photos.

    1. Editor says:

      Hello Clifford. It’s great to hear from someone who saw the statues before they disappeared. I’m sure lots of people went to see them after reading about them, but like you didn’t get a visual record. Thanks for letting me know you saw them.

  8. Garance says:

    Thank you for adding to my UK Outsider Artist list, always more to learn. He doesn’t appear on the Henry Boxer list either –, although Horace clearly was a character who did seem to fit into that community. Such a shame that his desire was never satisfied and his contribution to the world of eccentricities now lost.

    1. Editor says:

      Hello Garance. I’d love to learn more about Horace but so little seems to survive apart from a few grainy photos. He never did meet his dream date, and left no issue, so his work disappeared with him. I was very pleased to discover Raymond Fieldhouse’s wonderful sketch so that at least we have some record of his oeuvre.

  9. Sylvia says:

    In the early 70s I use to live and work at Down Hall between Matching Green and Hatfield Heath. I often use to pass Horace Savills garden to look at the statues. At the time I thought they were a bit weird. The garden was very overgrown and I could hardly see the ground floor of his house. In that period of about four years I never saw Horace. I don’t know if you know this but back in the 70s a film crew turned up for the programme Nationwide which was for local news. I think it was presented by Bob Wellings who recently died.

    1. Editor says:

      Hello Sylvia and very many thanks for sharing your memories. I didn’t know about the Nationwide film – It would be great to find out if it survives. I imagine Horace would be quite a character to interview.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.