Cornford and Cross
The Once and Future King 2008


Well, ‘crowned’ by razor wire
For Give Me Shelter curated by Anne de Charmant
The Walled Garden, Attingham Park, Shropshire

 

In the landscaped grounds of a stately home is an imposing brick wall, which forms an enclosure. Passing through a heavy wooden door, visitors enter a great square of level ground laid to lawn and intersected by two broad paths. Where the paths meet in the centre of the garden is a large circular pool, brick lined and capped with stone but left open to the sky. Next to this lies buried the original well, which has recently been the subject of an archaeological dig. The conjunction of an enclosed garden, crossed paths and water source is rich with significance from classical mythology to Christian faith. The barrier, route and source that define the space are also open to psychoanalytic interpretation.

This place was once the kitchen garden, which in its heyday would have provided enough food to support the whole household. For many decades, it stood as an empty, unproductive space while fossil fuel, industrial agriculture, and supermarkets dominated global food production. With the coming energy crisis, food and water look set to become desperately scarce. If so, this fertile ground, which is sheltered from the elements and secured against intruders, would become a vital and contested territory. It is now being put back into production through a volunteer-led National Trust initiative.

Over the well, we made a distorted globe of security wire. The galvanized ‘tangle wire’ that forms the surface of the globe was specially developed by a local firm to safely keep protestors out of the grounds of the Gleneagles Hotel during the 2005 G8 summit. Beneath the surface, the structure of the globe is a lethal bundle of stainless steel razor wire. Like a thorn bush in a fable, the loops and swirls of shimmering steel may draw the viewer near, yet hold them off in an encounter that is at once threatening and fascinating.

‘The Once and Future King’ is a novel by T.H. White, which retells the myth of King Arthur interwoven with elements of twentieth century warfare, psychoanalysis and time travel. The narrative opens with a youthful clarity of style and character, gradually rises in complexity and paradox, before closing with a portrayal of subtle insight won against a backdrop of epic change.

 



Attingham Hall


The vegetable garden, Attingham Hall, 2008


Excavation to confirm location of abandoned well
The Walled Garden, Attingham Park, 2008


Bales of razor wire at Birmingham Barbed Tape Ltd, 2008


Bales of razor wire in the Walled Garden, Attingham Park


Terry Ashmead of Birmingham Barbed Tape Ltd installing ‘The Once and Future King'


The Once and Future King, 2008


The Once and Future King, 2008
Installation view