Stencilled graffiti which has appeared on the door of Wellington Monument in Somerset is not a Banksy – the National Trust has been told.
A spokesperson for Banksy has declared that the graffiti – which purports to be signed by the artist – is a fake.
The Monument has been fenced off in recent years to keep visitors safe from the risk of falling masonry, but despite this barrier the door at the base of the Monument was found to have been painted with a stencilled portrait of the Queen and the slogan ‘one was ‘ere’, along with a stencilled signature which claimed the work to be by Banksy.
‘We had concerns immediately when we saw it about whether it was a Banksy,’ said Helen Sharp, Wellington Monument Project Manager for the National Trust. ‘The work did not appear to be of the standard we’ve seen of his work elsewhere.
‘We still felt we should check to see if it was authentic and we received a quick reply – in very unambiguous terms – to say ‘this is not by Banksy’. It makes the decision on whether to remove the graffiti somewhat easier for us.
‘Quite often in the Trust we face the challenge of proving who created a painting in our collection, but it is unusual for us to be dealing with works by a living artist. This makes it somewhat simpler, though still intriguing.’
The National Trust is currently completing a detailed survey of the Monument which is guiding a project to repair the structure – the tallest monument of its kind in the UK. It has been estimated that a full repair to conserve the Monument would cost £4 million, but this figure is subject to final survey work. If more problems are revealed this could considerably raise the costs and put the project at risk.
The majority of the funding needs to be raised from external sources and a large application is planned to be submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund. If this can be secured, a campaign will be launched locally to raise the additional funds required. The project would give many people the opportunity to see the conservation work at close-quarters, as well as the chance to take part in a range of different activities – currently in the early stages of planning in consultation with local people.
The Monument was built to commemorate the Duke of Wellington’s victory after the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The foundation stone was laid in 1817 but the work was dogged by problems and lack of funding – finally completed in its current form in the 1890s.
The Monument will be illuminated again on 20 October to mark 199 years since the foundation stone was laid in 1817.
‘In one way it is disappointing that Banksy hasn’t visited the Monument, although obviously we do not want to encourage any graffiti on the Monument due to the cost of removing it and potential damage to historic stonework,’ added Helen. ‘We’re also keen that people don’t put themselves at risk by entering the area that is fenced off around the Monument.
‘Even though we’re pretty sure it’s not the real deal and will remove it in due course, anyone interested still has a little time to come and see it.’
More information on the Trust’s progress with its project to repair the Wellington Monument can be found at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wellington-monument