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Sunday 12 October 2014

'The Creation', carved brick panels by Walter Ritchie on Bristol Eye Hospital

One of the first things that I saw in Bristol, on walking out of the coach station, was this series of large sculptures carved into brick. They are on the wall of the Bristol Eye Hospital and were produced during the mid 1980s by Walter Ritchie, who was one of the last apprentices to work with the famous and controversial sculptor and designer Eric Gill.

bristol eye hospital

If you don't recognise Gill's name, you would have regularly seen the typeface that he designed called Gill Sans, which is pretty much a standard on any word processing computer programme. I think that you can see his influence in the style of the designs that Ritchie carved.

walter ritchie carved brick

Walter Ritchie died in 1997 and many of his other carvings in brick have sadly been lost, as the buildings that they featured on were demolished. He preferred to make public sculpture rather than private artworks.

The brick panels were the largest non-reinforced brick sculptures at the time and were actually produced at Richie's home in Kenilworth, Warwickshire. Each panel was then transported in two pieces to be installed into their present homes. The quote on the final panel of the series comes from a lecture on the theme of 'Creative Man', given in Oxford in 1947 by Viscount Samuel.

I still think that these relief carvings are beautiful and inspiring, despite having seen them many, many times when passing by. The use of carving techniques directly into house bricks is also unusual and interesting.  Here are some details, so that you can see the textures and markings that he created.


  1. I like the 'over-spill' features such as the giraffe/kangaroo ears and the tips of the bird wings- they must have been difficult to carve...

  2. So do I. I also really like the way that he has caught the soaring movement of the birds. It's also interesting to see such a 'humble' material used to make public sculpture.