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Commemorative garden taking shape in Ellesmere

By David Banner | North Shropshire | Attractions | Published:

The development of a new public garden at Ellesmere mark the centenary of the Save the Children charity – and commemorate the two local sisters who started it –is taking shape alongside the town’s Mere.

Artist Nick Eames at work. Photo: David Allen

Work has been underway for several few weeks on a landmark art installation at the main entrance to Cremorne Gardens, but has been brought to a halt because of the restrictions imposed by the Coronavirus emergency.

Before the lockdown, visitors were able to see North Wales artist Nick Eames creating his abstract sculpture, The Sisters, representing Eglantyne Jebb and Dorothy Buxton who founded the international aid charity in 1919.

Nick, from Cilcain near Mold, says his work is inspired by natural forms ranging from seashells to driftwood.

A digital impression, by Tim Johnson, of Nick Eames’ abstract sculpture The Sisters

For this project he has taken two small pieces of kindling firewood and developed a moulded model.

It will be scaled-up to form two 7ft-tall figures, standing side-by-side, cast in tough, long-lasting high alumina cement.

He said: “I am confident this piece will endure for at least a hundred years,” he said, “as the cast cement roof of the Pantheon in Rome has lasted 2,000 years so far.”

Nick says his work is intended to show the powerful bond that existed between Eglantyne and her sister as they campaigned relentlessly to establish their charity to provide food and medical aid for displaced and starving children in Germany and Austria at the end of the First World War.

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Remarkable

He said: “Anyone who studies their lives cannot fail to be moved by the humanity and vision of these two determined and remarkable women. They were able to achieve astonishing things because they stood shoulder to shoulder as sisters. This is what I wish to acknowledge in my sculpture – to convey not how they would have looked, but how they felt."

His sculpture will stand adjacent to a winding labyrinth pathway, designed with help of hundreds of pupils at local primary schools.

This will symbolise the perilous journeys endured by refugee children trying to escape conflict in countries riven by war over the past century.

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Central within the labyrinth will be a carved oak artwork, Refuge, by John Merrill from Glynceiriog near Chirk, who created the popular Sshhh sculpture further along the Mereside as part of the Ellesmere sculpture trail.

Along the pathway, visitors will discover words in various languages, including English, Kurdish, Syrian and Rohinghya, conveying the feelings of displaced children forced to flee their homes and venture into the unknown.

The area of land where the development is taking place will be named the Jebb Garden and will eventually be planted with shrubs and flowers, including a rose named after Eglantyne Jebb.

Volunteers

The work is the culmination of an 18-month project led by a small team of volunteers from the Ellesmere Sculpture Initiative, and part- funded by grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Arts Council, England, and donations from local companies and charitable organisations.

The project, which has involved numerous events and activities over the past year, has been carried out in partnership with Shropshire Council, Ellesmere Town Council, Save the Children, schools, community groups and local businesses.

Members of the Jebb family, who still live in Ellesmere have also supported the project.

Trudi Graham, the sculpture group’s artistic co-ordinator said she hopes visitors to the mere will take time to walk the labyrinth, which will be created by Liz Turner and Keith Ashford from Shrewsbury-based artists Sculpturelogic and supported by ecological groundworkers Orchardfield.

She said: “We hope this art installation will be a poignant reminder of the experience of so many children displaced by conflict. We also want it to give people pause for thought about the achievements of the Jebb sisters, Eglantyne and Dorothy, 100 years ago, a time when women in general didn’t even have a vote. Their inspiration has resulted in Save the Children becoming a major force for good in the world, though they would probably be horrified to find that relief charities are needed now more than ever.

“These remarkable women are an inspiration for a new generation and show that if you care, you can make a difference. We hope the Jebb Garden will be a lasting memorial to their determination, and will encourage more people to visit Ellesmere."

Sculpture group chairman Len Graham said: "Work on The Sisters sculpture will continue as soon as restrictions are lifted. John Merrill is making good progress on the second sculpture, Refuge, in his workshop. Once restrictions are lifted they will be finally installed and the Labyrinth will be constructed. 

"At this point we do not know when this will be, but hopefully later this year. We are extremely grateful for all the local support for the project which the community and local business have given and that support will help us ensure the Jebb Garden is completed.”

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