News: Hargreaves casts ponies for Welsh Valleys' regeneration project

14 November 2010

Hargreaves Foundry has cast five pit pony sculptures for an art installation designed for Blaenavon, South Wales.

Halifax-based Hargreaves Foundry has cast five pit pony sculptures for an art installation designed for Blaenavon, South Wales.

Weighing in at two tonnes each, standing four feet tall and six feet long from nose to tail, the iron-cast pit ponies were designed by animal sculptor Sally Matthews, whose work can be found all over the UK and in Europe.

One of the few foundries to have retained the skills of intricate mould making, Hargreaves cast the ponies in 100 per cent recycled iron from Sally’s full-sized plaster models by taking an impression in sand.

Hargreaves Foundry superintendent Pete Lodge, who has been casting art works since 1993, said: “We had to adapt our traditional processes to get the ponies’ moulds to replicate as closely as possible Sally’s finely-crafted models.

“Out of all the pieces I’ve worked on over the years I’ve enjoyed this commission the most. The lead pony (pictured) is by far my favourite from all the pieces that we’ve cast at the foundry.”

The pit ponies are destined for the former mining town of Blaenavon in south Wales. The installation was funded by the Heads of the Valleys Programme, a Welsh Assembly Government regeneration initiative which aims to develop new economic bases for the country’s former mining communities. It is hoped that the pit pony sculptures will become a key visitor attraction, contributing to the growth of tourism in and around Blaenavon.

Artist Sally Matthews said: “While researching the project, I watched archive footage of the pit ponies being brought up from the mines for their one-week and later two-week holiday that they shared with the miners. “On seeing the film of the ponies as they were led down the street and their exuberant release into the fields; the ponies became the natural subject for the work. Pit ponies were at the heart of Blaenavon’s coal and iron industries and they are still in the hearts of many people there.

“I chose to make the ponies free from their working tack as I wanted the sculpture to be about the individual ponies and freedom.”

  Issued by Julia Smith on behalf of Hargreaves Foundry. Call 01636 611774 or email with media enquiries.

Notes to editors:

1. Hargreaves Foundry was established in 1896, in Halifax, Yorkshire, and today employs a staff of 65. The iron founders have supplied castings to the engineering and construction industries for more than 100 years. It is best known as a manufacturer of cast iron drainage products. However, Hargreaves Foundry has retained specialist pattern making and foundry skills and is now just one of a handful still operating in the UK.

2. Sally Matthews was born in Tamworth, Staffordshire, in 1964 and has been a working sculptor since the early 1980s. Matthews is nationally acclaimed for her animal sculptures, which can be found all over the UK, from Grizedale Forest to Weston Super Mare and from Cardiff to Gateshead.

3. The Heads of the Valleys Programme is a 15 year regeneration strategy developed in full partnership with five local authorities (Rhondda Cynon Taf, Merthyr Tydfil, Caerphilly, Blaenau-Gwent and Torfaen) to tackle the root causes of economic inactivity and other key issues in the area.

4. The aim is that the Heads of the Valleys will become a rich, dynamic network of communities helping to drive the success of south east Wales. The programme seeks to achieve an attractive and well-used natural, historic and built environment, a vibrant economic landscape offering new opportunities, a well educated, skilled and healthier population, an appealing and coherent tourism and leisure experience and public confidence in a shared bright future.