Twenty-five years on and the coal industry in Leigh is still being remembered. Parsonage Colliery was a coal mine operating on the Lancashire Coalfield which was sunk between 1913 and 1920 by the Wigan Coal and Iron Company. The first coal was wound to the surface in 1921 and from that moment the colliery was prevalent within the Lancashire coal industry and was subsequently nationalised in 1947, linking it to Golborne & Bickershaw collieries via underground passages. Eventually, as coal mining died out in the UK, it came to a close in early 1992. Nowadays, the Parsonage Retail Park sits above the closed colliery, along with a new Sainsbury’s store.
To support Brookhouse Group’s redevelopment of the Sainsbury’s store on Parsonage Retail Park, Arcadis were appointed to prepare a Public Art Strategy for approval by Wigan Council. This strategy included a number of design aspects with the objective of revealing the rich history associated with the site, in particular the Parsonage Colliery that lies below.
One of these aspects was to animate the proposed service yard wall to the new Sainsbury’s store, which was designed to form a small public space facing the primary access route to the site and a wider development.
Hardscape collaborated with Arcadis, Wigan Council, developer Brookhouse Group Ltd, Bowmer & Kirkland and installation experts Stone Central to produce four bespoke Artscape memorial panels, each invoking a ‘memory’ to the educational and cultural aspects related to the rich history of the Parsonage Colliery.
The subterranean mining plan was used to inspire a bespoke paving pattern within the small public space. This pattern was designed to meet the service yard wall at 4 points, each establishing the location for a panel to share information of the site and mining history and data.
The tall, curved ‘memory wall’ has been core to the integrated public art proposals from the early conception of the public realm design and the phase one masterplan layout of the area near to the new Sainsbury’s urban design award-winning development adjacent to the memorial.
The high-quality panels are finely detailed, robust and low maintenance. The panels also include realistic colouration techniques that avoided inlaying ‘Pit Tallies’ which may have otherwise been vulnerable to vandalism.
Through consultation with local elected members, four coal seams were selected to reveal, with each panel proportionately scaled to the depth of the seam as represented by the scaled profile of a miner. Each of the four panels: ‘Victoria’, ‘Riding’, ‘Brassey’ and ‘Plodder’ can be seen here in more detail.
Hardscape supplied four Artscape public art panels of various dimensions and two feature sign panels. Crystal Black granite was chosen as the base material, with text and images being revealed in grey through shallow routing, etching and sandblasting. This provided longevity to the features, and included some information accentuated through colouration.
The polished black granite provided a monumental quality to the panels, and the sometimes-large areas of exposed grey were also intended to represent the subterranean excavations.
The Sainsbury’s store faced onto the Parsonage Way Retail Park, with the service yard therefore facing the new access road to the site and the wider planned development of the area. As an urban design response this led to the creation of a small public space, framed by the service yard wall which offered a perfect blank canvas for the public art expression of the Parsonage mining history and chronology, such as sample coal seam names.
Arcadis took the opportunity to call this a ‘Memory Wall’, with signature bookend granite panels, proportionately representing the depth of the two deep shafts, each over 900m deep.
Client: Brookhouse Group. Wigan Council. Landscape Architect & Public Art Designer: Arcadis. Architect: Cassidy & Ashton. Principal Contractor: Bowmer & Kirkland. Public Art Panels Supplier: Hardscape. Specialist stone fixers: Stone Central (NW) Ltd.