Cast Iron Horse Bench by Lucy Casson.

Cast Iron Horse Bench by Lucy Casson.


This commission came about as a result of the Canal Connections Project which set about making physical improvements to the Rochdale Canal, as well as revealing more of its fascinating history and strategic importance to the area.
Much of the impetus came from the local community, canal enthusiasts and volunteers with support from Pennine Prospects, (who brought in LEADER funding from Europe), Calderdale Council, Rochdale Council, Sustrans Connect 2 and the Canal and River Trust.
The Horse Bench was made for Black Pit Lock, near the centre of Hebden Bridge, to celebrate the role of working horses on the canals before steam power and diesel engines.

The Artist

After a nationwide competition was held and judged by a panel of local representatives and canal experts, Lucy Casson was chosen. Her work is based on ‘observations of people and animals; their gestures and moods; scenarios and narratives’.


Prior to making the Horse sculpture Lucy visited the foundry to discuss the project with Andy Knight, Foundry Manager and Pete Lodge, Foundry Supervisor. They were able to advise her on the best way to create the sculpture so that it would work as a pattern. As it was going to be a bench it needed two ‘ended’ versions for left and right. It would also be necessary to core out the centre to keep the weight down. The final solution was a sculpture / pattern that could be split, with a removeable head piece and removeable side plaque. The body could be cored out but the head would have to remain solid. This would prove to be both the best and the most cost effective way to cast the piece.
The wooden sculpture / pattern duly arrived at the foundry and required no additional work prior to making the moulds and cores. The pattern with the head and side plaque for the right end was made first. After the pattern was taken out of the first mould the head and side plaque were moved to create a left hand version for the second mould. The cores were made by ramming sand into the cavity whilst the pattern was in the moulding box. This method was adopted as there was no core box for this particular casting.
The casting process was successful and the two horse bench ends were ready for final fettling and shop blasting. Lucy Casson visited the foundry a second time to inspect the work and help with some of the fine finishing touches.


Each of the Horse castings weighed approximately 250 kgs and access to the canal towpath wasn’t straightforward, so installation required people with the right experience and skills. Fortunately for us our sister company Hargreaves Lock Gates are more than qualified for this type of work.

Nigel Lord, Business Manager, for Hargreaves Lock Gates oversaw the installation. This was somewhat serendipitous as Nigel, prior to taking over at Hargreaves Lock Gates in 2008, started as a supervisor on the Rochdale Canal Restoration Scheme in 1982. The scheme was subsequently taken over by the Local Authority and known as the Rochdale Canal Workshop (Callis Mill). Since 1982 Nigel has been involved in every set of gates on the Rochdale Canal from Sowerby Bridge to Manchester and indeed installed two sets of gates at Black Pit Lock in the period. He installed the first set in 1982 made of Oak and the second set in 1997 made of Ekki.

The Horse Bench ends were fitted with bolts set in epoxy resin, (although at 250 kgs each they probably wouldn’t go anywhere in a hurry). The wooden laths are made of FSC Certified Ekki, the same wood as the lock gates at Black Pit. Hargreaves Lock Gates were the first Lock Gate manufacturer to achieve both FSC and PEFC accreditation. Each lath is over 2 metres long with a section of 200 mm x 100 mm.


The Horse Bench has proved extremely popular with locals, children and canal users. Hargreaves Foundry and Hargreaves Lock Gates were delighted to play a small part in bringing it to Black Pit. The link below to a short You Tube video gives some idea of people’s enjoyment.



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