The proposals for the PCC Amphitheatre Steps and Seats are currently being considered by the client. In the meantime I am working up some drafts for the use bespoke highly detailed letters in a variety of materials ranging from granite and natural stones, to cast iron, enamelled steel, glazed architectural faience and Terrazzo. These letters will be fixed into the rebated text detail within the cast concrete seat riser, which will be 450mm high. Each bespoke letter can be 400mm high. The depth of the rebate will vary from 5mm to 30mm, however, the bespoke letters will all be best at 30mm deep, keeping them as robust as possible.
‘Under the Shadow of the Crane’ was initially an idea for a large scale granite ‘drawing’ to make up the pavement and public realm of the Crane Point site. Water jet cut granite slabs in two colours would form this extensive mosaic pavement, making permanent the ephemeral passing shadow of the crane, creating a physical memorial to the industrial heritage of the Riverside site.
Part 2. ‘Under the Shadow of the Crane’ is actually a reference to the whole of Rochester Riverside, as for much of its post 20th Century history, it was dominated and defined by tall cranes, loading and offloading from the various wharfs. However, a single 200tonne crane was retained & moved to this new position at Blue Boar Hard as a landmark and heritage beacon. Our journey for Phase 3 starts here.
Crane Point is the name for the public realm and viewing point under the shadow of the crane. The landscape has been designed by LUC as an Amphitheatre with precast concrete stepped seating and concrete paving extending around and beneath the crane. A large Apartment block is being built adjacent to the public space, which will look out over the crane and the River Medway.
Children swam from here…Blue Boar Wharf was our playground…
Crane Point – or Blue Boar Hard as it was called in its former life, is the end point of Blue Boar Lane, terminating with a Pier. It starts at its junction with Rochester High Street and the Blue Boar Public House (now demolished), leading under the railway tracks towards the river. At one time, the road split in two, with one track leading to the other side of Blue Boar Creek to James Hall & Son, Iron Foundry. Examples of their work can still be seen embedded into the pavements around Furrell’s Road. To the South of Blue Boar Creek, Blue Boar Wharf provided the river frontage for Barge Building. Up to 100 Medway Spritsail Barges were built here by William Higham. William lived on Victoria Street in Rochester and his wife had 9 children.
William Higham was also notable as a signatory to a fascinating document signed by 251 individuals connected to the Coal Trade Port of Rochester trading from Rochester Riverside on February 10th 1876 petitioning the Mayor and Corporation of the City of Rochester to review the state of the roadway of Blue Boar Lane, which was in such a poor condition it was compelling commerce to land at Chatham and not Blue Boar Hard.
“ We the undersigned Ship Owners, Merchants, Captains and others connected with the coal trade of the Port of Rochester hereby beg to call your attention to the bad state of the roadway of Blue Boar Lane leading to the River Medway and considering the large amount of traffic now going to and from the River…the present state of the road being such as to compel many to land at Chatham who would otherwise do so at Blue Boar Hard…” MALSC
Rather a lot of variations on a theme are drawn up – this is a process of discovery after all. I am often looking for something elusive. I don’t always know what I am chasing after or trying to uncover. Much of this work proves unsuitable to produce, or doesn’t fit the client brief (or budget) but nothing really ever goes to waste. Ideas unused are tucked away for another time.
The rebated letters within the cast concrete stepped units very from 5mm to 30mm deep. This allows for some expression and emphasis to be placed on certain anchor words, important for the interpretation on site. The large coloured letters are proposals for bespoke, highly detailed individual letters made of granite, enamelled steel or architectural glazed faience. These will be inset and bonded into several of the 30mm rebated capital letters, inspired by historiated initials of Illuminated Manuscripts in the Library of Rochester Cathedral.
I have had access to some amazing aerial images from Britain From Above. The following black and white images are so evocative and detailed, they tell a fascinating story of our site’s industrial and social history, nothing much of which survives today, except the large crane.
The above image from 1965 shows the Gasworks, Limehouse Wharf, Acorn Wharf (Shipbuildng) Acorn House, RMC Aggregates and Ready Made Concrete, Cory’s Wharf (Coal), Chatham Goods Yard (Railways), Blue Boar Wharf, Furrell’s Wharf – almost all the way to Chatham Intra. So much to be inspired by…
I am collaborating with LUC and BPTW who are leading on the architecture, masterplanning and landscape design.
I am continuing to develop the work I created for Phases 1 & 2 as the site has endless riches to be inspired by. My problem is knowing where to stop the research. Each stone unturned has golden threads to follow. Contextually, we are now on the site of Blue Boar Wharf, in its heyday a major Barge Building site, with two Yards, Upper and Lower occupied by two businesses – William Higham, ran the Upper Yard, where he built 100 Barges between 1876 and 1901 & George Weedon the proprietor of the Lower Yard.
Above: Gyproc Products (Plasterboard), started production on the Rochester Riverside site in 1933, just 3 years prior to this images from 1936 (the large white shed in the centre of the picture). Cory’s Wharf, with its ‘5 Cranes Dancing’, is in the foreground.
Above: The coming of the railways in the 1840’s effectively separated the town from its salt marsh grazing pastures and community centred around The Common. The Cattle & Livestock Market – seen bottom left in this image from 1936 has rooftop graphics – advertising its products – probably for the benefit of train passengers, as the track was raised on an earthen bank and brick viaduct. ‘Thorley’s Food for Cattle’, & ‘Thorley’s Food for all Stock’.
Above: This Postcard must be a very early image of the site, as there appears to be no industrial development of the Riverside site.
There is a great short film on You Tube called the Medway Dock Crane, which show the Blue Boar Wharf site and the whole of Rochester Riverside, prior to development by Countryside as seen from a drone. Click on the above link to view.
By mid-December 2019, a number of the bespoke public art units (5 of 24) had been finally installed into the footpaths and thresholds of new properties along sections of Common Creek Wharf and Thalia Way. These parts of the site were fully occupied during the weeks leading up to Christmas. I will update as more units are installed –
Above: You may just be able to make out the ‘5 Cranes Dancing’...just below the CORY’S WHARF text . These cranes were eventually replaced by 2 x 200 tonne Cranes, each capable of lifting 10 tons at a time.
My recent trip up to Hardscape at Logistics North near Bolton was a ‘more than hoped for’ brilliant success. This work was conceived with care, skill and emotion. I feel I can honestly say it has been manufactured with care, with enormous skill and equal amounts of emotion. This is what I want to be doing with my time! Achieving beautiful things, creating good work, working with great people. Focussing on craft and natural materials, on age-old skills of hand and eye, fused with technological innovation. I want to work alongside and collaborate with people who are proud of what they do and shout it from the rooftops. –
OK – so with that out of the way, let’s take a look at some of the day’s outstanding work.
Above: My good friend, the ampersand. ‘WALRUS & NELLIE’. Unit size – 900mm x 300mm x 75mm. More ‘Tales from Rochester Riverside’…
Above: Details of ‘ADA & EDITH‘ , 900mm x 300mm x 75mm with an inverted ‘WALRUS & NELLIE’. at top. Unit size – 900mm x 300mm x 75mm.
Above: Details of ‘ADA & EDITH‘ , 900mm x 300mm x 75mm with a rectangular block of Carlow Limestone crisply laser etched with the name ‘ADA’ & inset into a slab of Porphyry. An inverted ‘WALRUS & NELLIE’ at top, was also sandblasted and inset with text – unit size – 900mm x 300mm x 75mm.
Above: Eleven of the fifteen units being created up at Hardscape are visible in this image.
Above: At bottom, ‘DUNLIN A SALTMARSH BIRD’, with water jet cut, inset, laser etched and sandblasted granite – unit size – 1200mm x 400mm x 75mm . At top, an inverted ‘GOOZERS & WATERMEN’ – unit size – 900mm x 300mm x 75mm.
The beautifully detailed DUNLIN in black Carlow Limestone is laser etched, then water jet cut from its slab and inset into the red Shiraz base slab. The letter ‘D’ is also water jet cut from green Kobra Granite and inset into both the red Shiraz and the Black Carlow, bonded in place with a golden yellow resin specially selected for colour. The letter ‘U’ and other visible text is sandblasted. This is highly skilled and complex work. Looks bloody amazing too…
Above: ‘GOOZERS & WATERMEN’ is no less complex, with water jet cut and inset text in Maple Red Granite, inlaid into a Black Carlow Limestone base slab, which is in turn sandblasted with text and laser etched to two depths to create the rippling water effect. See images below.
Above: The laser etched text ‘Watermen’ on the ‘GOOZERS & Watermen’, panel is wonderfully delivered with a deeper etch to the centre and a delicate lighter etch to the outline. This attention to detail and finish it what makes these bespoke units so outstanding.
Above: Detail of ‘SHELDUCK’, Laser etched bird motif on black Carlow Limestone, water jet cut-out and inset into a Kobra Green base slab. Letter ‘D’ is also water jet cut and inset. The other letters are sandblasted into the Kobra Green. Unit size – 960mm x 400mm x 75mm
Above: Details of ‘SHELDUCK’ & ‘PERENNIAL GLASSWORT’, just two of our 15 tales from Rochester Riverside. ‘SHELDUCK’, is a laser etched bird motif on black Carlow Limestone, water jet cut-out and inset into a Kobra Green base slab with large letter ‘D’ also water jet cut and inset. The other letters are sandblasted into the Kobra Green. Unit size – 960mm x 400mm x 75mm.‘PERENNIAL GLASSWORT’ is a red Shiraz slab base sandblasted to two depths for text and plant motifs. Royal White & Carlow Limestone letters have also been inset into the surface.
Above: Detail of some of the letters of ‘PERENNIAL GLASSWORT’ sandblasted into red Shiraz granite.
Above: ‘MARSH COWS GRAZING’..& other tales from Rochester Riverside’ is Unit No. 8 in a sequence of 15 bespoke granite units along with 9 bespoke cast iron units together create a story about the history and use of this site from Medieval times to the present day. The slabs are robust and heavyweight, adding a physical presence to the narratives they embody. The lives and livelihoods of Rochester people are represented here. These histories live on in stone and cast iron.
Above: Detail of letters ‘C’ & ‘O’, bot water jet cut and inset from Maple Red Granite and Porphyry respectively and inset into sandblasted Kobra green Granite.
Above & Below: ‘BLUE BOAR CREEK’ & ‘GOLDEN SAMPHIRE’, 2 more Tales from Rochester Riverside. Large letter ‘B’ water jet cut from Maple Red Granite, inset into Black Carlow Limestone with laser etched detail.
Above: ‘GOLDEN SAMPHIRE’ still has the resin bond material smeared over the surface…the cleaned up version can be seen below.
Above: The large letter ‘S’ is water jet cut from black Carlow Limestone, which has beautiful white shell deposits within its matrix., which are wonderfully contrasting when wet.
Above & Below: ’15 BARGES STARTED THE RACE’ & ‘RUSSET BROWN & OCHRE SAILS’. Both bespoke units exhibit great colour contrast and use of stone. Deliberate use of coloured resin bond to fix water jet cut motifs in place adds another dimension.
Above: Detail of the red Shiraz base slab with sandblasted text into which is inset a 2 colour motif with Maple Red granite and Kobra Green, fixed with a coloured resin bond.
Above and Below: ‘THE FIVE BROTHERS’ & ‘SPRITSAIL BARGE’, share a base slab of Porphyry, with sandblasted text and motifs. FIVE BROTHERS has the word ‘FIVE’ inset in water jet cut Maple Red, whilst SPRITSAIL has three letters ‘S’ ‘g’ & ‘L’ inset in Royal White for contrast.
Above and images below: ‘COAL – METER HEAVER WHIPPER’ & ‘WILLIAM CORY & SON LTD COAL FACTORS’.2 Tales from Rochester Riverside…
Above: Top slab – 1200mm x 400mm x 75mm – Crystal Black base slab with sandblasted text & water jet cut and inset Maple Red rectangle with additional inset text in Crystal Black. Bottom slab – 960mm x 400mm x 75mm – Black Carlow Limestone base slab with sandblasted text and motifs with water jet cut and inset Maple Red granite letters and motifs.
I’m travelling up north to Bolton this week to see the final units completed and hopefully sign off the work so it can be delivered to Rochester Riverside for installation. Can’t wait to see them all.
Above: “BLUE BOAR CREEK”…& other tales from Rochester Riverside. Detail of a water-jet cut & laser-etched paving panel in black Carlow Limestone with inset text of Amarelo Real (yellow granite) & Porphyry.
These new images are just in this afternoon thanks to Mathew Haslam of Hardscape – as their skilled stone specialists focus on the applied detail. Water jet cutting, inlaying, sandblasting and laser etching their way through 15 bespoke units destined to be embedded into the landscape of the new housing development at Rochester Riverside for client Countryside.This highly bespoke work needs to be handled with care and demands high levels of craft skills.
Hardscape have been excellent at providing this form creative collaboration. Public Art Strategy & Artists Commissions by FrancisKnight .
Below: This unit is 9 of 15 – ‘SHELDUCK’, a Kobra Green Granite base slab with water jet cut inset motif & text in black Carlow Limestone, which has been laser etched with surface detail. Further sandblasting of text into the green granite, will complete the work.
Above: The almost completed ‘WILLIAM CORY & SON LTD’.
Above: This is the base slab of black Carlow Limestone, which has been laser etched first & then water jet cut – but the large letter ‘W’, the ‘&’ and the diamond motif have yet to be chiselled out. See Below –
Above: The water jet cutting removes a series of lines from the granite, which are determined by the CAD programme, which creates the cutting paths. These pathways are interesting in themselves as patterns, but in this instance they have to be chiselled out carefully by hand, to create the void space for the granite inlay to be fixed.
Above: This images shows the void spaces chiselled out from the Carlow Limestone. The letter ‘W’ in Maple Red granite has already been inset and is awaiting bonding in place – the diamond motif is just about to be inset. These images are wonderful for showing process, craft and the mix of skills from CAD technology to work by hand & eye.
Oh my word…we’re on a roll in production up at Hardscape in Bolton.
These images are hot off the press, as skilled stone specialists at Hardscape focus on the applied detail. Water jet cutting, inlaying, sandblasting and laser etching their way through 15 bespoke units destined to be embedded into the landscape of the new housing development at Rochester Riverside for client Countryside Properties. This work needs to be handled with care and demands high levels of craft skills. Hardscape have been excellent at providing creative collaboration .
Above: This is the ‘&’ from ‘WALRUS & NELLIE’. Water jet cut into a slab of Red Shiraz Granite 900mm x 300mm x75mm. It is awaiting the inlaying of the circle of yellow Amarelo Real Granite. It looks amazing. WALRUS & NELLIE were the names of two portable aggregate conveyors loading stone and cobbles on and off barges at Cory’s Wharf, Blue Boar Hard.
Above: This is the laser etched ‘DUNLIN A SALTMARSH BIRD’, , waiting to be water jet cut from its slab of beautiful Carlow Limestone & inset into a slab of red granite. See image below, where the DUNLIN has been partially cut out from the block in concentric linear patterns. This is a complex unit, with other letters inlaid. Precision is key. These beautifully crafted objects embedded in the landscape, will be a gentle reminder of the natural, social and industrial history of the site.
The laser etched image of the Shelduck will now be water jet cut out of the Carlow slab and the motif inlaid into a slab of Kobra Green Granite, which has the shape of the bird already cut into the surface.
Interesting to note also that the Carlow Limestone has beautiful fossil shells embedded. Also note that these are not my feet, they probably belong to Pedro, who is overseeing and also working on my project. Without skilled people like this, I would be lost !
Mid-September and it was up to Hardscape, Bolton to see progress on the manufacture of the bespoke inlaid granite paving units. As ever, the works are of a really high quality and Hardscape are always keen to progress & test their creative collaborations.
15 granite units are in production. These vary in size from 1200mm x 400mm x 75mm to 900mm x 300mm x 75mm and are destined to be installed at the thresholds to housing & apartment blocks at Rochester.
This work is achieved via water jet cutting and inlay techniques using colour matched resin to bond granite elements in place. Text and other motifs are also sandblasted at varying depths.
In August all was ready for the casting of the iron units and off I eagerly trotted on the train up to Hargreaves Foundry in Halifax to be present during a famous ‘Casting Thursday’! – I have been up to Hargreaves only once before and Andrew Knight, Foundry & Patternshop Manager showed me around the factory at that time. Even though this was impressive, (& it is !) it couldn’t match being present to witness my own work being cast. It is such a physical, visceral process, fully hands on and dangerous with it. The skill & craft is astonishing and it is this legacy of making, which Hargreaves has in bucketfuls, that I wanted to design into the public art work for Rochester.
Nine cast iron units have now been made, from 5 original cnc tooled patterns manufactured to my designs by Arthur Jackson & Co Ltd, Halifax. These patterns, cnc tooled from a type of resin block are used to prepare the resin sand mould boxes used in the final casting process. The cast units are then hand finished through grinding and polishing methods.
Individual one ton iron weights are used to secure the moulds during casting, such are the pressures of heat during the process. The moulds are constructed from a resin infused black sand, which has been compacted around the master pattern, which is then removed.
What I can’t convey here is the noise, heat, smell & excitement of this process during the critical stages of casting. The experience is vivid and visceral. I am watching something being made which could last for hundreds of years.
The units above and below have now been treated with Nitric Acid to prevent rusting through oxidation. The cast iron is almost black and the relief jumps out very cleanly.
“A creek separates the marsh here from Cory’s Wharf – apparently into which the watermill discharged…” “The marsh was full of logs (a huge stack of wooden piles from Rochester Old Bridge) and was home to many rabbits – wild rabbits, grey, brown and black…” ‘It was said that the Foord Familystocked the marsh, with animals from their farm at Darland’. Stephen Hannington – Bygone Kent Magazine – Rochester’s Long Lost Common Part Two –
‘Floods of 1897 and 1928 inundated this area – the flooding in1897 was called The Great Flood and attributed to a record high tide on 29th November’. The image below shows the Homeward Bound Public House inundated by the flood waters. The Gas Holders of the Gasworks, can be seen in the background. The Gasworks, on Gas House Way was one of the earliest built in the UK in 1818. The area was known as Gas House Marshes. Image by kind permission of Medway Archives and Local Studies Centre.
I thought I might post the artwork for all of the proposed granite and cast iron paving slab units. I can then add any historic anecdotes, images or information, which have caught my attention and may be of further interest. I’ll cover all these in this and the next two posts. 1 of 3
CAST IRON UNIT ‘BRICKIES‘ STACKIES STUMPIES’. You can also add MUDDIES to this list as well! All colloquial names for the trades associated with Medway Barges built in and operating out of the Rochester Riverside site. Brickies carried up to 40,000 bricks on the up river journey to London and came back laden with London’s rubbish. Stackies were piled high with Hay and Straw. Stumpies could take cement, lime, timber, clay, coal, bricks, hops and other commodities. Muddies are self explanatory…the carried clay and mud dug from the banks of the Medway Estuary and destined for local brickworks.
CAST IRON UNIT ‘GOLDEN SAMPHIRE’. ‘To the northwest the Medway Estuary consists of an extensive area of marshland, comprising of salt marsh and intertidal mudflats. The River remains tidal at this point and estuarine conditions would have dominated most of the site’s past.’ Ref: KCC HER 012. 2014 -371. Golden Samphire grows on estuary mudflats and salt march. It is rare and I have used it as it represents the efforts being made by the client team to build upon the heritage and legacy of the natural environment with it’s diverse flora and fauna.
GRANITE UNIT ‘BLUE BOAR CREEK’. “Blue Boar Wharf was our playground”. Edwin Harris
Blue Boar Creek is the one of the more distinctively named and well remembered places on our site. It also gave name to Blue Boar Lane, Blue Boar Hard, Blue Boar Lower Yard, Blue Boar Upper Yard, Blue Boar Lane Foundry and Blue Boar Pier. ‘Blue Boar Hard Pier: November 26th 1886′ as seen at the Medway Archives is set of beautiful, hand painted drawings of plans for a new Pier by draughtsman William Hoelking. Some details are referred to as ‘DOLPHINS’ & ‘DUMMY’. MALSC Ref: Plan 1 of 4 (002) MP/B/30/1 (1 of 4).
William BanksCity Surveyor has also signed this document. William was born in about 1850 at Edmonton. He married Anne Mary Everett in June 1876 at Islington. In 1891, he and his family were living at at 10 Albany Road, Rochester, William was by then aged 40 and a surveyor for the city of Rochester.
‘What is now left of Blue Boar Creek and the river beyond at Limehouse Reach, lies deathly silent. Coal is not longer unloaded from colliers at Cory’s Wharf. So too is the Pier, once festooned with skiffs and rowing boats, where formerly small boys with rod and line and a jar of worms could fish away the school holidays’. John K. Austin from his publication ‘Yesterday’s Medway’. Johns has been involved with this project from the outset, having been consulted by the project Architects BPTW on his local knowledge as a historian, author, teacher and artist.
GRANITE UNIT ‘THE FIVE BROTHERS’ William Higham had a Barge Building business on Blue Boar Hard. He was born in 1838 in Lewes Sussex. On 27th October 1864 he married Fanny Elizabeth Blake in Strood. By 1881 they had 9 children and lived in a private house on Victoria Street, Rochester. William employed 11 men and 7 boys. THE FIVE BROTHERS was the last barge built at this yard alongside DOROTHY in 1901.
GRANITE UNIT ‘PERENNIAL GLASSWORT’. ‘The Medway Estuary is believed to be the most important area in North kent for wintering wildfowl in numbers of international significance. The saltmarsh serves as a roosting area for waders at high tide. Several scarce plant species include: golden samphire, perennial glasswort and one-flowered glasswort. The estuary is one of the best places in Britain for the study of glassworts. The grazing marsh has breeding and wintering birds of interest; the former include lapwing, redshank, pochard, mallard and gadwall, while in winter large flocks of may wildfowl and wader species are present.’ Ref: Environmental Stresses and Resource Use in Coastal Urban and Peri Urban Regions. DPSIR Approach to SECOA’s 17 Case Studies.
GRANITE UNIT ‘COAL: METER HEAVER WHIPPER’. Colloquial names for trades employed in the Coal business.Frederick Furrell was born in 1807 and died in 1877. Frederick Furrell & Son were Coal Merchants based at Furrell’s Wharf, a He was also an Alderman & Shipowner. He had ten children with his wife Katherine who he had married on February 25th 1832 at St Margaret’s Church in Rochester. Fred was Mayor of Rochester in 1855. Furrell’s Wharf was a 30m length of post and plank revetment of Oak and Elm Posts, most likely made from re-used ships timbers was in use in 1865 making it one of the oldest sites for industry on Rochester Riverside. It was accessed via Furrell’s Road.
His name also lived on as ‘Furrells Pond’, “where children swam and skated in Icy weather – The site flooded during exceptionally high tides” . Edwin Harris
Furrells Wharf was also the destination of many travelling shows, menageries and circuses – such as Wombwells Wild Beasts & Edmonds Menagerie – George Sangers Circus, Pinder’s Circus, Middletons’ Marionettes.
Coal was a major industry at Rochester, with several businesses engaged, most notable William Cory & Son of Fenchurch Street London were registered in 1896 after taking over he business of coal factors, merchants and Lightermen of William Cory & Son of Rochester at Rochester Coal Wharf.