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Mythical College beasts scoop craftsmanship award

One of the prize-winning College yales. Photo credit: Paul Everest

The craftsmanship prize at the Cambridge Design and Construction Awards has been awarded to the creator of two stone sculptures at St John’s. The winning carvings are of yales - mythical beasts found in European mythology and one of the symbols of the College.

Yales feature on the coat of arms of Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of King Henry VII who founded St John’s in 1511. The curious animals have elephants' tails, antelopes' bodies and goats' heads, with horns which can supposedly swivel from back to front.

Since the 18th century, when Kitchen Bridge was built, two carved stone yales have guarded the gates leading to Kitchen Lane and Third Court.

Due to weathering, the original yales had fallen into disrepair. The College President and Lecturer in Architecture and History of Art, Dr Frank Salmon, produced a research paper on what they might have looked like when they were first carved. From this a design brief was prepared for two new yales.

The statues, carved by Corin Johnson, took six months to make and are cut from Ketton Stone. The first was installed in November 2015 and the second in February 2016.

The yales were nominated for the award by the heritage consultants Beacon Planning and Mr Johnson and members of St John’s College attended a ceremony in Cambridge earlier this week to collect the award.