Family of Dolphins (Sculpture), Rotherhithe

Above: The dolphin sculpture at its new location in Southwark Park.

The sculpture called ‘Family of Dolphins’ in bronze, 2.74 metres high, was made by the artist David Backhouse for the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre. The Centre was built 1986-88 on a large site beside the remaining section of Canada Water, in Rotherhithe. The sculpture was the largest decorative feature in the centre which had a maritime theme – being built on land which had been part of the Surrey Commercial Docks. After delighting visitors to the Centre for over 30 years, as the show piece of the attractive water feature, the management decided to remove the sculpture and they donated it to Southwark Council.

Above: The dolphin sculpture photographed shortly after the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre opened in the late 1980s.

To receive such a gift was one thing but finding a new ‘home’ for such a large piece was not so easy. The Council consulted with the public about a new site with an emphasis on security for the statue, due to several thefts of public statues within the borough. Sadly, over the last few years, the Alfred Salter statue was stolen from its site beside the Thames. The Nature Girls statues – three rather quirky bronze figures near Surrey Water – have suffered the same fate. Some of the farmyard animal statues, on the Thames Path near Surrey Docks Farm, have also been stolen. In each case, it is assumed that the statues were stolen because of the high value of the bronze from which they were made. It is hoped that the new location of the dolphin statue – at the centre of a lake, inside a park that has railings around it and is locked gates at night – is sufficiently difficult to access and will, therefore, prove to be an effective deterrent to thieves. The three sculptures that were stolen had one thing in common – they were all on open land that was accessible by day but also by night.

There was already a fountain in the large lake in Southwark Park and that was one of the sites suggested as a suitable location by other members of the public. Southwark approved the new site in May 2015 and the dolphin sculpture was finally erected close to the original fountain installation by early 2016. It certainly adds a further point of interest in this large, well-used park.


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