British sculptor John William Mills, who is now 80 years old, was born in London and studied at Hammersmith School of Art (1947-1954) and the Royal College of Art (1956-1960).
Major works include the monument to the Women of the Second World War in Whitehall, and the National Firefighter’s Memorial near St Paul’s Cathedral, but he also created Boy With Cat, placed in Hyperion Court, Highfield in 1962.
The artist, who still lives in Hertfordshire, was based at the St Albans School of Art when he was called in by the new town development corporation to advise on the choice of suitable sculptors to provide a series of works.
Eight pieces of sculpture were commissioned, but four were later destroyed by vandals.
Those that remain are:
Development of Man
The first major item of sculpture in the town centre was erected on a store building on the corner of Bridge Street – now a branch of the Santander bank – in August 1955. The work is by Professor A H Gerrard of the Slade School of Fine Art who had previously been working as a war artist.
The four panels of incised relief on Portland stone depict the evolution of man down the ages.
The Discus Thrower
This was purchased by the development corporation at an auction in 1960 and erected in its original position in Bank Court in the spring of 1962. It now stands in the Water Gardens opposite.
Three-tiered car park, Marlowes/Hillfield Road
A ceramic mural decorates the tiered car park on the Marlowes/Hillfield Road corner. The work is by noted Punch cartoonist, Rowland Emett and shows a pictorial map of the district in his own inimitable, whimsical style.
Rock and Roll
In the lake at the southern end of the Water Gardens stands a statue of a dancing couple called Rock‘n’Roll, by the French sculptor Hubert Yencesse.
The work was commissioned by the development corporation and was erected in the summer of 1962. A replica of the group was presented by the development corporation to the new town of Elizabeth, South Australia, because the town had characteristics in common with Hemel Hempstead.
The Trust’s heritage store in central BerkhamsteD is home to more than 100,000 objects relating to the history of the borough. open by appointment, Monday to Friday,10am - 4pm. Call 01442 879525 to find out more.