On Queen's Drive west frontage are four sandstone plaques, one surmounting each of the four sets of windows illuminating the stairways to the upper floors. Each one appears to illustrate a workman doing a job. This one is the third from the east end and depicts a miner.
Above information supplied by the photographer Reg Baker at the time the photograph was taken, in 1978.
The carvings are by sculptor Robert Kiddey.
Colliery Road has become Queen's Drive and this whole area is now Queens Drive Retail Park.
Robert Kiddey was born at Nottingham in 1900. His gift for art made itself apparent at an early age, and at 14 he enrolled at Nottingham School of Art on Waverley Street.
Following active service in the First World War as a private in the Notts & Derbys Regiment of Foot, he came to Newark in 1931 as an art teacher at the newly opened Technical College. From that time onwards he made Newark his permanent home and over the years set up his studio in a number of places around the town – on the wharf, in the market place, and latterly in a former infant school at 5a King Street.
It was from these locations in the heart of Newark that he produced an impressive variety of sculptures, carvings and paintings that were destined to grace not only the walls of private homes and public buildings (including Southwell Minster), but also to receive due recognition at the Royal Academy and showings at some of the art world’s most important galleries in London and Paris
Critical recognition for his distinctive style of working came early in his career in 1929, when a carved panel called The Divine Tragedy was accepted for the Royal Academy’s annual exhibition in London. Three years later he consolidated this early success when the same piece was put on show at the Salon des Beaux Arts in Paris.
Numerous other submissions to the Academy were to follow, many inspired by the places he visited during his travels abroad. He used the long college vacations to travel widely, and during the Thirties visited France, Germany, Italy and, perhaps most importantly, the newly communistic USSR.
In Yugoslavia he was introduced to the famous sculptor Mestrovic, and many of Kiddey’s subsequent works show clearly the influence of that meeting.
Back in England, the immediate pre-war period proved to be a great time of progress for Kiddey with his reputation both at home and abroad growing steadily.
Some idea of the quality of his output at this time may be gleaned from the fact that in London his works were exhibited alongside those of Augustus John, Eric Gill and Picasso.
The recognition he was beginning to gain abroad also looked promising, although with the outbreak of war in 1939 these international markets were quickly cut off and Kiddey was forced to confine his efforts almost exclusively to Newark.
The momentum of his career was destroyed, and even after the restoration of peace in 1945 he was never again to regain the foothold he had begun to establish in Europe in the Thirties.
Yet although commercial success eluded him, Kiddey continued to produce a staggering variety of work, much of it of very high quality. Sculpture became his principal medium and he began to explore diverse themes ranging from religion to sport.
His pieces often show a strong influence of Egyptian art combined with an intense interest in texture and pattern. He also experimented with abstract pieces – a style with which he became most pre-occupied towards the end of his life.
Robert Kiddey died in June 1984 when arrangements were actually under way to present a retrospective of his work at the Technical College. The exhibition went ahead as planned and served as a fitting tribute to a man some said had a touch of genius.