The Sunbathers at the Festival of Britain, Copyright Historic England Archive aa51/06841
Historic England needs your help to rescue a remarkable discovery from the Festival of Britain.
The 1951 Festival of Britain was a national celebration that showcased the best in art, design, craft and sport, and was a beacon of hope for a bruised and battered post-war Britain. At the Southbank, the artist Peter Laszlo Peri was commissioned to create the sculpture The Sunbathers, which greeted Festival visitors at Waterloo station. Most of the art created for the Festival of Britain has sadly been lost or destroyed, but last year something amazing happened. Historic England asked the public to help track down lost pieces of public art. The Sunbathers was on that list and was found in the garden of The Clarendon Hotel in Blackheath, London.
The owners bought the sculpture at auction in the 1960s, but didn’t realise just what a rare Festival of Britain survival it was. Since then, countless hotel guests have enjoyed the piece, with generations of children scrambling over the figures at weddings and tea parties. All that love means the sculpture needs some much needed care and attention!