Emma’s elephants on parade on the North Yorkshire coast

image by  Tony Bartholomew

image by Tony Bartholomew

A family of elephants with a remarkable history will be taking up residence overlooking Staithes Harbour in North Yorkshire in September.

Tara and her two calves, created in woven willow by Whitby sculptor Emma Stothard, will be a centrepiece of the annual Staithes Festival of Arts and Heritage, which this year takes place on the weekend of 9 and 10 September.

The 2m-high mother and her two babies were first seen at Highgrove House, the Gloucestershire family residence of Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, as part of the House’s first garden festival in the summer of 2015.

Emma named the mother Tara after a topiary elephant at Highgrove which is a mark of remembrance for the Duchess’s late brother, Mark Shand, who co-founded the Elephant Family, a charity which strives to conserve diminishing numbers of the Asian Elephant.

Since then, Tara and her offspring have been in storage, but Emma was delighted to be asked to display them at the festival in Staithes as a tribute to a little-known local story about the elephants of Sandsend.

TBP PR beach elephants-2.jpg


In the 1860s, Indian noble Duleep Singh, the Maharajah of Lahore, lived at Mulgrave Castle near Sandsend. He had a road constructed from Sandsend to Whitby – legend has it because his elephants didn’t enjoy walking on the sand.

“The Maharajah definitely lived at Mulgrave Castle,” says Emma. “I’m not sure if the story about the elephants on the beach is true – but I’ve always loved it, and the local connection was perfect for Staithes.”

Emma starts each work by photographing and sketching the real animals. She then builds a steel armature and weaves around them in willow which has been soaked in water for two to three weeks, or metal wire.

“I’m aiming to recreate their shape and form, but also a sense of movement and character,” she says.

These aren’t the first elephants Emma has made – two bronze wire straight-tusked elephants can be seen at Kent’s new garden city Ebbsfleet, where they are part of a ‘Stone Age Safari’ art project.

She also created a large-scale sculpture of HRH The Prince of Wales’ beloved Jack Russell dog, Tigga – now a permanent fixture in the grounds at Highgrove, and a personal thank you to the prince for the Prince’s Trust loan which kick-started her career in 2001.

Emma’s work can also be seen in the windows of London’s luxurious department store Fortnum & Mason this summer and in the grounds of Raymond Blanc’s two-Michelin-starred Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons near Oxford.

This will be Emma’s third year exhibiting at Staithes – the striking large-scale orange and blue lobsters which were seen on the harbourside in 2015 have both found permanent homes since, with the orange one in chef Andrew Pern’s new Whitby venture, The Star Inn the Harbour, and the blue, which was bought by the North York Moors National Park authority, at the top of the hill in Staithes.

Tara and her calves can be seen at Staithes this year outside Viking Cottage on Seaton Garth, overlooking the harbour.

For further information on Emma and her work, please visit: emmastothard.com

For further information on Staithes Festival of Arts and Heritage, please visit: staithesfestival.com