Memorial for 'chicken roundabout' hero rejected by Highways

Gordon Knowles feeding a chicken at 'Chicken Roundabout', Ditchingham, in 2001.

Gordon Knowles feeding a chicken at 'Chicken Roundabout', Ditchingham, in 2001. - Credit: Archant

A memorial to one of Bungay's best-known characters has hit a roadblock as highways chiefs have objected.

Plans for a memorial to Gordon Knowles, who died aged 87 in January 2020 and was best known as the  'Ole Chicken Man of Bungay', have been mooted for around a decade.

Mr Knowles became a national celebrity for getting up at the crack of dawn to take a wheelbarrow of food to feed wild hens on Ditchingham's 'Chicken Roundabout'.

In doing so, he catapulted the junction on the A143 to national prominence, with more than 300 cocks and hens flocking to the roundabout. 

Ditchingham Parish Council's latest suggestion for a sign to remember Gordon Knowles and the Chicken Roundabout

Ditchingham Parish Council's latest suggestion for a sign to remember Gordon Knowles and the Chicken Roundabout designed by Brendon Bernard's wife Barbara - Credit: Barbara Bernard Artist

Brendon Bernard, a South Norfolk District and Ditchingham Parish councillor, has been pushing for a memorial to remember the chickens and Mr Knowles' place in local history.

“The plan is a celebration - to a lot of people in Ditchingham and Bungay that roundabout is chicken roundabout and has been for almost 30 years," he said.

"Gordon was the one that kept them going.

"Without Gordon, there would have been no chickens and without chickens, there would have been no Gordon."

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A variety of ideas have been put forward over the years to celebrate the roundabout, from fibreglass chickens to statues of Mr Knowles.

Gordon Knowles has written a book based on his life in and around Bungay.Gordon was known as the Chi

Gordon Knowles has written a book based on his life in and around Bungay.Gordon was known as the Chicken Man of Bungay.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

The latest suggestion, put forward by Ditchingham Parish Council (DPC) for a sign to identify the roundabout and celebrate Mr Knowles, was rejected by Norfolk County Council's highways.

"Highways said, whatever happens, they would not consider anything on the roundabout itself but they would consider something on one of the triangles off it,” Mr Bernard said.

However, Mr Bernard rejected Highways' suggestions that it should be a simple plaque like a national trail sign and stressed it should not look like a gravestone.

Responding on behalf of Norfolk County Council, Barry Stone, the local member for Clavering said the highways team was working closely with the community to suitably mark the roundabout.

"The details are still to be agreed, but the suggestion is to install a plinth-style information sign close to the roundabout with colourful images and a brief history of the site to tell the story of this local landmark and the significant contribution Mr Knowles made.

"This is an idea that I support and I hope others will too.”

Ten years ago a proposal for a memorial was turned down by DPC on safety grounds.

Gordon Knowles received his own Bungay Broadsheet for his care of the chickens on Chicken roundabout in 2012.

Gordon Knowles received his own Bungay Broadsheet for his care of the chickens on Chicken roundabout in 2012. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Since then, Mr Bernard said there had been a change of heart and the council has been very supportive.

The plans have also seen support from Bungay Town Council, who in January unanimously agreed to support the bid.

Hens haven't lived on Chicken Roundabout since the final few were taken away by an animal charity around a decade ago.

It is believed the chickens lived on the roundabout for around 50 years.

In 2016, Mr Knowles penned his memoirs, 'The Ole Chicken Man of Bungay', with the help of local author Tom Honeywood, which also recounted his childhood in Bungay's Broad Street and his working life at Clays and as a street cleaner.

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