Save the Children chief hails Ellesmere's Jebb Garden

A memorial sculpture garden created in tribute to the Ellesmere-born co-founders of the Save the Children charity has been hailed as an international ‘cultural landmark’.

Gareth Owen in the Jebb Garden with John Merrill’s sculpture, ‘Refuge’
Gareth Owen in the Jebb Garden with John Merrill’s sculpture, ‘Refuge’

The Jebb Garden, overlooking the town’s mere has been developed over the past three years as part of a community arts project to honour the visionary achievements of social reformer Eglantyne Jebb and her sister Dorothy.

The campaigning sisters, who were born at The Lyth Country house on the outskirts of Ellesmere, launched the charity in 1919 to help children left starving in Germany and other parts of central Europe at the end of the First World War.

Earlier this summer one of the charity’s top officials, humanitarian director Gareth Owen, visited the Jebb Garden and met members of the Ellesmere Sculpture Initiative, the local voluntary group which has led the project with financial grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England.

Members of the Ellesmere sculpture group with Gareth Nick Eames’ abstract sculpture representing the Jebb sisters

Mr Owen has since written to the Lottery Fund in praise of the project, describing the art installations as ‘inspirational’.

He said that since joining Save the Children 20 years ago, he had become a student of the charity’s rich history, “discovering with great pride the enormous positive influence it has had on so many societies and young lives affected by conflict and disaster the world over".

He added: “Maintaining the vibrancy of such timeless cultural heritage in the fast-changing and forward-facing present relies on the kind of human connections and tenacity of hope that sits at the heart of humanitarian action.

A stone carving by John Neilson to mark 100 years since Eglantyne Jebb drafted the historic Rights of the Child charter

“Nowhere is that more apparent that in the Shropshire town of Ellesmere, home of the Jebb sisters.

“This is why the inspirational art installation in the Jebb Garden, part of the Ellesmere sculpture trail, on the banks of the town’s eponymous mere is so important – it entirely embodies the essential tenacity of hope within its beautiful sculptures.

"I have recently visited the Jebb Garden in the company of the extraordinary group of supporters and art enthusiasts whose tireless energy has created this new cultural landmark.

“The Jebb Garden is of national and indeed, global significance - a truly fitting tribute for a century of humanitarian endeavour in aid of so many children displaced by conflict.”

Len Graham, the sculpture group’s chairman, said: "It was heart-warming to receive Gareth Owen’s comments.

“We’re very proud of what we have achieved in creating the Jebb Garden which features two impressive sculptures, an inter-active labyrinth and an outstanding stone carving, all set in lovely surroundings. Thousands of people visiting this popular beauty spot have already seen and admired the specially-commissioned art installations.

“Due to the covid pandemic, it’s taken four years to complete the project and we couldn’t have done it without the tremendous support we’ve received from local schools, businesses, individuals, and community organisations as well Shropshire and Ellesmere Councils.”

Three years after its founding, as Save the Children began expanding as an international aid agency, Eglantyne drafted a five-point charter that became the foundation for the historic Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

In 1924 it was adopted by the newly-formed League of Nations and is now enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, a legally-binding international agreement supported by almost every country around the world.

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