This month Cheshire Life magazine featured The Marbury Lady on its front cover. It was part of a feature on local photographer Alison Hamlin Hughes – AKA The (other!) Marbury Lady! Although the article wasn’t about Simon, many people have been interested in the sculpture. So, we thought we’d revisit the story behind the sculpture in this week’s blog…
Marbury Lady Revisited: The Location
The Marbury Lady is found in Marbury Park, Northwich. Many of the features of the park date back to the days when it was a grand estate. Since then however, it has served many purposes including country club, Prisoner of War camp, and hostel. Nowadays it is an integral part of Mersey Forest with a range of paths and trails.
Marbury Lady Revisited: The Commission
The Marbury Lady sculpture had its roots (no pun intended) in the sad demise of an avenue of elms. A burst brine pipe had cause saline poisoning and many of the trees had died. The Friends of Anderton and Marbury who run the park decided to turn one of the stumps into a sculpture. An that’s where Simon comes in!
For those wondering about saline poisoning though, sadly it is very common in the UK. When a tree is exposed to too much salt, it blocks the flow of essential nutrients. In turn, the tree can no longer make chlorophyll. If like us, your high school science is a bit of a blur, that’s the green stuff plants use to turn sunlight into usable energy! A tree can be exposed to salt in many ways, including splashes from gritted/salted roads in winter.
Thankfully when spotted early enough, it can be reversed. For anyone who wants to know more, we recommend this Gardening Know How article on the topic. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/reversing-soil-salinity.htm
Marbury Lady Revisited: The Design
The Marbury Lady sculpture is essentially a two-faced woman. Although it may seem an unusual choice, it makes sense if you are familiar with local history/folklore. The legend of the Marbury Lady dates back to the time Smith-Barry occupied the hall. It involves a romance with a mistress or housekeeper (versions vary) that he brought back from his travels overseas. It is said that she haunted the house after her death, and now the land. Even now there are reported sightings of a lady in a white veil, and well as tales of strange sounds and happenings. Whether you believe in ghost stories or not, she makes an interesting subject for a sculpture…
Marbury Lady Revisited: The Two Faces
Simon decided to show The Marbury Lady in both her manifestations. One side of the sculpture shows a living woman. The reverse shows a ghostly face, shrouded in a shredded veil. On the ‘living’ side, her expression is calm, peaceful. On the reverse she appears more gaunt, and pained.
As well as carving her with two faces to reflect the story, Simon also did this because he wanted to encourage people not just to view the sculpture passively. He wanted physical engagement with the sculpture. He wanted people drawn into a story. In carving her this way, people have to physically move round to the other side of the sculpture to see the full story. And from there, there is room to interpret as the viewer chooses.
Marbury Lady Revisited: The Response
The Marbuy Lady sculpture was one of Simon’s favourite sculptures to create. It was technically challenging and stretched him creatively and technically. You can read more about this in our original Marbury Lady blog.
At the time she was received well, and it was wonderful to hear comments from people who enjoyed the piece.
One year on, it’s great to see her still making an impact. Alison Hamlin Hughes has also created some coasters with different views of the sculpture, and there have been a lot of comments on her posts appreciating Simon’s work.
As an artist, it is the client’s opinion that is most important at the end of the day. In the case of a public sculpture, there are a lot of opinions likely to come forth! When so many are so appreciative it isboth humbling, and rewarding. Especially in this difficult season of lockdowns, to be part of bringing joy and beauty into people’s lives is a privilege.
Marbury Lady Revisited: Resurrected Life
It’s also fitting that we are talking about the Marbury Lady on Easter weekend. The whole message and theme of Easter is resurrection – life revived. Turning a dead tree into a work of art is a fantastic way to give life back to that tree.
If you have a tree that is diseased, dying or dangerous, it may be possible for Simon to transform and resurrect it in the same way he did with The Marbury Lady. We recommend reading our blog “Is My Tree Suitable for a Tree Carving Sculpture” as an initial ‘self-assessment’. If it looks like it might be, contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.
And if you have photos of his sculptures, we’d love it if you tagged him so we can see them! It’s always fun to see people enjoying Simon’s sculptures, and we love to see how they are ageing – just like this photo by Alison Hamlin Hughes.