Girton Goose railings

Beast or Barnacle?


In researching Geese the Artist found that the Barnacle Goose was so named by the Irish who, it is said, were granted special permission by the Pope at one time to eat the flesh of the Barnacle goose during lent when all other flesh is forbidden because they managed to prove that it was in fact a crustacean. They did this by sending envoys North over the sea to find out how this creature delivered its young as they never saw them breed in their own country. They returned with branches from the seashores of islands covered in barnacles and concluded that the birds young were born from these hard shells on the branches of trees by the shore and fell directly into the water to join their flock!


The Tree of life


The use of a symbolic World Tree or Apple tree is a recurrent theme used in portraying the cycle of life. Observed in religious culture and historical legend it is widespread across the world not only in Christianity but many other faiths. This original organically styled steel structure has been designed to portray a tree upon an island surrounded by water. A deliberate reference to the ‘islands’, such as the Isles of Ely and Sutton, in the fenland of northern Cambridgeshire that are now drained and no longer obvious. The rays of light (flat steel bars) radiating through the water surface (rippling handrail) are a reference to the portrayal of light or ‘light of life’ in religious contexts, such as the often seen golden raiment of light painted around the head of Christ and Saints such as St. Andrew.


The Noble Goose


The Village of Girton has a long and unique relationship with Geese. Many years ago, long before pens or the thought of computing, Girton Geese were an important source of feathers used in the production of Quills required by scholars and scribes at Cambridge University colleges. Every record, bill, contract, religious scripture, astronomical calculation, Royal decree, love letter, educational text, poem or original thought was recorded, at that time, with the use of a goose feather Quill.

At that time a body of water, known as ‘the wash pit’ lay near to the Church of St. Andrew and was used by the flocks of Girton geese that generously supplied these important instruments of scripture.


Legend of the Golden Goose


The goose is one of few birds to lay eggs in ‘golden proportion’; the ratio of 1.0 to 0.618 (length and width) aka the Fibonacci sequence. Could this be the origin of the fable of the goose that lays golden eggs? Artist Matthew Lane Sanderson has therefore proportioned the tree canopy and root system to illustrate this remarkable property. Every panel of the structure is also carefully proportioned to match this rhythm. This ‘golden ratio’ also defines human proportion, musical rhythm, plant growth and the mathematics of the stars above. It is one of many natural logarithms that define the scientific structure of our world and has been known about for millennia. It is also known as the Divine proportion and has been used in the construction of most famous classical music, paintings and major architecture in many civilisations. Look for this pillar of wisdom within St Andrews Church.


The Commissioning of this work – installed 2018


In 2015 Girton Town Charity approached the locally born and now internationally re-knowned Artist Matthew Lane Sanderson to design an original set of railings to replace the missing cast iron fence that was removed during the Second World War. Its practical purpose was to define the boundary between property adjacent to the graveyard of St. Andrews Church. Through consultation with local people and the Reverend of St Andrews Church, Matthew developed a series of visual icons based on local history and research he undertook. These were formed into the design presented here today having been fabricated in the Artists studios from Steel. The steel is Galvanised to ensure long life and illumination above is reflected by gold leaf.

The ‘Golden proportion’ features in all Matthew’s works, many of which can be found in Cambridge today.”