In previous posts, I’ve reported on the fascinating modern phenomenon of ‘love-locks’. For the induction-day tour for new MA students at the University of Chester, two of my colleagues and I went on a trip around the landmarks of Chester and, as we went, we discussed the range of different ways in which landscape archaeology and mortuary archaeology apply to contemporary landscapes.

IMG_7021On the Queen’s Park suspension bridge – a footbridge crossing the Dee between Handbridge and the Groves – we discussed the history of the Dee in relation to Chester. While my colleagues Dr Taylor and Dr Andrew talked, I noticed further, albeit relatively modest, examples of love-locks.

I’ve discussed this phenomenon elsewhere, as at Liverpool Docks and over the Dee at Saltney. I suggested they are mnemonic acts, as much as one restricted to a specific romantic emotion: they can be about bonds between people living, but also about dialogues with the dead.

In addition to the locks. I was struck by the volume of the far-less permanent and prominent ribbons. For want of a better term, might we call them love-ribbons?

Again, the location on bridges links to the sacred/spiritual significance, the liminal nature, and the romantic allusions of the Dee as a watercourse and the beautiful setting, but also it is a prominent thoroughfare where people have to walk and cannot drive. Hence it is a perfect spot for the accrual of love locks and ribbons: to express love and mourn the dead.IMG_7030

Now, again, these additions are clearly accruing and then being taken away by the council. It all began in 2013 and by 2014 over 300 were removed by the council. They are back though! Indeed, maybe the ribbons, more ephemeral and readily removed, are an act of compromise to ensure longevity and counter the council removals at some future date? They are certainly offering no damage to the structure in a fashion that the locks might.

Finally, I was shocked by how dismissive my colleagues, more than the students, were of this phenomenon. I see it as one key response to public architecture and place through depositional practice. In so doing, the material culture we see represents many different personalised by public expressions of social memory: locking and tying people and their memories to that place.