The Cement Menagerie – Northumberland, England - Atlas Obscura
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Northumberland, England

The Cement Menagerie

A father's love for his son has weathered the test of time in this whimsical garden of outsider art. 

In Branxton, England, you’ll find a curious attraction locally dubbed the Cement Menagerie. It’s a colossal display of weather-worn kitsch that seems oddly out of place in the tiny farming village.

Steeped in myth and mystery, the Menagerie, which is semi-hidden in the garden of a private residence, is home to more than 300 life-sized cement sculptures. The figures depict everything from common livestock, to exotic animals, to famous figures in history.

Little is known about the menagerie, and what facts there are have taken on a fabled air with the passage of time. The menagerie’s first sculpture appeared sometime in the early ‘60s. It was created by John Fairnington, a recently retired joiner, who is said to have begun the project as a way to keep his disabled adult son entertained.

Fairnington spent more than a decade building and molding his bizarre sculptures, oftentimes using real horns and teeth in his creations. Legend has it that even after the premature death of his son, Fairnington continued sculpting until his own death at the age of 98.

The garden stayed in the family, and it’s still open to this day. Visitors can wander among the wire and concrete creatures—zebras, giraffes, cows, and birds, to name a few—and enjoy Fairnington’s whimsical legacy.

Know Before You Go

The Cement Menagerie is located in the garden of the Fountain House. It is open daily during daylight hours. Admission is by donation.

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