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First look at new public sculpture capturing past and future of historic Stonebridge Mills site

Words: John Baron

Textile machinery which was used at historic Stonebridge Mills will have a new lease of life when it is restored and used as a sculpture at a major new £25m housing development in Farnley.

Sheffield-based metalwork sculptor Chris Knight will use the pump wheel salvaged from the former grade II listed former textile mill to celebrate the site’s industrial heritage – and herald a new 112-home development on the site.

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Mr Knight is the artist behind the popular ‘Cutting Edge’ water sculpture outside Sheffield Rail Station.

His idea for the public art at the new Stonebridge Beck housing development is to create a link between the past and the future. His vision for the art – which he’s called ‘Embrace’ – includes:

“By framing the pump wheel salvaged from the Stonebridge Mills I aim to highlight the significance of this piece of machinery as central to mechanisation of what was until then a hand, craft process.

“More than this, I aim to represent a re-purposing of the buildings. They are re-cast into another role that is more relevant to the needs of today and probably more celebratory of life. The rusted wheel becomes a static statue preserved on a plinth, unmoving, stoic, timeless. The stainless frame surrounds it like a halo drawing focus onto its centre.

“The two parts are an embrace between the past and the future.”

The sculpture has been described as ‘very much work in progress’ and Georgina Maud, who is leading the project, said:

“Textile machinery from the mill will be restored and put to a creative use by creating a contemporary sculpture titled ‘Embrace’ – this is to pay homage to the site’s heritage as a well-respected industrial textile mill as well as framing the piece in a contemporary piece of steel.

“This in essence is about the present embracing the past – and vice versa – in our evolution.”

The 10-acre site includes the former mill pond. as well as the new specially commissioned piece of public art at the entrance to the development.

The £25 million project, which is called Stonebridge Beck, includes 82 new homes as well as the regeneration of the grade II listed and long-derelict former woollen mill buildings and cottages, which is creating a further 30 homes. WLD reported earlier this month that the new showroom had opened at the development.

An artist’s impression of the new homes, which are currently being built.

The former industrial buildings are off Farnley Ring Road, and are well-known for their historic chimney and water tower, which are being retained.

The site is being jointly developed jointly by Rushbond and Advent Developments, and includes a collection of conversion and new-build homes, ranging from two to five bedrooms. The scheme is due to complete in summer 2023.

Stonebridge Mills played a key role in the development of Farnley and neighbouring Wortley, dating back to the early 1800s when the water-powered woollen mill was a focal point of the local community.

Despite being in some form of industrial use for around 150 years, the site has been derelict for many years and at one stage Tesco had plans to build a new supermarket there.

Follow WLD’s ongoing coverage of the development here.

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