Whilst many people believe that there is always a masterplan and pre-disposed design behind the creation of an enterprise like ours, the British Ironwork Centre is genuinely something which has organically evolved over time. By having no big plans set in stone, our growth has been largely influenced by our members and visitors. This means that community involvement has always been at the forefront of our centre’s growth, allowing us to focus on what is most important to us – you! The journey leading up to the creation of the Ironworks was a long and very interesting one that all started with a farm, a gorilla and a massive spoonful of ambition…
Coming from a generation that followed WWII, an era rife with poverty and struggling families, our Chairman, Clive Knowles, and his family were raised with an intense sense of ambition to become independent and thereafter do something unique. Following in the footsteps of their forefathers, who served in the war or did national service, the Knowles family had a dream. An aspiring dream to move on and re-build, coupled with the ambition to start their own business, raise a family and thereafter a burning desire to create something of national significance in tandem with having a social impact.
Like many city dwellers, the Knowles family dreamed of moving out to the sticks, believing that true success lied within the peaceful countryside. The enterprise began, very humbly, in what was a disused workshop on an industrial estate in the heart of Wolverhampton making and offering a range of metal ware and metal services. The enterprise quickly became very established, having to move to bigger premises along the way several times. It eventually landed in Coven heath, whereby the business and the extended family lived and worked from the same site. During the coming years e-commerce grew in popularity with our products reaching not just a national audience, but were also being despatched worldwide.
This prompted many visits throughout the country, and it was on one of these customer visits where Clive fell in love with this beautiful area and town. This only grew the family’s dream as they became more drawn to all that it had to offer, eventually deciding to move over to Oswestry to make it their own personal ‘sticks’.
The purchase of Whitehall Farm couldn’t have come at a better time. It encapsulated the dream for the family, offering acres of land in a quiet area surrounded by charming regional towns and villages. With so much land and no background in farming, there was always room for an imagination to run riot.
With the online market outshining traditional business methods, our website clients expressed a desire to be able to view their products in the flesh before buying them. This meant that the public were beginning to visit our site, which eventually sparked the idea of displaying many garden related items outside in their true setting. Some years passed before the Ironbridge Sculpture Park approached us regarding the sale of their sculptures, and our decision to purchase them meant that our site would soon be so much more than just a hub for product viewings. With the Whitehall site situated on a main road and people already visiting to view our online products, it seemed only natural to move the Ironbridge sculptures here and transform the farm and display areas into a formal sculpture park. In 2013, the sculptures from the Ironbridge Sculpture Park were moved and rebuilt at the British Ironwork Centre.
From the moment of the park’s conception, Clive wanted it to have a completely unique feel and for it to operate in tandem with the surrounding communities with an aim for the Centre to have a profound effect on the nation. He wanted to create something imaginative, patriotically bold, dramatic and theatrical filled with art and sculpture pieces that represent not only our own personalities, but those of worldwide artisans. Through the merging of Black Country Metal Works with the Ironbridge Sculpture Park, the British Ironwork Centre was officially born.
The British Ironwork Centre
The creation of impactful art pieces, starting with our famous Spoon Gorilla, began and thereafter our focus has only been on using our efforts to address national issues through our media of metal art. Following this we also created the Knife Angel, now recognised as the National Monument Against Violence and Aggression, and are in the process of creating a Tin Can Queen’s Bust, representing the importance of recycling to save our environment. Both fly a flag for Great Britain and tell an informed story of supporting what means the most to us - our nation and the land we live on. These sculptures only represent a small percentage of everything that we create and do here, something which we continue to see grow every single day.
Every year the Ironworks grows larger and stronger, reaching out its iron hands to more and more businesses, charities, artists, and enterprises. We think it’s incredible that what started as an unwanted farm is now a creative enterprise showcasing the very best in British sculpture and worldwide art. The last decade has been an exhilarating adventure and we simply can’t wait to see what happens next!
Join us on our continuous journey to evolve and positively impact on the region and nation as much as we can.