Archives Hub feature for February 2023
The University of Gloucestershire’s Special Collections and Archives joined Archives Hub in 2022. There are 14 collections at the university, charting everything from the history of the institution (founded as a teacher training college in 1847), to national collections including the Independent Television News (ITN) Image Archive and Local Heritage Initiative Archive. There is also an emphasis on local connections, with holdings on Gloucestershire poets, writers and artists. One such example is the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail Archive.
The collection charts the history of the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail, located at Beechenhurst Lodge in the heart of the Forest of Dean. In 1983, following the establishment of a sculpture trail in Exeter Forest, Martin Orrom (Forestry and Environment Officer, Forestry Commission) wrote a brief for the establishment of a sculpture trail in the Forest of Dean. The Elephant Trust provided £2,500 towards the project and in Spring 1984 around 20 artists were invited to visit the site and submit proposals for sculptures. Martin worked alongside Jeremy Rees (Founding Director of The Arnolfini, Bristol) and Rupert Martin (Curator at The Arnolfini). Six artists were chosen and these founding commissions were collectively titled “Stand and Stare”:
Peter Appleton – Sound Sculptures
Kevin Atherton – Cathedral
Andrew Darke – Sliced Log Star (Inside Out Tree)
Magdalena Jetelova – Place
David Nash – Black Dome/ Fire and Water Boats
Keir Smith – The Iron Road
The trail was opened on 19 June 1986 by Sir David Montgomery, Chair of the Forestry Commission. By 1988, a second batch of sculptures had been installed including:
Bruce Allan – Observatory
Zadok Ben David – As There Is No Hunting Tomorrow
Miles Davies – House
Ian Hamilton Finlay – Grove of Silence
Tim Lees – The Heart of the Stone
Cornelia Parker – Hanging Fire
Peter Randall-Page – Cone and Vessel
Sophie Ryder – Crossing Place/ Deer/Searcher
Since 1986, over 30 sculptures both temporary and permanent have been sited on the Sculpture Trail. The Forest is a living place, and the sculptures have come and gone leaving a mark on visitors and locals alike. Magdalena Jetelová’s ‘Place’, locally known as ‘Giant’s Chair’, was a huge chair sculpted from oak beams looking out over the landscape. It was originally planned as a temporary sculpture to be charcoaled in-situ, but this was deemed too dangerous. ‘Place’ remained on the trail for nearly 30 years before being decommissioned in 2015. It was dismantled and the wood turned to charcoal, reflecting one of the past industries of the forest, with the charcoal creating new artwork.
The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust was established in 1988 as a registered charity overseeing the maintenance of the trail and commissioning new works. The trail is owned and managed by Forestry England. Since 2011, the Trust has deposited the archive of the trail with the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham. Material covers both the administrative and artistic processes involved. Formats encompass documents, books and publications, leaflets, drawings, videos, a maquette and other ephemera. There is even part of the original bark from ‘Place’ and some of the charcoaled sculpture. The collection has proved popular with arts students both at the university and wider afield. Both the trail and the archive continue to grow as the landscape evolves.
The recent Forest to Forest project celebrated the trail’s 35th anniversary. To find out more about the site visit https://www.forestofdean-sculpture.org.uk/.
Special Collections and University Archivist
University of Gloucestershire
Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail Archive, c.1976-2019
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All images copyright Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust and University of Gloucestershire Special Collections and Archives. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.