Sculpture can be found across South Yorkshire. Some hidden away and some obvious. Many have their own stories to tell and deserve a wider audience. For this list we’ve chosen works from a variety of artists local and national. The artwork they create each tells a story of the area in which it is positioned. In many ways the pieces represent a cross section of some of the very best art in the region. They help the viewer to understand the context of their environment and help to unpeel the layers of its proud history.
South Yorkshire Sculpture
- A Rich Seam (2021) – Printing Office Street, Doncaster
- Graham Ibbeson Sculptures – Various Locations, Barnsley
- Heart of Steel (2015) – Rotherham Minster, Rotherham
- Iron Henry (2001) – Handsworth, Sheffield
- River Don Sculptures (2016 – present) – Castlegate, Sheffield
- Steel Henge (2010) – Centenary Riverside, Rotherham
- Stone Faces of Cudworth (various dates) Storrs Mill Wood, Cudworth
- Vertical (2006) – Centenary Square, Barnsley
A Rich Seam (2021) – Printing Office Street, Doncaster
Starting off our South Yorkshire sculpture series is ‘A Rich Seam‘ from the acclaimed sculptor Laurence Edwards, ‘A Rich Seam’ is a piece which draws on the mining history of the area. Capturing not only the stories but the images of real miners and their families. Cast in bronze 40 faces of these people run along the top of the sculpture as would a seam of coal in the rock. They are set in the crevices of two separate 20 tonne blocks of York stone.
Between the stone blocks and central to the sculpture is the image of a miner listening. In this case both hearing the stories from the people around him but in real life miners would have been attuned to the environment around them. Ever vigilant to the sounds around them that could foretell danger. The creaks of a wood beam or the hiss of gas, these would have been heightened in the dark. The seam in the title of the piece refers to the Barnsley Bed which Doncaster sits on.
Graham Ibbeson Sculptures – Various Locations, Barnsley
One of Barnsley’s most famous artists, Graham Ibbeson’s work can be seen in a cluster towards the area of Chruchfields. He is probably best known for his detailed figurative work. Indeed his sculptural tributes can be found across the country. His Eric Morecambe in Morecambe was unveiled by the Queen. Ibbeson also depicted people such as Don Revie, Cary Grant and Laurel and Hardy. Across South Yorkshire sculptures by Graham Ibbeson can be found though the ones in Barnsley are some of his most impactful.
Harold ‘Dicky’ Bird (2009) – Church Lane, Barnsley
Within Barnsley it’s quite possible that his most famous work is that of Dicky Bird the famous Cricket umpire. That particular piece sits on Church Lane near the Churchfields. It shows Dicky with his finger in familiar pose calling someone out. Initially placed at ground level the statue became a favourite of revellers from Barnsleys pub and club scene. Often his outstretched hand would find itself having items of clothing such as bras and pants left hanging from it. It resulted in the statue being placed on top of a raised plinth in 2013 something which has reduced if not completely stopped the high jinks.
Oaks Colliery Memorial (2016) – Church Street, Barnsley
Two other Graham Ibbeson sculptures nearby tell some darker and deeper stories. Just across from Dicky Bird sits the first of these historical narratives. Telling the story of the Oaks Colliery Disaster of 1866 it was a tragic event in the history of mining. Indeed it was England’s worst ever mining disaster killing at least 361 men and boys. It had followed a massive explosion in the already gaseous pit. Ibbeson had been asked to created the work to mark the 150th anniversary of the disaster. Featuring a mother and child, the woman is carrying a wheel representing both the colliery and as a image of life and rebirth. Shown in a striding pose she is also walking to the future, below a miner is below the earth. A reminder of the bleak conditions and the fact that this might also represent his grave.
Miners Memorial (1992) – Victoria Road, Barnsley
Only a few minutes walk away on Victoria Road stands another emotive piece. Created in memory of people who lost their lives during the miners strike. It shows a family standing forlorn as if mourning by a graveside. Suffering is etched on their faces as they perhaps ponder the hardships that they and others around them have been experiencing. The location is symbolic too. It stands just outside the headquarters of the National Union of Mineworkers. Indeed the sculpture itself was unveiled by Arthur Scargill in 1993.
Heart of Steel (2015) – Rotherham Minster, Rotherham
Sitting proudly in front of the impressive Rotherham Minster is the heart of steel. Created by local sculptor Steve Mehdi it is actually a replica of another heart of steel which will form part of a giant steel man. A former steelworker himself Mehdi has had the ambition for years to create a lasting monument. One that recognizes the importance of the steel industry and the impact it’s had on the people of the region. Eventually the steel man will be installed overlooking the site of the former Tinsley cooling towers. Demolished in 2008 they had been an iconic landmark for years. The Man of Steel is currently planned to be 32 metres high and would be a landmark sculpture for the area.
Iron Henry (2001) – Handsworth, Sheffield
Motorists driving down the busy Parkway in Sheffield might well notice Iron Henry. Glimpsed at through a break in the woods it shows a muscular man stripped to the waist and wielding a hammer. It’s not the sort of image you expect to see driving past on the busy dual carriageway. Representing the image of a steel worker the official name of the work is the ‘Parkway Man‘ and it was created by the sculptor Jason Thomson in 2001. Representing the close relationship between the ancient woods and Sheffield’s steel industry. It stands 3 metres tall and weighs three tonnes. The Bowden Housteads Woods in which it stands are classed as ancient woodland and the piece was commissioned by Sheffield councils heritage woodland team. The sculpture can be accessed via a woodland walk from Richmond Park Rise in Handsworth.
River Don Sculptures (2016 – present) – Castlegate, Sheffield
Look closely at the River Don as it passes through the Castlegate area of Sheffield. There in the wide shallow waters it’s possible to see a number of free standing sculptures. From local sculptor Dan Dan he has been creating works of art in the river since 2016. Using found materials from the river itself they are all free standing. Balancing one item on top of another. As the water rises the river then reclaims the sculptures. Dan Dan recommences his work and creates more original artwork which rises out of the river bed. You can see a number of Dan’s work over the years at the Postcard Cafe website.
Steel Henge (2010) – Centenary Riverside, Rotherham
Hidden away on a nature reserve, stands Steel Henge one of the more unusual sculptures in South Yorkshire. A circle of metal monoliths paying homage to it’s more famous relation of Stonehenge. The circle was erected in 2010. Part of a new nature reserve created as part of a flood alleviation scheme. It sits next to the River Don and is meant to act as a floodplain. The area itself is also the site of the old Templeborough Steelworks and the iron ingots used to create the piece were all found onsite. Once heavily industrial, the whole area is an example of a brownfield site that has been left to go back to nature. It’s worked too, the whole monument is surrounding by wild flowers and nature. A true hidden little gem.
Stone Faces of Cudworth (various dates) Storrs Mill Wood, Cudworth
Hidden away in the tree lined old quarry can be seen the surprising and at times slightly eerie stone faces of Cudworth. Carved into the rock which was once itself cut through to make railway lines, the faces peer out from all corners. Initially the work of local sculptor Melvin Dickinson he has just kept adding to them over the years. His friend Billy Johnson is also responsible for a fair few. The faces can be found along the ‘Cudworth Stone Faces‘ walking route in Storrs Hill Wood. It’s a pleasant walk through some lovely countryside. The faces themselves are a good few miles in but they are worth the wait and a lot of fun to stumble upon.
Vertical (2006) – Centenary Square, Barnsley
Towering high in the heart of Barnsley stands the steel giant ‘Vertical’ by Nigel Hall. Officially on loan from the Yorkshire Sculpture Park it has been standing in it’s current position since 2013. Certainly ‘Vertical’ is a statement, tall yet not overpowering when set against the majestic Barnsley Town Hall. It sits amidst a re-landscaped area and on the spot of the old Market Cross which once served as the centre of this ancient town. Part of Nigel Hall’s Crossing series, his work is about playing with space. In particular how sculpture can draw attention to a space, shape a space or indeed change within a space. Vertical, set within the Centenary Square, can be seen from many different angles and as an artwork it changes as a result. Perhaps it was the ideal work to place amidst a changing and ambitious town centre.