Catching up with Chesterfield’s must-see snail!

We’d been meaning for ages to go visit the famed Chesterfield snail, but Covid got in the way and it wasn’t until a few months ago that we finally caught up with it. Not that there was much chance of it getting away. Snails are notoriously slow at the best of times, and this one’s chances of making a run for it are hampered by the fact that it’s 5 metres / 16 feet tall and fashioned from sheets of brushed stainless steel.

Mollusc sits in a small area of parkland at the edge of a housing estate, on land that was once home to the Markham Engineering Works. Why, we wondered, would anyone choose to erect an enormous steel snail here…or anywhere else, for that matter? The reason, it seems, is that ancient fossil gastropods have been found in the coal measures that are widely distributed around this area of Derbyshire. Sculptor Liz Lemon has made sure that none of the locals will ever forget this obscure piece of trivia.

Lemon also took inspiration from the industrial history of the site: the form of the Mollusc echoes the casings of huge turbines that were once manufactured at the Markham works before being shipped to hydro-electric power plants around the world. This chapter of Chesterfield’s industrial history is further honoured by inscriptions in the base of the sculpture bearing the replica signatures of former Markham employees.

Although the setting is incongruous, as a piece of artwork Mollusc is undeniably eye-catching. The gleaming shell’s spiral design is decorated with a series of “portholes” that reduce in size towards its centre. These, I understand, are lit up at night by blue and green fibre optic lights, but as we visited during daylight hours this intriguing feature was invisible to us.

Installed in 2003, the Mollusc is part of Chesterfield’s Art Trail. It, and more than 70 other pieces of public art, was funded from the local council’s “Percent for Art” scheme. Developers of schemes costing over one million pounds (USD 1.15m) are encouraged to include a work of art to the value of 1% of the total cost of the project, with a view to help “create a sense of place and add character to the built environment.”

I hope that the current financial crisis engulfing the UK doesn’t undermine the Percent for Art scheme. If the Mollusc is anything to go by, this is an enlightened initiative that can only enhance the character of Chesterfield’s urban landscape. Mrs P and I look forward to exploring other hidden gems on the Chesterfield Art Trail in 2023.

Advertisement

21 comments

  1. Laurie Graves · 29 Days Ago

    Oh. My. Gosh! My spirit leapt just looking at the picture. Your last paragraph says it all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · 28 Days Ago

      Odd, isn’t it, how an enormous stainless-steel snail can be quite so uplifting. Public art, at its best, does wonders for my mood, and indeed my soul. 🙂

      Like

  2. Ms. Liz · 29 Days Ago

    Fantastic! Love your photos. Have shared a link via twitter. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Please return in the night time so we can see what it looks like all lit up:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · 28 Days Ago

      I’ll probably need a couple of extra strong coffees to stop me dozing once the sun goes down…it’s an age thing, I suspect!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Paddy Tobin · 29 Days Ago

    A fine specimen!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ann Mackay · 28 Days Ago

    It looks amazing! (And of course, I love the fact that it’s nature-related. 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yeah, Another Blogger · 28 Days Ago

    You’ve seen some great outdoor sculptures during the last few months. You’re on a sculptural roll!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · 28 Days Ago

      Absolutely! Late in life I’ve found a new interest, and look forward to many more visits to sculpture parks and other public art displays in the coming years.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Carol Ann Siciliano · 28 Days Ago

    Your photos and description do justice to this engaging piece of art, Mr. P. And I very much appreciate the vision and courage of the local council to invest in public art. I can’t wait to see more!

    And, because Halloween is still lingering in the cobwebs here, I couldn’t help but imagine the Mollusc as the coiled tail of an enormous buried creature. Maybe the fossil story line fed my imagination….

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · 27 Days Ago

      I love where your imagination takes you! Building on your vision, and on our recent correspondence about the film ET, I wonder if perhaps, aeons ago, an alien spacecraft crashed here? At last, after remaining dormant for millennia, the beast has finally emerged to wreak snail-paced havoc on an unsuspecting world! A film script, followed inevitably by a “best screenplay” Oscar, is tantalisingly within reach. I wonder if that nice Mr Spielberg can spare a month or two to direct my masterpiece?

      Liked by 1 person

  8. tanjabrittonwriter · 8 Days Ago

    A very handsome mollusc. An evening trip might be worthwhile to see it illuminated.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s