Whilst not technically in Yorkshire, I am including this artwork in my blog as its position along the Cleveland Way between Saltburn and Skinningrove was once classed within Yorkshire before boundaries were changed in 1974.
I have walked this stretch of coast a number of times usually as part of a 10 miler from Saltburn to Staithes. Not far into the walk on the edge of the trail at Huntcliff, close to the cliff edge is a giant steel charm bracelet with 10 individual charms.
The artworks official name is Circle, but the locals fondly know it as “the Charm bracelet”. The piece was created by Richard Farrington and was commissioned by Common Ground in 1990 as part of a partnership with British Steel and Northern Arts.
The fact it is made from steel reflects the historic importance of the local smelting and metal working industries.
The only brief was that the piece had to have elements rooted in the local community.
Richard Farrington wanted to bring together a “collection of random things” and on a visit to the area he noticed lots of local women wearing charm bracelets. He used this as inspiration for the piece deciding it would help create something mystical.
According to the North East Statues website – his mission was to produce a “proper public artwork involving the community”, so he worked on the piece at the British Steel Special Sections Rolling Mill at Skinningrove.
The inner section of the circle is made from an old mine shaft mast and the outer part from material used to reinforce the hulls of trawlers.
Sadly the original sculpture was destroyed one night in 1996 under the cover of darkness. It was a deliberate act using power tools to unfasten the ring from the base, then the sculpture was rolled into the sea. Whilst local rumours as to who did it exist, no one was ever prosecuted.
The circle was reclaimed from the sea and some of the charms were also recovered. A new bracelet was produced with a new thicker circle – it was re-installed and much more firmly anchored.
There are some great pictures of it being dragged back into position by the Locomotive Maintenance Team on the North East Statues website.
New steel charms were created to replace the originals which were lost. The charms include a belemnite (an old Jurassic Squid), a mermaid, a cat, a mermaids purse (fish egg pouch), a bird, a ring and a horse. The charms are all three dimensional and whilst debate continues as to what exactly each one represents, Farrington confirmed that each one represented a story about local culture, folklore or tradition.
I love this quote from Richard Farrington about his favourite place “I remarry my wife every time we are up there”. The place obviously holds a special place for him. It is also quite apt then that the site has also held a Midsomer’s Day Wedding over the last few years.
Having passed the sculpture again last weekend, the charms were gently clanging on the remote, wild cliff top in the heavy wind. It really was a wonderful sight with stunning views out to sea. A very special place and well worth a visit.
To read Daniel Cochran’s blog on the artwork click