‘Heartfelt’ new artwork celebrates industrial past at £20m Stonebridge Beck

Embrace launch: From left, Georgina Maud and Jonathan Maud, Rushbond, Rachel Reeves MP, Chris Knight, sculptor, and Tim Reeve, of developer Advent. Photo: Simon Dewhurst

A ‘heartfelt’ new artwork celebrating the industrial heritage and the importance of community has been unveiled at a new £20m housing development in Wortley.

Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves today officially cut the ribbon on ‘Embrace’, an artwork reflecting the past, present and future of Stonebridge Beck, off Stonebridge Lane.

Embrace is six-metres tall and is made out of a reclaimed historic pump wheel found in the original Stonebridge Mills building, framed by an enormous hand-crafted stainless-steel arch made by specialist steel and special metals fabricator, Steel Line, in Sheffield.  

The artwork celebrates the industrial heritage of 10-acre Stonebridge Beck – home to the Grade II listed Stonebridge Mills which was once a key part of the fabric of the textile industry in the city before it fell derelict. It marks a new chapter for the site as a growing residential community.

The artwork was launched at Stonebridge Beck today. Photo: Richard Gough

It has been created by Yorkshire-based metalwork sculptor Chris Knight, whose previous work includes the spectacular steel Cutting Edge sculpture outside Sheffield train station. 

Mr Knight said: “From the start, the Rushbond team and I knew we wanted to use some of the incredible pieces salvaged from the ruins of the mill to create something heartfelt and reflective for the people who live in the area.

“This includes those who have been part this community for generations and who may have very personal connections to the mill, as well as the new residents putting down roots here. The pump wheel is the perfect emblem of the industrial heritage of this place – recast for a new generation who can enjoy it as a work of art.

“The stainless-steel arch offers a modern frame for the piece, and combined the elements embrace the past and future of Stonebridge Beck.”

Artist Chris Knight speaks in front of Embrace at Stonebridge Beck. Photo: John Baron

Speaking at the celebration event, Rachel Reeves MP said: “We desperately need new homes across the country, and here in Leeds. My postbag is full of people who are not able to get onto the property ladder or who live in sub-standard housing.

“Across my constituency, we see the history of our region and our city’s industrial heritage at sites like Stonebridge Mill.

“For too long, many of these locations have remained derelict and dilapidated, and it is so refreshing to see the culmination of all the hard work that has been put in on this site. Not only does the development sensitively incorporate the site’s heritage, but also provides good, high-quality homes for its residents.”

A view of Embrace at the entrance of Stonebridge Beck. Photo: John Baron

Jonathan Maud, of Rushbond plc, spoke about the value of the Farnley and Wortley community and of the historic site, which he says ‘tries to reflect the echoes of the past’.

Members of Wortley Local History Group were also present at the launch event.

The housing development consists of 112 homes, including 30 reformed from the existing mill buildings on the site. Developers are hoping to finish in late summer.

Stonebridge Mills, which dates back to the early 1800s when the water-powered woollen mill, was a focal point of the local community and it continued to be in industrial use for around 150 years before falling into disrepair.

Many architectural features of the original buildings including the old wagon boiler, the oversized cobbles from the original entrance and the mill pond, a crucial part of the wool finishing process, have all been carefully incorporated into the new residential community. 

Embrace  was commissioned by Leeds-based property investor Rushbond, which specialises in repurposing heritage buildings.


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