In December 2018 we were pleased to finally see the installation and unveiling of a project that has taken 3 years to reach completion. Maid of the Bridge, a unique piece of public art conceived by Anna Gillespie, Bath based sculptor, and commissioned by developer Crest Nicholson was installed on the newly developed Riverside site in Bath to the great pleasure of the team who had worked on the project and of the local residents.
The sculpture was created from the puddled wrought iron bars from the original chains of the old adjacent Victoria Bridge which had been through a process of conservation and reconstruction in 2015. The bridge was originally constructed in 1836, designed and built by local entrepreneur, James Dredge who was a brewer in Bath and designed the bridge to carry beer from his brewery across the river without using a ferry or having to detour through the city centre!
Local Council, Bath and North East Somerset and the developers were keen to use the original wrought iron in some way to show their recognition of the historical importance of this Grade II Listed structure and of the history of local industry in the area. Local sculptor Anna Gillespie has used much found metal in her previous works and she seemed a perfect choice to work with this idea.
The resulting piece of public art steeped in the site history was created by a collaborative of local companies from the city, bringing together art, history, heritage skills and engineering. The team included art consultant and curator, Peter Dickinson; international engineering company, Buro Happold, Ironart of Bath and Sculptor, Anna Gillespie. We all enormously enjoyed and respected the different skills each member of the team brought to the project and ultimately, our challenge was to find a way to use this old wrought iron to make a safe and durable piece of public art that was true to Anna’s original idea and drawings.
Maid of the Bridge is comprised of 172 sections of old wrought iron bar each carefully marked, drilled and tapped with 1398 spacers and 1116 fasteners, there had to be a trial assembly and then a final assembly once everything was correct. It was finally fitted to a very modern galvanised box section steel plinth, all coated with an HMG coach enamel system.
We were very proud to have worked on such a great project which celebrates heritage skills, respecting historical engineering and the industrial heritage of our city whilst also connecting the past to the future, embracing modern engineering skills and skilled hand-crafted work.
Maid of the Bridge flows in the same direction as the flow of the river which is a nice touch as it has spent the last 182 years spanning the river and now she flows with it! If you fancy a visit to see her you will find her here.