Pontcysyllte aqueduct was first opened in 1805, and soon afterwards the author Sir Walter Scott praised it by saying that it was the ‘most impressive piece of art’ he had ever seen. Today, other works of art can be found at the aqueduct and other points along the World Heritage Site.
Sculptures commemorate the achievements of the people who built the canal, those who worked alongside it and those who came to visit. They can celebrate the landscape they stand in or events that took place there.
A sculpture can be the work of one person, or a community that live near it or have a relationship to the area. Sometimes sculptures are made of materials found locally, and they can represent the spirit of a place. Sculpture can also enhance a place. It can make a statement in the landscape and change the way we look at our surroundings.
Look out for sculptures in the World Heritage Site, and those a little further afield that show how important the canal is as a symbol of this area. The iconic tall, thin piers and the iron arches of the Pontcysyllte aqueduct make for an instantly recognisable image wherever they are found.
More Information About Sculpture
Antony Lysycia’s stone hand is inset with objects from industries that operated near the canal. There are bricks and tiles, and you can see the conical brickwork kilns at the top left. There are also iron tools, chains, hooks and bolts. The ironworks are shown at the top right of the sculpture.
This stone stands at an entrance to the basin. It has a quote from Sir Walter Scott, who called the aqueduct ‘the stream in the sky’. Scott wondered at how fishes could swim above flying birds and the sculptor Anthony Lysycia has made that the central image of this sculpture.
This sculpture shows a woman and horse leading a narrowboat from under bridge number 29W, in the middle of Trevor Basin. From the northern end of the basin, Plas Kynaston canal went past the ironworks. Along the bottom of the sculpture are pieces of clinker, waste material from iron smelting.
Beside where the feeder branch of the canal from Llangollen enters the Trevor Basin, a sculpture by Anthony Lysycia shows one of the ducks often seen here. Behind it is the nearby Telford Inn. This building was originally called Scotch Hall. Telford often stayed here while the aqueduct was being constructed.
A wooden sculpture outside the visitor centre at Trevor Basin is constructed from beams. These are carved with names of some of the tools used for building narrowboats, in Welsh and English. ‘Bostocks’ are the raised supports a narrowboat rests on in a dry dock, like the ones next to the sculpture.
At the visitor car park entrance to the Trevor Basin is a sculpture showing a narrowboat propeller. It represents setting off on a journey from Trevor. There are six sculptures by Anthony Lysycia around the aqueduct, commissioned in 2003 as the bid for World Heritage Status was beginning to be considered.
The newest sculpture celebrating Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is in the visitor car park. Created by Hotrod Creations and Mick Thacker, it depicts tools and products used to design and build the aqueduct. It incorporates samples of coal, slate, limestone, sandstone, ironstone and clay, industrial raw materials all found around the canal and transported on it.
An Anthony Lysicea sculpture at Froncysyllte basin commemorates the limestone industry which dominated the village. The canal was used to transport the stone and lime produced from the kilns on the opposite bank. Quarrymen’s pick-axe heads are arranged to look like the fossils that are sometimes found in the stone.
The sculpture at Froncysyllte shows Bill Roberts, a local quarryman known as Canada Bill. Born in the village, he emigrated to Canada for 10 years, before returning with his wife and children. This sculpture names one worker, to represent the hundreds who were employed in industries that have now disappeared.
Between the train station, canal tunnel and bus stop at Chirk, this sculpted notice board tells visitors about the village, the castle and the World Heritage Site and how to reach them. Wood-carver Jim Heath has depicted local landmarks, including Chirk Aqueduct, and a carved walker with a backpack, who waits to explore.
Artist Ed Williams created Madoc’s Column at nearby Plas Madoc, using ideas from people in the community to show the things they are proud of. Madoc was a medieval prince of this area and the column depicts scenes from local history including Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and the industries around it.
A small sculpture between the canal and the International Eisteddfod Pavilion at Llangollen, asks people ‘Why stand when you can sit?’. It was placed in memory of the actor and writer Alan Bird, who lived in the town and loved both the canal and the Eisteddfod. It’s a perfect resting place.
Tŷ Mawr Country Park is beside the River Dee, between Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Cefn Railway Viaduct. Both are commemorated in several wooden sculptures along the paths through the park. There are benches, plaques and large panels. Even the donation box brings the two great engineering structures together.
The Wrexham Sheep Trail has placed over thirty sculpted sheep at places of interest throughout the County Borough. Each sheep has a name and is painted with a different design, connected to its location. The sheep at Pontcysyllte Aqueduct is called Tomos and he lives near the visitor centre at Trevor.
Ellesmere in Shropshire was the location for the head office of the canal when it was built. A sculpture trail alongside the canal and through the town includes a ceramic bench by Ruth Gibson and Huw Powell Roberts. It incorporates the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct design and information about the boats that used it.