Well we’ve had a lovely couple of days of people dropping in to make small sheep sculptures for our installation.
You’ve been a lovely bunch, and all of the sheep sculptures are beautifully unique, and the growing flock is looking great.
We’re waiting a few days for the sculptures to dry out and then they’ll migrate outside to their final grazing site.
Commondale is built on clay.
In the surrounding villages, many of the older houses are stone built. Commondale, however, is built primarily from hard, bright red Commondale brick.
The few exceptions are the older farmsteads predating the brickworks, and the houses built for managers of the brickworks, which are built from local stone.
The Alfred Crossley Memorial Institute, inside which we are creating the clay sculptures, and in the grounds of which we are installing our piece, has stood since 1923.
It was built in honour of Alfred Crossley, who died in 1919. The Crossley family owned the brickworks for many years. It is Commondale’s village hall. And proudly evaded health and safety concerns, boasting the last real, open fire of all the local village halls.
The bricks of this building are more of an ochre shade, rather than the more commonly seen bright red. Some of the brickworkers cottages (ours included) are also built from these softer, yellower bricks. It is thought that these bricks were still likely to have been made in Commondale but that they were fired at the edge of the kiln, where temperatures were lower, or were perhaps made before the newer kilns, which had more uniform temperatures throughout, we’re installed.
Whatever the reason, there are different bricks throughout Commondale.
We decided to use terracotta clay for our project, rather than an ochre shade, as the red bricks are more distinctively ‘Commondale’.
The ‘making’ stage of the project is now complete. Flock is now installed in the garden of the Alfred Crossley Memorial Institute.
It is open to the public 24 hours a day. If you want to visit, you can enter the front gate of the village hall and nip round to the right of the building. Tucked away you will find the installation. Thanks again to everyone who took part – do come and visit to see how the piece is being weathered and worn, or keep checking up on this blog.
The tiny village that you see today only hints at the bustling brickworkers’ community that was in Commondale 100 years ago.
There was once a village shop, post office, and another church. There was also a school, which was so full that some of the local children had to walk to nearby Castleton for school. These buildings are all still standing but are all now converted to houses.
Of all the local businesses and amenities serving the community, only the small red brick church perched on the hill, local pub, the Cleveland Inn, and of course the village hall – the Albert Crossley Memorial Centre – remain.
Older residents describe how there were many more rows of terraced houses built along the hillside, where now there’s fields. As one resident said, nature is taking Commondale back.
This is mirrored in our piece, Flock, where the recent heavy rains have been working their powers on the clay. The grass and bracken surrounding the sheep sculptures has shot up; and the rain has softened the clay, encouraging it back to its original form, sludging back into the earth.
Well, we’ve been preparing the hall for the participatory part of the project. It’s all ready for people to come along and get creating the piece with us.
On Monday 29 and Tuesday 30 May, and Saturday 3 June between 11am and 4pm locals and other visitors can drop into Commondale village hall, called the Albert Crossley Memorial Centre to be a part of the piece. Come and make three terracotta clay sheep – one to take away with you, and two to stay as part of the flock. The collection of all these handmade sheep will form an installation outside the hall, in the public space, they will remain to be viewed as the piece changes and weathers.
Here’s some images of the space pre-intervention. Already some interesting objects, including some terracotta roof tiles. Could be originals, made in the Commondale brickworks? Also some evidence of visiting sheep. Nice to see both clay and sheep in the space already…