Wrexham County Borough 74 - Ty Pawb /Everyones House/ Terracottapolis/ Antony Gormley comes to Wrexham

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March 30th 2022
Published: March 31st 2022
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Who says the Wrexham has no culture ? Well a lot of the townsfolk who really don't understand the City of Culture 2025 bid or don't see culture anywhere . We have a lot of spare time on a Saturday before we go to the football match . We need to get parked up early otherwise we struggle to find somewhere close to the ground to park . Going early means a lot of time on our hands to kill . Over the last few months we have walked up into town . Visited the museum a couple of times . Walked round the temporary exhibits - Hidden Holt and Lego buildings. We have drunk coffee in the museum cafe . Called in at the Portuguese cafe .

What we have never done is called in at Ty Pawb / Everyones house . A utilitarian building erected many years ago to replace one of the old town Markets. Down came the mock Tudor frontage and a new market hall was proposed in another part of the town . Why call it Ty Pawb ? It had connotations of communism , Russia and China . A house everyone could enjoy. At least that was the thought of the townsfolk when it opened and they boycotted it . Saying quite rightly it had no character . It lacked the character of the old market . I had never been in but wanted to give it a chance and see what it had to offer.

The inside certainly did not inspire confidence . It was very wooden and did not have the charm of the old market. I remembered the wool shop , the carpet shop along the steps down to the market hall. Pagets record shop where we used to visit on a Saturday and listened to records in the old fashioned accoustic booths . We had heard the songs on Radio Luxemburg and we had no money to buy them as we were still at school. Listening to them in the booths on a Saturday was the next best thing .

The character of the shops are different but some of the same shops remain . The wool shop was my link with the past . Music came from the middle of the building . A young musician played his guitar and sang . Tables were spread around the central area . We sat and ordered coffee from the Flatulent Frog . Yes you heard it right the Flatulent Frog . A vegan cafe with a lovely choice of food and a picture of a frog passing wind . There were other cafes . One served desserts and milk shakes . The other curry to go. The place was bustling helped by the Artisan Market in Queens Square .

Sitting over our coffee gave us chance to catch our breath , look forward to the match against Dover and contemplate our holiday . Dover bottom of the league . Only won one game all season and going down . It would be a walk in the park - wouldn't it ? The Bay de Somme aire is closed for refurbishment . We need to review our first night stop . We will travel as far as Neufchatel , call in to the local Le Clerc supermarket , top up on food and top up on fuel . The thought of buying those Flan Naturelle and fresh croissants was playing on our minds . We also have decided to travel down a day earlier . Not to sightsee but just to break up the journey . A stop sorted near to Banbury near a falconry centre. It will mean we won't have to traverse Birmingham on a Monday and hopefully will get round London more easily.

After pondering the holiday we finished our coffees and headed for the gallery within Ty Pawb . I had noticed an exhibition aptly named Terracottapolis and it made sense to visit and see what was on offer. What a mouthful - Terracottapolis was . So what was on offer ? The gallery within Ty Pawb was small . It was hosting an exhibition of terracotta products . All produced in the Dennis Ruabon factory . Just up the road from the town it became a hive of activity with the discovery of vast quantities of high quality Etruria Marl clay in the Ruabon area in the 19th Century . This heralded the beginning of tile and terracotta production on a vast scale. By the turn of the 20th Century there were several factories in and around the area employing roughly 2,000 people. Workers produced massive amounts of terracotta and bricks . The bricks were used used in the house building of the town and further afield . Floor tiles that adorned the suburban middle class Victorian houses . The village of Ruabon earned the nickname Terracottapolis. But it was for the distinctive red bricks that the area became famous. The material was so popular it was used to build schools, hospitals, universities, law courts, pubs and other key buildings in cities across the country. The bricks gave the town its distinctive red look .

Henry Dennis founded the company in 1878 . It later became known as Dennis Ruabon Tiles Ltd. Dennis was not a welshman but was born in Bodmin, Cornwall. He studied civil engineering and first travelled to Wales to supervise construction of a tramway at a slate quarry near Llangollen. Following that he headed to work in a lead mine in Spain. He then returned to Wales after amassing a considerable personal fortune. After becoming managing director of the Hafod Colliery he established the Hafod Brickworks. The workers produced ridge tiles. Many are still seen roofing the houses of our town. Chimney pots, ceramic styled tiles and other products using 24 coal-fired "Beehive" kilns. His business flourished at a time when demand for the red bricks and terracotta was high. By the time of his death in 1906 he had established himself as a giant of the industry> The company survived and still produces some garden pots and containers and the Heather Brown tiles used in country kitchens .

The gallery was quite small . One room divided in the middle by an square opening . It would only take us a short while to do a circuit of all the exhibits . The first two exhibits were modern tile works by some unknown artists to us . They were interesting . The first had a Assyrian look to it . As if the artist had looked back at that tilework and made a modern copy. The second was called Man with guitar. He held his guitar to the front of him and we could only see the shape of parts of it . It had an egyptian look to it . I felt it would not have looked out of place in am Egyptian kings tomb.

We were then guided through the archway which was completely tiled in the most stunning blue tiles . Every inch covered with the flowery pattern . From floor to ceiling . It had a wow factor . Beyond the doorway were examples of the flooring tiles made by the factory . One made up with the name of Dennis and the second a mesmerising mosaic pattern . An complicated geometric pattern which formed an illusion on the floor. The fact that someone had the sense to save these was not lost on us. They may not be old but they were precious .

On pedestals were roof finials of different designs , The type of roof finials that adorn the ends of the roof just to finish them off . A display case full of terracotta plaques from Victoria to the prime ministers of the day. An entire wall was filled with bricks . The names of the brickworks stamped into each brick . Westminster bricks used at the local colliery . Hafod from another colliery . A map on the wall pinpointed where all the bricks came from . The richness of the variety of products was amazing and the number of brickworks mindblowing . Now all that industry has long gone .

We had on the way through seen The Body. A 6 foot tall marquette of a human body. Made up of the smallest bricks I had ever seen . Just a few inches by a few inches . They made up this colossus . Or he would have been a colossus had he been built to the plan of the sculptor who was none other than Antony Gormley . Have you see those Antony Gormley sculpures on the beach near Southport? Or have you seen the Angel of the North? Well this was identical to those on the beach and with wings was a dead ringer for the Angel of the North . So why was he here ? He resided in Leeds Art Gallery and was being loaned out to our town to celebrate the different use of terracotta made from that Ruabon Clay. Gormley in the 1980's had submitted designs for the Body to Leeds as part of a competition to produce an art work worthy of the industrial heritage of the town. It was to stand almost as large as Nelsons Column in London and the plans showed it placed at the side of the column for the town to see what it would look like . Leeds were not impressed . It was too modern. Too stark, too minimalist . They rejected it refusing to give it planning permission . It was never to see the light of day in Leeds . Just an exhibit saved in a museum .

We marvelled at it and thought we would be happy to have it in the town. It was culture . It would bring visitors in . The town was buzzing as we walked to the Racecourse for our afternoon entertainment . Bottom of the league against the next to top. Would our American and Canadian co-owners be watching the match . 2 - 0 up - things were going well. By half time we were 2 -2 as Dover stepped up to the mark and we fell asleep. 2 - 3 Dover took the lead . 2 - 4 - another sloppy goal let in . By the time it was 2 - 5 some supporters were leaving . Fearing the worse we stayed on . Glued to our seats Wrexham pulled one back . Then another . Dover players fell over . They stopped play when they could . Time was being added on. By the end of normal full time it was 5 - 5 . The crowd was buzzing . Willing the team on . Another goal would do it . With 9 minutes of added time blood pressures were rising . 2 minutes left on the clock and another goal went in . 6 - 5 to the town . What an afternoon . We pulled back what looked like a defeat . We went home happy. A flatulent frog, a body made of bricks and a cracking football match . What a day . .


31st March 2022

Coming back from 2-5 and winning is awesome.
31st March 2022

Hope your trip goes well . Seems like you have a lot packed in to see . Get the midge spray out - its midge season in Scotland from late summer . I take it that it will be a solo trip. It has been a long time coming . Are you aware that our local football club is co-owned by Rob McAlleny of "Its always sunny in Philadelphia " fame and Ryan Reynolds the Canadian actor . They bought our club just over a year ago . They wanted to buy a club with a history and they chose Wrexham . I imagine you feel the same about travelling . I just hope we dont lockdown again . Waiting for our 4th boosters . Glenn has his soon we hope .Mine probably in the Autumn

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