Home > Art, Sculpture & Photography, People, Things I Like... > William Mitchell’s Lee Valley Water Company Mural gets Grade II Listing

William Mitchell’s Lee Valley Water Company Mural gets Grade II Listing

November 6, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

What with one thing and another, I haven’t written about my friend William Mitchell for a while, so as I’ve recently learnt that one of his larger works, the fantastic cast concrete mural at the former headquarters of the Lee Valley Water Company in Hatfield, has recently been granted Grade II Listed Status, I thought I’d pen a few more lines to my favourite craftsman.

Bill is without doubt one of this countries most overlooked and under appreciated artists, a man whose highly idiosyncratic murals and sculptures reached a creative highpoint during the 1960’s and 70’s, gracing public spaces, civic buildings, subways and town centres right across the country.

This magnificent structure is one such example and it was created in a similar way to the Three Tuns Mural in Coventry, whereby Bill carved negative moulds out of polystyrene blocks (there is a similarly complex pattern on both sides of the wall) which were then contained within a timber formwork and concrete poured into the gap between.

The whole mural forms an intrinsic part of the building’s structure, effectively a freestanding feature wall holding up one side of the roof. Bill tells me it was the largest freestanding cast concrete structure of its kind in Europe when it was completed in 1965.

Being commissioned by a water company, Bill also ensured that water played a part in the murals design, and from what I can gather, it trickled down through the heavily moulded surface, ending up in a reflecting pool outside the main entrance. I’ve never seen this mural, but it sounds wonderful…

So, fantastic news for Bill. I think this is the ninth or maybe even the tenth of his works to be Listed and I’m very pleased that his work is finally getting the recognition it so rightly deserves…

I’ll leave you with another image of the Lee Valley mural from the Winter 1964 cover of The Concrete Quarterly Magazine, that’s Bill bottom right, looking up at his creation… (NB. the photo above was actually taken by Bill himself whilst the wall was being constructed, and he’s very kindly allowed me to use it, for which I thank him).

As an aside, for lovers of Mid Century design like myself, the Archives of CQ are a phenomenal treasure trove of images, information and idealism.

Go and have a look if you don’t believe me, you won’t be disappointed…

  1. sooziemack
    January 29, 2014 at 19:32

    Hi, Just a quick note to let you know that Kirkby Library and Gallery are moving into a new building – The Kirkby Centre, and that Bill Mitchell’s work has just been installed in the new space overlooking the new library. The building I think will be open towards the beginning of March. I’ve let Bill know and he’s pleased to know its still on display. Best wishes Susan Date: Tue, 6 Nov 2012 19:16:52 +0000 To: susanmackell@hotmail.com

  2. Jeff
    August 27, 2014 at 11:23

    I rememebr the mural from when I worked at Lee Valley Water in the late 90s. There was a rectangular pool below it, but I don’t recall water trickling down the mural though. The building was taken over by Affinity Water.

  3. Jeff
    August 27, 2014 at 11:24

    … late 80s I meant …

    • September 30, 2014 at 21:57

      hi Jeff
      I asked Bill about it after I wrote this post and he said there was no trickling water.. my mistake. You are correct…
      You don’t say if you liked the wall btw…
      Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment.

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