National Recording Project


Detail from: Memorial to 158 Squadron by Peter W. Naylor, 2009

Spiral Nebula


Type Sculpture

     A large work seemingly constructed out of wooden slats, until closer inspection reveals grey-painted steel to be the material. The shape of the main section is based on some form of electrical equipment or receiving dish. A shield makes up one side, and a coil the other, with antennae like struts at top and bottom. This is mounted on a horizontal platform, itself 1.2 metres off the ground, and the whole is topped with a spire rising approximately 4 metres.
     'Spiral Nebula' is the title commonly used for this work within the University, though 'Swirling Nebula' has also been given.(1) It stands in front of Newcastle University's Herschel physics building, designed by Sir Basil Spence and opened in March 1962.(2) (Spence and Clarke collaborated on a range of other projects in the 1960s, notably at Coventry Cathedral and Newcastle Civic Centre.) 'Spiral Nebula' was originally finished in a shiny aluminium coating, but Spence thought that it distracted attention from the physics block and after a month the sculpture was flame blasted, waxed and painted grey.(3) Viewed in relation to the Herschel Building's use, the sculpture can be taken as a symbol of the scientific advances made in the 1960s, especially in relation to space travel.

Contributor details

Contributor Role
Clarke, Geoffrey Sculptor

Element details

Part of work Material Dimensions
Whole work Steel 1050cm high x 450cm long x 200cm wide

PMSA recording information

Reference Region
General condition Fair
Surface condition
  • Biological growth
  • Bird guano
Structural condition
  • Broken, missing parts
Road Percy Street
Precise location Newcastle University,outisde Herschel Physics Building
A-Z ref 60 1C
OS ref None

Sorry, we have no precise geographical information for this item.

Date of design None
Year of unveiling 1962
Unveiling details Inaugurated 17th March 1962
Commissioned by Newcastle University
Duty of care Newcastle University
Listing status Not listed
At risk? At Risk

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