Original piece of folk art returns to Southampton

Something lovely happened last week.

A genuine piece of Southampton folk art returned to the city.

Ken Hellyar’s model map of medieval Southampton has been restored to its former glory and will soon form a key part of of the GHT project.

The map depicting 17th century Southampton was made by Ken in 1980 – and for much of its life was on display at historic locations around the city. But after six months of conservation work by restorer Kate Harrison it is now ready to go on show again.

Ken spent almost a year making his model, which shows the town as it was in 1620, the year the Mayflower ship set sail from Westgate quay.

It’s the only complete 3D record of the walled town from that time, and Ken’s artisanal craftsmanship was based on his research into city archives and historical documents. 

The model comes complete with a miniature Mayflower ship, outhouses for pigs and poultry, the Bargate and of course God’s House Tower. 

Ken used scraps of old cardboard, the ends of bottle brushes, and lollipop sticks to hand-craft his model from scratch. He worked as an ambulance driver and even saved leftover bits of x-ray film packaging to make tiny windows on the Tudor houses. 

Ken and his wife Rosemary founded the first Southampton Tour Guide Association, and their love for the city shines through this beautiful piece of folk art. 

Now it is back in storage while it waits to move into God’s House Tower, where it will be part of the audiovisual exhibition on the history of the building, showing visitors exactly how the walled town of Southampton looked in the middle ages – when waves lapped against the Tower walls.

Ken died in 1995, and his wife Rosemary died this year. But we’ve made sure this beautiful piece of outsider art survives. We are very pleased to have it back in the city – and thanks to Kate for doing such a wonderful job on the restoration!

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