Tree stump in Eastgate Street, Bury St Edmunds is transformed by wood carver

John Williams has decided to carve a tree stump on Eastgate Street in Bury St Edmunds.

John Williams has decided to carve a tree stump on Eastgate Street in Bury St Edmunds. - Credit: Gregg Brown

Not many people would give up 200 hours of their life and ten weeks of work free of charge, but that is exactly what one retired Suffolk teacher is doing after coming across an “ugly” tree stump near his house.

John Williams has decided to carve a tree stump on Eastgate Street in Bury St Edmunds.

John Williams has decided to carve a tree stump on Eastgate Street in Bury St Edmunds. - Credit: Gregg Brown

John Williams, 75, has decided to carve a detailed sculpture into the five-foot log in Bury St Edmunds, which was left after the Eastgate Street tree was deemed unsafe and cut down.

Mr Williams, a retired teacher from West Suffolk College, lives round the corner from the tree. A combination of a growing annoyance at the unsightly stump and his artistic eye sparked the idea, which he then took to Bury in Bloom.

“I took up wood carving when I stopped skateboarding and scooting,” he said. “I thought I will need something to stop me getting fat – woodcarving became my regular exercise.

“I pass this stump almost everyday and I thought: ‘This is a bit ugly, but I could do something with this’. I contacted Melanie Lesser [from Bury in Bloom] and she seemed a bit sceptical but when I said I would do it for free I think they jumped at the chance.


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“She contacted Suffolk County Council and got the permission, which took a little while, and then I started work. I have been going two weeks now. It will hopefully take me ten weeks and I work ten to 20 hours a week.”

The former art teacher and deputy head at the Bury college, said carving the tree at the side of the road has prompted a lot of questions.

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“People keep trying to guess what it is,” he said, adding with a tone of mock anger: “At the moment everyone seems to think it is a dragon.”

The sculpture, far from a fire-breathing mythological creature, will be of 12th century Bury monk Josselyn de Brackelond, known for his chronicles of the Abbey, along with his horse.

The design was chosen by the residents of Josselyns Court retirement home, which is directly opposite the tree stump.

While many people’s community spirit would easily stretch to picking up litter, sweeping the leaves and maybe mowing the verges, Mr Williams said the extra effort was because he wanted to do something to give back to Bury that would last for many years – although he admits he did not quite realise how much effort would be involved until he started.

After around 200 hours spent chipping away with hammer and chisel and a final treatment, the sculpture should become Mr Williams’ legacy, lasting for 25 to 40 years and possibly longer.

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