HE may be a familiar heavenly sight to drivers seeking divine intervention during the daily commute, but the abbot who stands on the Marcham Road roundabout in Abingdon has been neglected in recent years.

The nine foot-tall wooden figure was becoming increasingly hidden by shrubs until recent maintenance work by Oxfordshire County Council revealed the sculpture's full glory.

Now Abingdon Town Council leader Mike Badcock has called for someone to take on responsibility for the holy man, who has stood in the middle of the roundabout near the Tesco superstore greeting drivers coming into the town from the A34 since 2002.

He said: "It's a fun link to the town's history and I think somebody should take on looking after the abbot to ensure he is maintained for the future.”

The abbot was paid for by commercial publisher Abbey Press, which sponsored both the statue and the roundabout ahead of the Thames and Chiltern Country in Bloom competition in 2002.

The abbot and roundabout was victorious in the 'best landscaping' category, but Abbey Press stopped trading in April 2013, leaving nobody responsible for the statue.

Mr Badcock said he would like to see a return to the practice of decorating the abbot, who has sported everything from football shirts to Santa hats down the years.

He said: “It’s something quirky and a bit of fun that I know people used to enjoy.”

The councillor’s views have been echoed by local residents, with 25-year-old Karina Vale suggesting more of feature should be made of the whole roundabout due to its prime location.

She said: “It’s nice to have something connected to the town’s history there and it would fit well if someone were to tidy up the whole roundabout and maybe plant some flowers to spell out ‘Welcome to Abingdon’.

Ms Vale, of Northcourt Walk, was less keen on reviving the tradition of decorating the monk.

She said: “People used to put crochet hats and other costumes on him but I think it would have to be done carefully because it could be a distraction for drivers on such a busy roundabout.”

The abbot serves as a reminder of Abingdon Abbey, which was founded in the 7th century and for centuries dominated the town until it fell into ruins after Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries.

Husband and wife Jan and Reg Taylor, from Sutton Courtenay, said they had been visiting Abingdon for more than 35 years and enjoyed seeing the wooden figure.

Mrs Taylor, 68, said: “Because of the history of the town with the abbots it fits in really well and it would be nice to make sure it is looked after properly."

Alex Davies, 40, who lives just off Marcham Road, agreed and said: “It doesn’t seem particularly well-loved at the moment with all the weeds growing around it.”

The roundabout is maintained by Oxfordshire County Council, but the local authority has no responsibility for the abbot.

Council spokesman Martin Crabtree said: “We maintain the roundabout and have recently cut back vegetation which uncovered the monk statue.

"We do not have an issue with it as it is not a safety problem.

"The statute is in keeping with the environment and we believe it is based on the history of the town.”

No group has yet shown an interest in claiming responsibility for the abbot, and the town council has urged anyone who wants to do so to get in touch.