The Headington Shark – Oxford, England - Atlas Obscura

The Headington Shark

A 26 foot shark sculpture for nuclear disarmament, clever antennae disguise, and municipal battle royale. 


About four months after the incident at Chernobyl, on August 9, 1986, Oxford-resident Bill Heine had a twenty-six foot shark sculpture erected on his roof. Using cranes, Heine and sculptor John Buckley mounted the shark, head first, onto the roof in the middle of the night. That morning (which was also the 41st anniversary of the dropping of nuclear bomb “Fat Man” on Nagasaki), the headless shark began delighting curious onlookers; with the exception of town officials, that is.

Bill Heine said that the shark was assembled and properly placed to speak out against incidents such as Chernobyl and Nagasaki, as well as general government incompetence.

Not everyone agrees that the intentions of Heine were quite as noble as they at first appear. According to a local Oxford resident “As I understand it, zoning laws in that part of the city prohibit, or prohibited, the installation of T.V. antennae above a certain height, but not the installation of artwork. Heine, wishing to install a T.V. antenna, found an ingenious solution to this problem by building the shark around the antenna. It is possible that the shark is also intended to speak out against nuclear armament, but that is not how Oxford residents see it.”

Whether art, protest, or simply crafty antenna disguise, the City Council tried to get Heine to remove the shark on the grounds that it was unsafe. After a thorough inspection, however, it was found that the shark was indeed properly installed and safe. The dispute continued and was appealed by Heine in a letter to the Secretary of State for the Environment; again, it was found that the shark was causing no harm. Since then, the bizarre shark-sculpture-anti-nuclear-armament-protest-antennae-disguise has remained in its head first dive into Heine’s home.

Know Before You Go

The house is now open to stay in via Airbnb.