Two Roman Emperor statues which were stolen in the 1990s, have been recreated at the National Trust’s Coleshill Heritage Skills Centre.

The emperors have been re-installed in their rightful place in the gate piers at Coleshill near Faringdon in west Oxfordshire after award-winning carver Thomas Ball recreated the busts.

The original stone busts of Marcus Aurelius and Antoninus Pius were set in the rectangular gate piers which once led to Coleshill House.

The design of the grand gate piers are one of the last remaining elements of the house, which was destroyed by fire in 1952.

The National Trust commissioned Mr Ball, who occupies a workshop at the charity’s Heritage Skills Centre at Coleshill, to recreate the busts in Bath stone.

Oxford Mail: Busts of Roman Emperors which were stolen in the 1990s have been recreated at the National Trust’s Coleshill

He began work on the project in April 2019 and started by enlarging the historic photographs to life size.

The Emperors’ noses had been eroded away by the time the pictures were taken, so he also used images of the two emperors from other museum collections.

Using the images as reference, Mr Ball produced clay models and made silicon moulds in which to cast the busts in plaster. The plaster models were trialled in situ to check dimensions, then he used the plaster exemplars to cut a rough outline from great slabs of Bath stone. Over a period of weeks, the final, refined busts began to appear.

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Carver Tom Ball said: “Carving the replacement busts has been a fantastic opportunity. I’ve really enjoyed working alongside the National Trust team here and sharing my work and process with the community of Coleshill.

"I’m very grateful for all the support I’ve received and look forward to seeing the Heritage Skills Centre develop and to playing a part in passing on traditional craft skills.”

Oxford Mail: Busts of Roman Emperors which were stolen in the 1990s have been recreated at the National Trust’s Coleshill

Christian Walker, general manager of the National Trust’s Buscot and Coleshill Estates said: “It is fantastic to have these lost Coleshill residents back in the village. These Grade 1 gates are one of the few structures remaining that were built at the same time as the lost Coleshill House. They demonstrate the quality of workmanship of the 1660s. When the busts were stolen, another piece of the history of this special place was lost.

“Recreating the lost busts within our own Heritage Skills Centre was a unique opportunity to understand the heritage craft required to create them. We were delighted that Coleshill resident Tom Ball was able to take on the commission and show vital heritage skills in action.”

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