Canine Leeds sculpture nicknamed ‘devil dog’ as old tale is lost

The bronze statue installed to replace a famous sculpture dedicated to a local legend destroyed by metal thieves.
The bronze statue installed to replace a famous sculpture dedicated to a local legend destroyed by metal thieves.
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A bronze statue that has replace a sculpture dedicated to a tale from Leeds folklore which was destroyed by metal thieves has been branded a “devil dog”.

According to south Leeds folklore the owners of St Bernards Mill, off Gelderd Road, Gildersome, were saved from a fire at the mill by a barking St Bernard dog that woke them one night around a century ago.

The mill was named after the dog and a white statue on the roof of the building marked the incident up until 2009, when lead thieves toppled the statue from the roof, leaving it damaged beyond repair.

Just after the theft the then owner of the derelict site, Ken Moorhead of Moorhead Properties Ltd, pledged to replace the statue with a replica of the original but the site was soon sold and its new owners bought an entirely different statue.

Alan Booth, who lived in a house neighbouring the red brick building up to 1962, said: “It has no connection with the place, it’s not a St Bernard it’s more like a devil dog, it’s ridiculous.

“That looks like a pea on a dinner plate and you even can’t see all of it.”

The 77-year-old, from Churwell, lived near the mill from his early years up until he got married and treasured the sculpture so much that he even offered to buy it before it was destroyed.

Retired plasterer Alan visited the mill after the theft and found a paw from the shattered St Bernard statue, which he still has to this day.

He said the area was bustling during the Second World War, with the site being used in the trade of recycled wool known as shoddy.

The derelict mill was bought by Associated Waste Management Ltd (AWM) in 2010.

Mike Robinson, AWM’s group marketing manager, said: “As a marker we did, at great expense, place a statue of a dog on the roof.

“At the time we couldn’t find a St Bernard so purchased the one that everyone liked.

“The dog has become a great talking point, indeed, the 500 plus school children that have visited our educational facility to learn about recycling and how none of the waste we treat goes to landfill, always admire the statue.”

Mr Robinson said there has never been a stipulation under planning permission for a St Bernard to be situated on the roof.He added: “I’m very proud of our achievements and would welcome Mr Booth or any other community group to site for a closer look at our statue and also see how we have improved the area.”

The site, which includes the now renovated mill building, opened late last year as a £12.5m waste recycling plant employing around 100 people.

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