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The Headington Shark

the headington shark
Coordinates: 51°45′32″N 1°12′48″W / 5175882°N 1213238°W / 5175882; -1213238

Untitled 1986
The Headington Shark in 2007, before refurbishment
Artist John Buckley
Year 1986
Type Sculpture
Medium Painted fibreglass
Dimensions 76 m 25 ft
Location Headington, Oxford

The Headington Shark proper name Untitled 1986 is a rooftop sculpture located at 2 New High Street, Headington, Oxford, England, depicting a large shark embedded head-first in the roof of a house


  • 1 Appearance
  • 2 Controversy
  • 3 Media appearances
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
  • 6 Further reading
  • 7 External links


The Headington Shark in 2009, after refurbishment

The shark first appeared on 9 August 19861 Bill Heine, a local radio presenter who owned the house until 2016, has said "The shark was to express someone feeling totally impotent and ripping a hole in their roof out of a sense of impotence and anger and desperation It is saying something about CND, nuclear power, Chernobyl and Nagasaki"2 The sculpture, which is reported to weigh 4 long hundredweight 200 kg2 and is 25 feet 76 m long,3 and is made of painted fibreglass, is named Untitled 1986 written on the gate of the house The sculpture was erected on the 41st anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki3 It was designed by sculptor John Buckley and constructed by Anton Castiau, a local carpenter and friend of John Buckley

For the occasion of the shark's 21st anniversary in August 2007, it was renovated by the sculptor,1 following earlier complaints about the condition of the sculpture and the house4

On 26 August 2016 Bill Heine's son Magnus Hanson-Heine bought the house in order to preserve the Headington Shark5


Created by sculptor John Buckley, the shark was controversial when it first appeared Oxford City Council tried to have it taken down on grounds of safety, and then on the ground that it had not given planning permission for the shark, offering to host it at the local swimming pool instead, but there was much local support for the shark6 Eventually the matter was taken to the central government, where Tony Baldry, a minister in the Department of the Environment, who assessed the case on planning grounds, ruled in 1992 that the shark would be allowed to remain as it did not result in harm to the visual amenity17

Media appearancesedit

The unexpected shark appeared in a 2002 newspaper advertising campaign for a new financial advice service offered by Freeserve The advertisement, designed by M&C Saatchi, featured a photograph of the house with the caption "Freedom to find the mortgage that's right for you"8

In 2013, the sculpture was the subject of an April Fools' Day story in the Oxford Mail, which announced the establishment of a fictitious £200,000 fund by Oxford City Council to support the creation of similar sculptures on the roofs of other homes in the area9

In 2015, the sculpture was featured in the Channel 4 programme Damned Designs, which focuses on properties that have not followed planning permission On 1 February 2017 the Headington shark was the answer to a question posed on BBC2's Eggheads

See alsoedit

  • Cardiff Kook
  • The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living, 1991 shark-based artwork by Damien Hirst


  1. ^ a b c "Shark comes of age" Oxford Mail 8 August 2007 Retrieved 17 January 2010 
  2. ^ a b "The Headington Shark" Oxford History 10 October 2009 Retrieved 18 January 2010 
  3. ^ a b "In praise of the Headington shark" The Guardian 9 August 2007 Retrieved 17 January 2010 
  4. ^ "Shabby shark house angers residents" Oxford Times 12 December 2003 Archived from the original on 18 May 2007 Retrieved 17 January 2010 
  5. ^ "Why I snapped up the Headington shark house", Guardian, 12 March 2017
  6. ^ Purves, Libby 9 August 2007 "Let's salute fibreglass fish and wacky artists" The Times Retrieved 17 January 2010 
  7. ^ MacKinnon, Ian 22 May 1992 "Officials reprieve shark for Art's sake" The Independent p 2  |access-date= requires |url= help
  8. ^ "Shark adds bite to advert" Oxford Mail 14 November 2002 
  9. ^ Jennings, Tom 1 April 2013 "Shark 's tale is given £200k of added bite" The Oxford Mail 

Further readingedit

  • Heine, Bill 2011 The Hunting of the Shark Oxford: Oxfordfolio ISBN 978-0-9567405-2-6 

External linksedit

  • Headington Shark web page
  • John Buckley sculptor website
  • Bill Heine's book August 2011 revealing why and how a shark landed on his roof
  • Headington Shark, 360° panorama QuickTime

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The Headington Shark

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