The spot where the Ken Jones statue had been sited in Blaenavon, marked by crash barriers.
The spot where the Ken Jones statue had been sited in Blaenavon, marked by crash barriers. Credit: Google Street View

Story by Twm Owen, local democracy reporter

A NEW home has been found for a statue of a Welsh rugby legend nobody wanted after it was removed due to vandalism. 

The statue of former Wales and British Lions wing Ken Jones – who scored the decisive try when Wales last defeated the mighty New Zealand All Blacks in 1953 – had stood in the centre of Blaenavon, his hometown, until May 2022. 

It was removed almost two years ago due to vandalism the previous October which resulted in the statue being enclosed by security fencing. 

However wrangling over repairs and ownership has meant the statue of the rugby star, who also competed in the 100 metres at the 1948 London Olympics, has remained in storage since. 

Torfaen Borough Council had agreed to take the statue down and fund repairs due to the health and safety risk from the vandalism while Blaenavon Town Council considered its ownership. 

A two-year campaign, launched in 2011, raised £15,000 from the public towards the statue before an £80,000 from the National Assembly Heads of the Valley grants was awarded to complete the project. 

The statue of the Blaenavon born star, who scored a record equalling 17 tries in what was then a world record 44 appearances for his country between 1947-57, was unveiled at the intersection between Ifor Street and Broad Street in 2013 with Mr Jones’ widow, Irene, and son, Philip, present. 

The Ken Jones Art Group had raised funds for the design, manufacture and installation of the statue but disbanded shortly after and had tried to transfer ownership to the town council. 

Blaenavon Town Council however has maintained it hadn’t agreed to take on ownership in 2014 and that position was confirmed by a resolution of the town council in April last year. 

Torfaen Borough Council, which has tried to find new owners for the statue without success, has now agreed to take ownership if it can, as now planned, be relocated to the grounds of the Blaenavon World Heritage Centre. 

It had also considered sitting it outside the town council chambers and said both sites would place it behind “more secure” fencing but the grounds of the World Heritage Centre would also allow a greater number of visitors to see the statue of the wing who scored 145 tries in 293 appearances for Newport RFC. 

Before the new site can be confirmed a replacement stone plinth for the one the statue has been sited on will have to be found and checks will also have to be made to ensure its new spot can support the weight of the plinth and statue and there are no essential services such as gas or water mains underneath. 

The borough council’s highways maintenance team will relocate the staute but its current workload means it is unlikely to be able to do so before June this year but it is still expected to be completed this summer. 

The total cost, including for a new stone plinth and removing the existing one, and replacing the paving comes to £50,000 including a 15 per cent contingency for inflation since a quote was first obtained in 2022. 

The cash has already been ringfenced within the Covid Recovery Fund Town Centre Enhancements project. 

Mr Jones, who died aged 84 in April 2006, taught at Newport High School and won a silver medal for Great Britain in the 4x100m at the 1948 Olympics, a bronze at the 1954 Commonwealth Games over 200 metres for Wales and won three caps for the British and Irish Lions and won two grand slams with Wales.