Owl and Pussycat sailing into Knowsley for Borough of Culture year


A giant sculpture trail celebrating Knowsley Hall’s links with Edward Lear will be part of Knowsley’s 2022 Borough of Culture celebrations.

The poet penned his famous verse The Owl and the Pussycat while staying with the Earl of Derby and his family in 1871.

A trail of 30 pairs of 6ft (2m) tall owls and cats, designed by Derbyshire-based Wild in Art, will be installed across the borough next summer.

And now local artists, either professional or amateur, are being invited to submit their ideas to decorate the sculptures, with designs inspired by Knowsley and its people or history.

The current Earl of Derby, Edward Stanley, said: “Edward Lear had a very close and long relationship with my family and during his time at Knowsley Hall produced some of his finest work – including his set of Nonsense Poems – of which The Owl & The Pussycat is the most well-known.

“These poems were written to entertain the children of the house and Lear dedicated his book to the great grandchildren, grand nephews and nieces of the 13th Earl - who had been so impressed with Lear’s work that he had invited him to illustrate animals from his impressive collection.

Above: Dr Stephen Lloyd, curator of the Derby Collection with items linked to Edward Lear. Top: The Earl and Countess of Derby with two sculptures. Photos by Gareth Jones


“Lear lived with my family here in Knowsley on and off for seven years, cementing an immensely close and wonderful connection to the Hall and to Knowsley as a whole.

“I’m delighted that through this project more people will become aware of these local links, appreciate Lear’s amazing work and celebrate his contribution to culture in Knowsley.”

The Borough of Culture is an initiative from Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and was introduced by Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram in 2018 to encourage and enable each borough to deliver cultural programmes which create a lasting legacy across the whole region.

Knowsley follows St Helens in 2018, Wirral in 2019, Sefton in 2020 and Halton which is the current holder of the title.