Visitors to Glasgow’s Forth & Clyde Canal are being invited to indulge their inner Indiana Jones to help uncover the remains of a lost canalside ironworks this Saturday (22nd August) as part of an innovative arts and archaeology project.
Organised by Scottish Canals and the Scottish Waterways Trust, the event will see the public work with experts from Archaeology Scotland to explore and uncover the story of Victoria Iron Foundry. The ironworks, which once sat on the banks of the canal at Applecross Street in North Glasgow, dates back to the industrial heyday of the waterway in the mid-19th century.
A soundscape created by artist Phillip Gurrey will transport visitors back to the glory days of the forge, conjuring roaring bellows, rushing water and the mighty clang of hammers on great anvils as part of an aural experience exploring Glasgow’s shift as a hub of industry to a beacon of culture.
Local artists Minty Donald, Neil McGuire and Nick Millar will also install a temporary furnace on the site – the first time a forge has been fired within the walls of the foundry in more than a century. Visitors will be able to learn more about the iron forging process and even help release casts of iron ingots from their moulds.
Chris O’Connell, Senior Heritage Advisor at Scottish Canals, said: “Victoria Foundry played a key part in the story of both the waterway and Glasgow itself and we’re incredibly excited to be able to explore that rich history in an innovative and exciting way.
“Working with the local community, our partners at the Scottish Waterways Trust, Archaeology Scotland and an array of talented artists, this project will help to bring the rich heritage of the area to life, recording and safeguarding it for future generations to enjoy.
“Whether you’re unearthing the past with trowel in hand, learning about the craft of casting iron at our open air forge or simply closing your eyes and taking a trip back in time to the glory days of the foundry, there’s no shortage of things to do and stories to explore. I’d encourage everyone to come along, learn more about the city and the canal’s history and help us bring Victoria Foundry back to life.”
While today the waterway is home to social enterprises and cyclists rather than factories and coal scows, the Forth & Clyde Canal was once a transport artery that stoked the fires of the Industrial Revolution. Opened in 1790, the canal was used to carry passengers, goods and materials to and from the factories, foundries and warehouses of the city, playing a key role in Glasgow’s economic success.
Victoria Foundry, like many canalside industries, owed its existence to the Forth & Clyde Canal. First appearing on Ordinance Survey maps in 1857, the foundry used the canal as a water resource and a transport route in both its role as an ironworks and its later incarnation as a glassworks. The building was eventually demolished sometime in the 1960s following the closure of the canal.
Gemma Wild, Canal Officer for Cultural Heritage at the Scottish Waterways Trust, said: “The Forth & Clyde Canal is not just an important monument in its own right but when it arrived in Glasgow in the 1770s it transformed a relatively rural area into a bustling industrial powerhouse, inspiring the founding of towns like Maryhill and attracting people to the new communities along its banks. Over 200 years later the waterway and its history are still an intrinsic part of the character and identity of North Glasgow and its people.
“At the Scottish Waterways Trust we’ve found people have a tremendous appetite for sharing and hearing memories and stories about these fascinating living museums. We’re always looking for opportunities to let people get hands on – learning new skills while helping to protect and enhance Scotland’s canals. So we’re incredibly excited to be able to invite everyone along to what’s going to be a fantastic afternoon for people to get in on the action, helping us explore the remains of the foundry site and also finding out about some of the very different modern culture shaping today’s waterways.”
The free event kicks off at 2pm at the former site of the foundry behind Scottish Canals’ offices at Applecross Street in Glasgow and runs until 5pm. Full details of the event can be found on Scottish Canals’ website at http://bit.ly/VicFoundry.