Photo: QWAG / Paul de Zylva
David Sperlinger shares how he used the pandemic lockdown to produce a Field Guide to Lewisham Natureman’s stag murals to be found across Lewisham, and available from QWAG.
Lewisham’s very own Banksy
Scattered across several boroughs in south-east London are a number of murals of white stags – several of these can be found on the banks of the River Quaggy.
The stag murals are often attributed to the ‘Lewisham Natureman’ – a mysterious figure around whom various stories and myths have developed.
Street art and graffiti gets a mixed reception, but one local councillor, Chris Maines, led the charge calling for the murals to be protected in a letter to the local News Shopper newspaper:
“Urban artwork is often controversial but, as with Bansky, the Lewisham Natureman’s murals command widespread affection and add colour and vibrancy to Lewisham’s street scene. I would like Lewisham Council to afford these works equal protection to other forms of public art.”
These murals tend to be inconspicuous, almost hidden, and need to be actively sought out. If you live in Lewisham you will probably have been close to some of these stags without ever noticing them.
The stags are mainly to be found off the beaten track and in relatively wild places, such as on the banks of the local rivers or on areas of wasteland or building sites.
I was intrigued by the few stag murals I had seen. They were attractively designed and painted very cleverly to fit the particular context in which they were created.
During the 2020 lockdown, when all exercise was meant to be taken locally, I decided it would make a nice focus for some of my local walks to try to locate some of the remaining stags. I found searching for the stags added an interesting element to my walks, even if I ended up not actually managing to locate a particular mural.
From these explorations and research on the internet I eventually identified 33 of these murals. Of these:
- 18 are still in existence, although in a very varied condition and with different degrees of accessibility
- 15 no longer exist (or only tiny remnants remain) or the status of the stag is unclear (generally because it has not been possible to identify the exact location of the sites that they are/were).
Get the guide
Several people expressed an interest I what I was finding, so I ended up producing a small booklet about the stags – The Lewisham Natureman Stag Murals: A Field Guide.
The Guide lists all the stags that I know about with information describing: their existing or former location; their current condition (where known) and photos (generally mine, although with a few from the internet for some of the murals showing them when they were still in existence or in a better condition).
The first of the murals seems to have been created sometime around 2010 and new ones are still appearing – there is an additional stag that has appeared on the River Ravensbourne in central Lewisham since the booklet was published in June 2022.
Copies of the Guide are available for £4.50 plus P&P from QWAG – see: https://qwag.org.uk/items-to-buy/
They are also available from Manor House Library, the Oxfam Shop in Blackheath and the Oxfam Bookshop in Greenwich.
The Wildcornerz blog – https://wildcornerz.blogspot.com/ – in particular, is a very rich source of information about many of the known stags and also about the stories surrounding the Lewisham Natureman.