The British Ironwork Centre, near Oswestry in Shropshire, has something for all ages. With a large open air museum of steel sculpture including a metal safari park, a quirky indoor showroom full of all sorts of ironmongery, and home of the famous Knife Angel, the centre holds plenty to entertain and inform visitors.
The Centre uses the shaping, welding and riveting of iron to make impactful art sculptures to give a unique experience, set in attractive parkland.
Many of the pieces are using recycled iron and it is astonishing just how many strange objects have been incorporated into the designs – motor parts, agricultural items, wheels, mangles, fireplaces, boxes, carts – designs which range from the poignant and meaningful to the faintly ridiculous.
The entrance is along a drive where many of the iron animals are exhibited – it’s like driving into an iron safari park. Giraffe, rhino, hippo, elephant all greet your arrival.
Things get increasingly fanciful as you walk through the displays – a dragon on top of a Jaguar saloon, flying fish, Bumblebee from Transformers, Spiderman, a gorilla climbing a ladder, a dinosaur, a crocodile, a tortoise and a turtle – you are not at all sure what you will find around the next corner.
The statue of an exhausted soldier sitting on a stone, resting his hands on his Kalashnikov, is unexpectedly moving. The iron folds of the fabric of his anonymous uniform are convincing, the space below his hood is empty – he is no man and every man - and as such is unbearably poignant.
The park is home to the caged Spoon Gorilla, originally commissioned by Uri Geller, designed by Alfie Bradley, and consisting of 40,000 spoons largely donated by school children across the world which includes a spoon once owned by Winston Churchill.
Also created by Alfie Bradley is the Knife Angel, now the National Monument Against Violence and Aggression, designed to highlight a problem in our country that seems to be growing out of control.
It is made up of 100,000 blades, mostly collected through a knife amnesty involving all 43 British Constabularies, 30% of which arrived at the Centre clearly used and bloodied. It was originally designed for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, but so far, its installation has been resisted by the Mayor of London because of the impact on tourists.
Instead the Knife Angel now travels around the country to stimulate debate and pass a message, particularly to young people, about the evils of knife crime.
The artisan studios and workshops are an important aspect of the park. You can watch many of the craftsmen at work – silversmith, wood turner, blacksmith. You can order your own purpose made pieces of ironwork for your garden or doorbell or wall art or whatever takes your fancy, as well as a large range of handmade postboxes. It is part of the Centre’s mission to encourage artists working in whatever medium, and they also host charity events.
Newly opened is a Clearance Yard for you to buy items at discount prices, as well as a new Extinction Trail which highlights the plight of endangered species of animals. It includes over 40 exhibits, providing written information as well as lifelike portrayals of each one.
The Centre is an interesting and informative way to spend a couple of hours. There is an adventure playground for kids and the site is dog friendly.
VISITING THE BRITISH IRONWORKS CENTRE
How to get to the British Ironworks Centre
Postcode: SY11 4 JH
Public Transport: 70 or 70A Bus from Oswestry to Shrewsbury. Alight at Queens Head PH and it is a mile walk along the B5009 to the Centre.
Parking: The centre is situated on the A5 just outside Oswestry. There is plenty of free parking on site
When is the British Ironworks Centre open?
Wednesday - Sunday 10am - 4pm
How much is it to visit the British Ironworks Centre?
The Extinction Trail is free. The entrance fee to the rest of the site is £5 for membership which lasts for 12 months. Children are free.
Are there any facilities at the British Ironworks Centre?
There is a café area with loos, and the Centre specialises in pre-ordered tea and cakes. There is an adventure playground for kids.
The nearest town is Oswestry.