Garden of Heroes and Villains – Stratford-upon-Avon, England - Atlas Obscura

Stratford-upon-Avon, England

Garden of Heroes and Villains

One of the largest sculpture collections in the U.K. features history's greats, from Bob Dylan to Galileo, in bronze. 

Iconoclastic multimillionaire the late Felix Dennis was a publishing legend, famed for his maverick, entrepreneurial style and, more lately, a successful and much loved poet who amassed one of the largest and most personal collections of figurative sculpture in the world in his Garden of Heroes and Villains. 

Dennis began his career creating and fighting for the radical counterculture magazine Oz and became one of the preeminent periodical publishers in the world, rabble-rousing all the way. Dennis’ more outrageous outbursts belie his work as a passionate artist and environmentalist.

Dennis planted over one million native broadleaf trees before he passed away in 2014, kick-starting the creation of the Heart of England Forest, an ambitious charity creating a new 30,000 acre forest one tree at a time.

At the age of 52, Dennis began writing poetry which has received critical acclaim and garnered him the appellation, the “millionaire poet.” With such a rich life devoted to art and statement, it’s no wonder that Dennis’ personal art garden is a wide-ranging collection of odes to his shaggy dog inspirations.

Consisting almost exclusively of figurative sculptures, the Garden of Heroes and Villains is spread across Dennis’ garden like a trail of muses. Portrayed in over 50 life-size bronze statues are characters both real and fictional that the poet personally commissioned as each subject revealed their importance to him. Here a cartoonish representation of writer and critic Samuel Johnson is captured in full, apoplectic stride; there a life-like Stephen Hawking ponders the universe. From Billie Holiday and Robert Crumb to his fellow defendants at the Oz magazine obscenity trials and King Kong, Dennis’ garden is a remarkably personal and staggeringly beautiful monument to the publisher-poet-activist’s life of unceasing fascination.     

The Garden of Heroes and Villains is located in the Heart of England Forest but is only opened to the public for a few days each year to raise funds for the charity that is planting, preserving, and protecting native broadleaf woodland in the heart of England.

Know Before You Go

Visit the events page of the Heart of England Forest website to find out when the Garden is next open.