Mining heritage celebrated in new artwork for Shawfair development

Three year old twins help with the unveiling
Three year old twins help with the unveiling

A new public artwork by Ratho-based blacksmith P Johnson & Company has been unveiled at the village square in Millerhill at Shawfair, just outside Edinburgh.

The Millerhill Carbon Tower, a 3.2m-high sculpture depicting the coal-mining heritage of the area, was officially unveiled by Provost Adam Montgomery.

The piece was commissioned by family homebuilder Mactaggart & Mickel Homes to commemorate the genesis of a new community in Millerhill at Shawfair, the largest urban expansion programme ever undertaken in the Edinburgh and Midlothian area.

The brief was for a piece of public art which narrates the history and transition of the mining industry in the local area through to recent times, conveying a ‘sense of place’ for the new community.

Midlothian Provost Adam Montgomery, and Ross Mickel from Mactaggart & Mickel
Midlothian Provost Adam Montgomery, and Ross Mickel from Mactaggart & Mickel

P Johnson & Company won the commission following a competition overseen by Midlothian CouncilBruce Mickel, former chair of Mactaggart & Mickel Group, selected the winning entry.

The artists’ response is a pinnacle form which tells the story of coal mining in the area, from carboniferous plants, through hand-delivered buckets of coal and using pit ponies, to using machinery underground.

The sculpture is crowned by depictions of coal-mining families to convey the sense of community of early mining villages in the surrounding area, and is watched over by two canaries perched on top of the structure. The canaries – used to detect poisonous gases underground to give workers a chance of survival in early coal mining - symbolise hope and vision for the new community to develop as a vibrant and positive place to live and work.

Shawfair will contain 4000 high quality new homes. Three schools will be built for the new community as well as shopping, leisure, and health facilities. Shawfair also features its own railway station connecting to Edinburgh within fifteen minutes, and is surrounded by community woodlands and eight miles of cycle paths.

Mactaggart & Mickel Homes are developing the first phase of homes for the project, a 170-home development called Millerhill at Shawfair. The grounds feature an attractive village square, plenty of open green spaces and a mix of apartments and family homes which offer country living within a relaxed and safe environment.

carbon_tower_blue_sky-18Ed Monaghan, managing director of Mactaggart & Mickel Homes, said: “Midlothian is a wonderful place to live, with a rich heritage of family and community.

“Shawfair has been designed with the same sense of community at its heart and this beautiful artwork will be a fitting testament in the centre of Millerhill’s new village square.  It will serve as a timeless reminder of not only its proud past but also its exciting future as new families and future generations make their homes here.

“The homes at Millerhill are truly special – designed with young professionals and families in mind.  Many of the properties qualify for Help to Buy.”

Midlothian Provost Adam Montgomery said: “I welcome this important new public artwork and what it represents for the area. Congratulations to the artists who have really captured the spirit of the brief and brought the heritage and promise of the new community to life.

“Shawfair is idyllic in its position close to Edinburgh, just a few minutes from the beach and surrounded by lovely countryside. Midlothian will benefit from the influx of new families and businesses into the area.”

Pete Hill from P Johnson & Company said: “It was an honour to work on such a pivotal piece of artwork. We hope we’ve conveyed the inspiring history and story of the area, as well as left enough to the imagination for future generations to put their own stamp on the new village. It is going to be a truly wonderful new community.”

Nick Waugh, director of Shawfair said: “This installation marks the first step in our ambitious project of establishing a brand new place to live and work. People and community are very much at the heart of our vision for Shawfair, and this sculpture is a fitting tribute to that intention. We are sure it will appreciated by many generations to come.”

Mactaggart & Mickel Homes have invested c.£50,000 in the project, which includes the work of art, viewing benches and landscaping, as part of their contribution to support the creation of a new Shawfair community.