In previous posts I have documented the wide range of art installations, logos, heritage boards and signs that populate the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct World Heritage Site, its ‘altogether brilliant’ logo, vistas of it and benches alluding to it on the walk from Ty Mawr country park, and also its focus as a place of memorialisation for those who have died in its vicinity. Most recently, I’ve discussed the intersection of the Llangollen Canal with Offa’s Dyke just to the south-east of Froncysyllte.
There is, however, one further art installation in the World Heritage Site I have failed to discuss. It is situated just a little way south of the aqueduct at Froncysyllte beside the canal and commemorating the industries – brick and tile works, lime kilns and quarry – in the vicinity. What struck me about this was the combination of truck, image of the canal and kilns, and the ironwork embedded into the monument afford the illusion that this is almost geological: as if the embedded elements are fossils wearing out of the rock from a long-distant epoch from millions of years ago. The pickaxe-heads in particular evoke the passage of geologic time since they could almost be imagined to be the vertebrae of some terrifying ferrous dinosaur that once stalked the Vale. The aesthetic of a fossilised heritage is both striking and problematic: these are still living communities, not pickled pasts.
One thing I don’t know is: who is Canada Bill? He is the focal point of the piece…
This art commemorates the canal and its associated communities and people through the medium of stone, cement and iron. It powerfully uses images of, and fragments of artefacts from, the industrial past to tell the story, fossilised for all to see.