This post brings together two previous themes of this blog:
- strategies of commemoration associated with silhouette statues which have become ubiquitous in the context of the centenary of the First World War but also I’ve encountered in other conflict commemoration contexts. Such silhouette statues are also deployed in the commemoration of mining heritage at Trefonen, Shropshire.
- composition installations as at Pontycysyltte and Froncysyltte which I’ve dubbed ‘fossilised heritage’.
Now I would like to report on a similar strategy of evoking a past worked industrial landscape at Llanymynech, Shropshire, a village and landscape which straddles the modern Welsh-English border and with quarrying on both sides this line. It is also the starting point of the Wat’s Dyke Way and Offa’s Dyke runs past and through this landscape, including under the main road through the village, but that is for another post!
The Llanymynech Limeworks Heritage Area – despite being somewhat cursed by the cringeworthy attribution of ‘heritage area’ – is a complex of quarries, tramways and the limeworks kilns and ancilllary buildings, but also the Montgomery Canal and former railway lines, adjacent to the historic village itself. It is managed by a range of groups, including the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust and Shropshire Wildlife Trust and it is a zone of rich and varied woodland and wildflower meadows where built and natural conservation are equally significant. There is an Education Room available to book.
The limeworks itself is a striking survival of early 20th-century industrial working: a carefully canopied and preserved Hoffmann kiln.
Close by, upslope, are the traces of the tramway.
Finally, at the top of the hill, at Llanymynech Rocks, we have the dramatic traces of the quarries themselves on either side of the borderline, together with surviving rusting tram trucks plus the brake drum houses. Throughout, there are informative – in regards to both text and images – interpretation panels, bringing a sense of the complex industrial landscape to life for visitors and local people alike. Given this remains a dangerous landscape as well as a focus of nature conservation, industrial heritage and also famed for its geological interest and the history of natural history (a visit made by Charles Darwin is commemorated in particular), this is also an environment popular with walkers and climbers who utilise the quarry faces. Hence, in addition to signs explaining the geology, birds and flora, and industrial archaeology, there are warning signs of falling rocks and about climbing restrictions.
In the context of this blog, however, I wish to focus on two further art-archaeology interactions which afford ghostly presences: silhouette statues and a composite art installation incorporating material cultures of the industry itself.
First are the rusty silhouettes of former workers, busy at various tasks from the quarries to the tramways to the limeworks. Here are those I encountered, some with graffiti to add a bit more life and humour to their eerie presence, frozen in toil. Their form capture past labour, focusing on the tasks performed rather than individual personalities. Meanwhile, their patina affords them with a further ghostly quality, they emerge from hard, cold materials as spectres of industry, both working and resting.
Second, I draw attention to the composite bench at the entrance to the Heritage Area and adjacent to the Education Centre. Like an open book, we see onto images of the human past of the locality. including the nearest Roman station of Whitchurch (Mediolanum), the canal, and the limeworks chimney, a church (I’m not sure which). Yet beneath, stone and steep reveal this to be a nostalgic ‘ruin’ of past times: commemorating and envisioning the past industrial landscape in relation to the broader flow of time. In this regard, it is reminiscent of the art on display at Pontycysyltte and Froncysyllte.