01749 672548

Life in the West Riding of Yorkshire

Year Completed : 1967

Size : 1.8m x 25m (6ft x 82ft)

Client : Leeds Bradford Airport

Location : Waving Deck of Leeds Bradford Airport

Current Status : Mural was demolished in the late 1990's due to airport expansion.

Life in the West Riding of YorkshireA large section of the long mural. Stones were used to cover the wall above the windows and beneath the radiators to give unity to the whole wall.This is one of the few photos of the area being used by the public. I had professional photographs taken of the mural before the tinted plate windows were installed. Once this was in place the photos had a blue-ish tinge.The main mural was 6’ high and ran for 84’.  This detail is from the far left hand side and shows a tractor from the dales with farm buildings in the background.At the right hand side of the mural school children are seen at play. Here the figures are seen lying on the floor of my London studio. They have been modelled in red clay and cut into pieces.  We are picking up the pieces for drying and ‘biscuit firing’ in the kiln.The photo shows the figure of a motor cyclist lying on the studio floor. Glazes have been applied but the pieces have not yet been through the kiln.The same figure as in the last photo (the motor cyclist) has now been through the kiln and awaits final inspection before being packed up for despatch to Yorkshire.Philippa working on the Leeds Bradford muralThe figures of two steel workers are seen lying on the studio floor. One wears goggles and the other holds a heavy chain. The clay has been biscuit fired so appears terracotta, and awaits the application of glazes and further firing.Pieces laid out on paving outside my studio.  The figure holding the chain from the last photo reappears here, and has now been glazed.I had two assistants helping me to assemble the mural at Yeadon.  Here one is seen placing the pieces of the motorcyclist into the cement render. (The same figure appeared on my studio floor in previous photos)The other assistant places the figure of a footballer into the wet render. The adjacent blocks have been completed.A sheep appears in the section showing farming in the dales. Here stones are placed around the ceramic.Ceramic is placed into the wet cement.  The shuttering around the block can be seen.Some of the chaos of a building site can be seen in the background as the pieces of Ripon Cathedral are assembled and placed in the blocks.Ripon Cathedral is now assembled and the stones are placed in the sky area.  The cathedral was about 8’ high.The first layer of panels goes up on the wall. Metal tracks had been screwed to the wall ready to receive fixing pieces which had been installed in the back of the concrete blocks.The second layer of panels is installed.Blocks containing Ripon Cathedral and children playing are fixed to the wall.  Radiators will eventually be placed over the blank areas beneath.My helpers clean spilled render from the mural surface.  There is always cleaning to do when cement has been used.(Running from left to right)
The Dales: a sheep dog, sheep, farmer and his wife with farm buildings behind.The farmer’s wife is feeding chickens.  A little girl plays besides her and behind her a man drives a tractor. (No safety cabin back then.)Hikers on the Dales with rucksacks pass typical buildings with a viaduct in the distance. Pit Head winding gear is seen to the right.Pit head winding gear leads into a scene representing the mining industry which was still flourishing in the 1960s. A miner with kneecaps and a headlamp stands between two bandsmen from a colliery brass band. All these figures were based on photos and drawings that I made in the area whilst researching the mural.Industrial buildings in the background including a cooling towers appear behind a pigeon fancier with his racing bird. A game of amateur football takes place to the right.The game of football continues along the wall backed by terraced housing and factory buildings.The motorcyclist in studded jacket leans on his bike in front of a chapel. Two mill girls stand admiringly beside him together with two older women – one knitting and the other carrying a shopping bag.The husband of the shopping lady appears to the left, and he has a racing greyhound beside him.  Behind the couple are buildings with gasworks, a pub and factory chimneys. A steel worker wears goggles and carries the great pincers used for lifting red hot metal. Another worker, in helmet and gaiters, carries a heavy chain.More factory buildings lead into Ripon Cathedral.  The windows were glazed with melted glass.Ripon Cathedral leads into a playground with children at play. I ended the mural with these thinking that they could be seen to represent the future.  They also represented the many children who collected the stones for this mural.Life in the West Riding of Yorkshire

In 1966 I was commissioned to do a large mural for the expanding Leeds Bradford Airport at Yeadon. The following is taken from a piece that I wrote for the Concrete Quarterly 82. (Summer 1969) 'When asked to make a mural for the viewing deck of the new Leeds Bradford Airport terminal, a number of design problems presented themselves. The wall measured eighty four feet long by six feet high but was interrupted by high - up windows and radiators at rhythmic intervals. The medium used would have to withstand the ravages of bored and energetic children, and I wanted the mural to have some meaning for the broad range of people who were likely to use the airport'. 'The subject I chose was Life in the West Riding. Anyone who has walked in the Dales and then driven into the heart of Bradford - less than 20 miles away – knows the dramatic changes of this area, from timeless open moors to the constrictions of Victorian industrialization'. 'I tried to get the different atmospheres and buildings and people to come out in a kind of episodic strip, emerging as one walks the length of the viewing deck. Dales and mining scenes blend with a brass band, footballers, wool mills, mill girls, steel workers – leading onto Ripon Cathedral and young children at play. Each group is meant to be seen as an entity, which solves some of the problem of the limited viewing distance, and yet each is linked with the others by the common medium and background'. 'The ceramic in this mural takes the form of figures, buildings and machinery. Stones make up a rich and muted background for the colours and textures of the ceramics, fitting well around the awkward shapes of the windows and radiators. The schoolchildren of the West Riding were encouraged to collect stones and they did this with such enthusiasm that we had literally tons of stone with which to work. After the mural was finished, it was sad to see all those carefully collected pebbles destined to be buried in the foundations'. 'I have worked on abstract and figurative subjects but I find that I can bridge these two extremes by basing designs on the formal patterns of Byzantine mosaic or Gothic sculpture. In this mural the buildings were real buildings, drawn and photographed in bitter January weather, and the people are meant to be real people, not too stylized or enigmatic. This medium, however, is a formal one and the formality gives pattern. Perhaps it is at its most successful, therefore, in the organised and ready-made patterns of the great cathedral at Ripon, or the tractor in the dales scene, or the motor-cyclist’s studded jacket'. It was sad to hear in the late nineties that this mural had been demolished to make room for the airport’s further expansion. I had often heard from people who saw it when visiting the airport and remembered collecting the stones. It had almost become part of the West Yorkshire tradition, and had recorded many things which were contemporary at the time. The tractor in the dales without its safely cabin... the miner standing with the pit winding gear... the wool mill and mill girls... the steel workers with their tools and goggles and even the young children in formal school uniform are all now gone along with the mural itself.

Lat/Long : 53.869762, -1.657336

Red - mural is known to have been destroyed

Mural is known to have been destroyed


Contact Us

Philippa Threlfall
Black Dog
Tor Street

01749 672548