Thousands of hours of painstaking work by renowned artist James Butler and the Lockbund Foundry in Banbury will come to fruition this Thursday morning at Molineux.
The 10-foot bronze sculpture of Sir Jack Hayward, in memory of the club’s former owner, will be revealed between 11am and 11.30am this Thursday, after more than two years of hard work.
The statue depicts arguably Sir Jack’s finest moment, after the 2003 play off final victory, and was originally produced from clay by Butler, who also took into account personal memories of Sir Jack during construction.
Their friendship added extra significance to the world renowned sculptor, who was well placed to create a likeness which was approved by Sir Jack’s family following its conclusion.
“I met Jack on a number of occasions, both watching football at the club and him visiting me to see the jobs I was doing, and I had a very high regard for Sir Jack,” Butler explains. “I got on very well with him, he had great interest in the statues.
“I’d seen the subject (in this case Sir Jack) on a number of occasions, and that was a great plus. I also had a number of photographs in a small book on him, which also proved very helpful when creating a likeness to Sir Jack.”
Following the clay construction, the work of art was transferred to the Lockbund Foundry in Oxfordshire, where Ben Hilton and his team transformed it into the bronze statue which will be unveiled on Thursday.
Hilton has worked at the foundry for 25 years, many of which have been spent working in conjunction with Butler, transforming his clay sculptures into a mould and casting it in bronze.
Over time, Lockbund Foundry have developed a unique method to produce statues which was used on the Sir Jack piece and complements the work of Butler perfectly.
“In recent times we’ve developed a form of casting that we’re proud of,” said Hilton. “Each foundry has their own methods but we’re proud of what we’ve created and its ability to give us faultless casting.
“It takes a lot to impress someone who’s been doing it as long as James has. He’s in his 80s and between us we’ve creating something very special. For him to be happy with us is a real statement of success.
“I’ve known James since I started aged 16. He always amazes us with his ability to work in cloth and folding of fabric, the movement he gets into his sculptures is second to none, right down to the fingerprint detail. He’s been doing it a very long time and he’s good at it.”
Butler’s link to Wolves is a strong one. Having previously built statues of Stan Cullis and Billy Wright, which stand proudly outside Molineux today, he was then approached to take on the Sir Jack project in 2016.
As well as Stan Cullis and Billy Wright, James also holds the Queen and President Kenyatta amongst the previous high-profile individuals he’s replicated, and the experience in his field proved invaluable when working on Sir Jack.
James said: “My first big commission was to do a statue of President Kenyatta of Kenya. It’s a twice life-size, seated figure in the centre of Nairobi. The next one was figures for the army of Field Marshal Alexander and Sir John Moore.
“I was recently commissioned to do a portrait of the Queen – a 10-foot high statue to celebrate the signing of the Magna Carta, before I took on Sir Jack.
“Sir Jack’s son Jonathan came to OK the likeness and he’s agreed it looks like his father. The family have been very useful for vocal advice.”
The level of detail which has gone into the construction is reflective of the time invested into its production and, more than two years after work began, Hilton and the Lockbund Foundry are proud of the final product.
Hilton said: “It’ll outlive any of us, bronze is chosen because of its longevity. It will weather, bronze will not stay the same colour, but I see it being there as long as the club exists.
“I didn’t meet Jack, so I couldn’t comment on its resemblance, but James is a renowned sculptor, you’d find it hard to find someone better than him to create it.
“We’re very proud. The feeling of looking upon the work makes you proud. The whole team will take great enjoyment seeing this piece at its end and viewing it on site.”
Supporters are welcome to come and share this special moment on Thursday, the date of Sir Jack’s birth, when the statue will be unveiled outside Molineux. For more information, please click here.