Motherwell Street Decoration

Recently on a little overnight trip to my mother’s home town of Motherwell, we stayed in the Moorings Hotel. This Jacobethan building which was built in the 1880s by the son of the local steel magnate is now a boutique hotel. 

On leaving I spotted this little plaque on the wall and had to stop, blocking the car park with my car whilst I leapt out to take a picture. I can’t find out much about the imagery – at first I thought it was a religious subject. It is a cherub in a Viking style ship with a swan figurehead. Swans were popular choices as ship figureheads from about the 13th century onwards because of the imagery of graceful swans gliding through the water. The little cherub looks a bit grumpy – maybe he didn’t like sailing or maybe the tree in the background with its leaves shaped like skulls scared him. On Sundays, as a teenager, when I visited my granny in Motherwell, we went sailing in Strathclyde Park, a couple of hundred yards down the hill from here. My sister hated sailing, and used to hang on for dear life, like this little guy, until it was over.

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Heading into the town centre to do a wee bit of shopping we passed by the handsome red sandstone buildings. These are listed, but you wouldn’t know it. Motherwell unfortunately suffered badly in the 1980s when its heavy industry closed down, and although it is dragging itself back up, it is still a poor looking town. This building was built in 1892 by Alexander Cullen, a prolific local architect. Educated at Glasgow University, he set up his practice in the 1880s. On his death, the firm continued until 2011. He is also listed as involved in the design of St Andrew’s Church. I like the unexpected Greek Island colours of the door and gate.
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The town has a past in Coal – Iron -Steel which is remembered in the metal decorations in the pavements in the main street. Nice idea, but I hate the font, and it is not helped by the bubble gum coating, eooow!
DSC_0115Moving into the rather empty, down at heel shopping street, an unexpected pleasure : a beautiful 300 feet long concrete mural by Charles Anderson, a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art.  As art was his full time job and he had a family to support, he apparently never turned down a job asking for art to be made using a new technique. This one is done in pre-cast concrete made in polystyrene moulds.
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Stainless steel birds on a steel Socialist red tree are having a union meeting, according to George Wyllie, the renowned Scottish artist. He designed the sculpture through the eyes of a local steel worker. It was made from Motherwell Steel, and exhibited at the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival before being moved back to Motherwell.

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