VILLAGERS who feared Whaplode’s iconic Whapplehog statue had been stolen have been reassured it’s in safe hands.
The bronze pot-bellied pig vanished with no explanation from the centre of Whaplode three weeks ago.
Concerns were raised that the 700lb artwork had been taken for its scrap value, like more high-profile sculptures elsewhere.
In fact a scrap metal crime nearer to home prompted its removal by Stan Hoyes, the retired farmer who commissioned it for the village in the 1990s.
Whaplode parish councillors are “disappointed” that Mr Hoyes didn’t consult them before taking it down, as they have been negotiating with him in a bid to secure its long-term future.
It was going to have to be moved to make way for a development of affordable homes but the hope was to keep it in the village as the star of a sculpture trail which brings visitors to Whaplode.
Mr Hoyes said: “I took it down and have it safely in store.
“I’ve been on a knife-edge about the insurance because there have been a lot of thefts around here – most specifically a near-miss when thieves cut through and tried to drag the village telephone cable out with a vehicle after Christmas.
“I put it on its site in the centre for the benefit of the village. It was the second sculpture I commissioned for Whaplode from the sculptor Greg Lock.
“It’s not safe to put it back, I don’t know what to do with it. I might sell it.”
The Whapplehog was unveiled in 1997 and named by the village pre-school and nursery. It was described on its plinth as “sponsored by Stan Hoyes.”
Richard Barlow is the parish councillor in charge of establishing ownership of all Whaplode and Saracen’s Head sculptures.
He said: “We’re disappointed that Stan has removed the Whapplehog without consulting anyone. We were negotiating in the hope that it could be resited and that arrangements can be made to maintain and insure all the sculptures. They’re a valuable asset to the village.”