Bust Of Queen Elizabeth II – Abba’s greatest hit at Amberley

Company News PMWT

The Plumbing Museum and Workshop Trust are delighted to become custodians of a lead sculpture of the late Queen created by Denys Abba in 1956. #PMWT

Lead bust of Queen Elizabeth II by Denys Abba (1956)

The bust was made by Denys Abba at the age of 19 when he completed his City & Guilds as an Indentured Plumbing student at Hull Technical College. It was created from 5 pounds of 3 feet square flat lead sheet using lead bossing tools. The plinth was formed from a 4” flattened soil pipe, which was shaped and lead burned onto the bust. The likeness was based on a framed photo of the Queen taken during the early years of her reign which hung in the College Workshop.

The history of what happened to the sculpture next is as remarkable as the figure. It was on display at the college until the early 1980’s, when Denys received a call to say that some building students had damaged it, and although most of the damage had been knocked out, the College was worried that it might happen again.

Bust on display at Hull Technical College

Denys was given the option of rehoming his creation. By this time, he had risen to be an Assistant Chief Public Health Inspector. The bust sat proudly in his office for the next 13 years where it became quite a conversation piece.

When Denys retired, the bust went with him and sat on a shelf still giving pleasure as she surveyed his garden. This is where it took on its weathered patina. He captured a wonderful image of the sculpture with a light covering of snow which looks just like a stole around her neck:

Then disaster struck. A squirrel took a fancy to the lead and chewed a hole in the side of the head. Squirrels are thought to do this to grind down their incisors. The teeth marks can still be observed. Whilst squirrels seem to have built up a tolerance to lead, we would not recommend any of you follow the rodents’ gastronomic habits. Lead requires handling with great care and proper hand washing after contact is essential.

Bust is Denys’s garden

Every cloud has a silver lining and imagine how delighted Denys was to find that his much-loved work of art next became home to a family of great tits:

Great tit emerging from hole in bust

The years have rolled on, and Denys has now moved closer to his family. Unfortunately, there was nowhere suitable to site the bust. Inspired by watching an edition of the television programme “The Repair Shop”, which referenced the plumbers’ work in lead casting, by a circuitous route, Denys tracked down the team at Amberley to see if they would be interested in displaying his artwork. Denys asked that no repairs were undertaken and that it was not melted down. The Trust was gratified to be entrusted with care of the sculpture from Denys, and it is now proudly on display at the Gin building at Amberley:

Sandra Raine shaking hands with Denys Abba at Amberley

Paul Nash, Master Elect, has an exciting day out planned to Amberley during his year of office. Look out for the trip and admire the sculpture for yourself!

Sandra Raine

Plumbing Museum and Workshop Trust (PMWT)