The latest improvement to Guiseley Wells was unveiled on Wednesday 21st July 2021 by Friends of Springfield Park & Guiseley Wells, adding a colourful dimension to the top visitor attraction in Guiseley, according to Tripadvisor.
The new designer bench is one of a special collection funded by Leeds Civic Trust to commemorate the resilience of the people of Leeds during the Spring 2020 pandemic. There are 15 ‘Take A Seat’ benches spread across the City of Leeds, each one in a specially chosen community site. “The Trust usually put up Blue Plaques recording historic sites and people; but they decided to use uniquely designed benches instead to commemorate how local people came together to support each other during the Covid Pandemic ” said Project Manager Jennifer Kirkby of Aireborough Neighbourhood Forum . (There is a BBC Leeds interview about the Take A Seat project here at 1:45).
The case for Guiseley Wells to be a bench location was made to the Trust by the Friends in November 2020 and they asked artist Lucy Phillips, Director of Codswallop, to create the artwork. A stipulation was that the design had to reflect the experiences of the local community; so the Friends carried out a consultation in March 2021. Residents were asked to tell their stories of how they had coped with the lockdown period: the answer was family, the steadfast rhythm of nature and invincible community spirit. “I am very grateful to have played a part in this exciting and historic project” said Lucy “Reading how my own community came together, and creating a design for the bench has been both therapeutic and joyful for me as an artist”. Jennifer and Lucy have produced a brochure to show people how their stories are reflected in the design (download here).
The Wells site chosen is being reclaimed as a community pocket park by the Aireborough Neighbourhood Forum, as they discovered in 2015 it was becoming a tarmac car park. Guiseley Wells themselves were saved from being walled up in 1999 by Guiseley residents led by Geoff Brook, who, together with Aireborough Rotary and a lot of support from local businesses, carried out a Millennium restoration project with a Heritage Lottery grant. Geoff also contributed the first artwork to the area with a carved stone at the well head based on the design of the 9th century Anglo Viking cross in Guiseley St Oswald’s church. He has also maintained the Wells since that time. So, Geoff was the obvious choice to unveil the latest community artwork on Wednesday he told the crowd “ I take great pride having been given the honour to unveil this seat being such an humble lifelong resident of this town, it is an embellishment to the Pocket Park which is continuing to grow with the input from voluntary efforts and long may it continue.” (Geoff’s speech about Wells Restorations is here together with a Launch Programme.)
The Wells are a likely early Christian site and the Millennium restoration was blessed in 2001 by the Rector, Graham Atherton. Likewise the Rev Roger Smith of Guiseley Methodist Church was asked to bless the bench, especially as the Leeds Civic Trust bench trail leaflet invites people to “Take a seat and take time to reflect on the work of your community, on those people that make your city a better place to live”.
“We are delighted with the bench as the latest ‘tick’ on our plan” said Jennifer “Lucy is very talented and has created a beautiful artwork which along with the paving and planters that are kept brimming with herbs for the community to use by Incredible Edible, means the Wells Pocket Park is coming to life.” Some residents are now keen to see a second bench installed, if anyone would like to make a donation they can email Jennifer on email@example.com for more details”.
A map of Incredible Edible sites around Guiseley is available here, if you are interested in helping them contact Becky Mears.
Codswallop CIC have also provided an I Spy Children’s worksheet for spotting the pictures on the bench. Download here.
The Friends would also like to thank Abbi James of Daisy Croft Crafts for her lovely yarn bombing of the Pocket Park for the launch which also reflected the research.