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3 September 2013 Peacocks Hay & Hem heath Woods Ethnography

I post a lot about the hall of fame, mainly because I spend a lot of time there documenting the changes and trying to get artists to talk to me! However, the area surrounding the HOF is somewhere that I had not examined yet. The area we looked at today is an open disused industrial that links directly to the train tracks. We have spent most of the day speculating what it was used for and trying to find out what the buildings were, and the strange cut outs in the floor.

Well after hours of searching, and asking a few locals via social media, we have discovered that it was once Goldendale Iron Works.

goldendale iron works

1960 – Goldendale Ironworks was situated on the outskirts of Tunstall, just below the cemetery. In the background is Harecastle Hill and Harecastle Farm, where in the days of the canal boats the women or children would walk the horses over the hill whilst the men ‘legged’ the narrow boat through the mile-long Harecastle tunnel.
The works closed in the late 1960’s and the was land reclaimed. The new Tunstall Western By-pass runs just the other side of the works.(Staffordshire Past track, 2013). 


There is not alot of this left now, just the car park, flooded pits and some 1960s pre fab buildings that are collapsing. The site is vast and it speaks volumes of Stoke on Trent’s industrial past. The location is perfect for the industrial age, with canal links via the mile long Harecastle tunnel and the railway tracks dividing the site. This is the part of graffiti which is directly linked to deprivation; as it offers up space to be painted.

Up until the 1960’s closures of this plant and many others like it, or the mines, or the pot banks, would have been where the inhabitants of Stoke on Trent would work. Deprivation brought about by the closure of plants such as these is an ongoing characteristic of Stoke, it has never really recovered in the way other centres of industry did such as Manchester’s mills or Liverpool’s ports -Stoke’s pot banks lay in ruins.

Hall of fame ethnography 2sept2013

Yellow- industrial, Pink- Transport, Blue- Hall of fame, Red Graffiti

goldendale

Red- Goldendale Iron Works Site (Kidsgrove.info, 2008). 

 
The graffiti found over on the site varied from tags to much more detailed pieces and obviously spanned a large amount of time.
peacocks hay 02sep2013 001 peacocks hay 02sep2013 004 peacocks hay 02sep2013 006 peacocks hay 02sep2013 007 peacocks hay 02sep2013 008 peacocks hay 02sep2013 009 peacocks hay 02sep2013 010
Today has been really interesting and touching in a number of ways really, but discovering the past of this area has been one of the things on this project that has put a lump in my throat. You can look at stats, telling us how many households are claiming benefits. You can look at the council cut backs in spending in the name of austerity. But the reality of the situation smacks you in the face when you see industry crumble away and new Eco call centre spaces go unused. This last picture struck me as poignant, it could just be a Hulk fist- signalling many graffiti artists inspiration in illustration and typography. Or it could be a cultural reference to the northern soul
movement that revolved around music, emerging in the late 60’s, and had a massive impact within the area. The logo shown below, and the tag line..
PCH065northern
The thing about graffiti and culture jamming is that as much as it is the artistis intentions and vision for what he paints, once there the interpretation of the piece and its placing becomes that of the viewer. This peice says to me ‘Stoke-on-Trent, keep the faith..’

Refs
 
With thanks to …
Frank Jones, Chris Machin & Brule Newhall.
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