Benchart...Public Art in Rural Spaces
The Kings Table
Ellesmere Boat
Shropshire Wildlife Trust
The Fender

Benchart in Cross Houses


Benchart in Cross Houses was launched in March 2006. Having initially received SABC funding to run workshops and create a functional sculpture in the village, we went on to receive Arts Council funding to expand the project. Instigated by the partial demolition and re-development of the old Cross Houses Hospital and Workhouse, the project is based on and inspired by the local social and architectural history of the hospital and workhouse buildings and surroundings. With environmental awareness by using reclaimed materials from the site, we are creating contemporary work, incorporating the old reclaimed materials with new artwork made with the local community in workshops held in the New Community Centre. The artworks will form a trail celebrating the particular history of this village and will provide much needed facilities for the village, including benches and bus / youth shelters as contemporary sculptures. The project provides regular workshops for the community in a wide variety of creative subjects, including brick clay carving and clay modelling, wood carving, poetry and drama, puppetry and animation. Here people can learn new skills and be directly involved in creating pieces of public art. The local community have been involved from the outset, which we believe is vital in the process of public art, in order to create a sense of ownership and pride in such new facilities.


Benchart aims to engage with the local community, including the many new- comers to the village, and gives opportunites to meet up and share in the  creating of exciting sculptural artworks.

The community have been invited to participate from the outset through a programme of workshops.

Gwen Heeney

Gwen Heeney is Benchart’s  Project mentor. Gwen has a wealth of experience as a Public Artist. She is  senior lecturer in ceramics at Wolverhampton University, and is author of ‘Brickworks’, published by A&C Black 2003.

She works predominantly in brick clay.

History of Cross Houses Hospital

The hospital itself has had an interesting and varied life, originally being built as a Workhouse.  The Atcham Union Workhouse was built in 1793 to designs by John Hiram Haycock, a local architect who also designed Shrewsbury gaol. It opened as The Workhouse in 1794, becoming a War Hospital in 1916, then a General Hospital, Maternity Hospital, Geriatric Hospital and finally offices, closing in 2000. For three generations it has provided employment and identity to the village of Cross Houses.  The closure of the Cross Houses Hospital and its subsequent demolition has esentially ripped the heart out of the community.





During Demolition

  Cross Houses Demolition


Sculptures and Shelters


The trail will celebrate the particular history and identity of the village and it will function as a series of rest points, play areas and shelters for the people of the village.

At the completion of the project, the Parish Council will take over responsibility for the sculptures and shelters.


Benchart Bus Shelter

The first of two new shelters has been built in the village at the bus stop. This received additional funding from Shropshire County Council.  Using reclaimed materials from the old hospital site, and designed to reflect the local vernacular, this unique shelter stands in a prominent position and has been well received. Ruth and Huw are currently working on a decorative tiled floor which will include poetry and signatures of the local children. This will be installed in 2008.

The second shelter has been designed and incorporated into this will be the individual carved brick clay paviers, created by the local community during the workshops.






The new Benchart Bus Shelter




        Building the bus shelter


 Laying the first bricks    Completing arches




 Huw on the Cross Houses bus shelter installing the roof


Huw adding the roof 



 Shelter interior Bricks - old and new   Shelter in use




Carved Wooden Bench  by Ivan Williams

The first of our benches created by Ivan Williams, was installed in June 2006 outside the new Community Centre, and has already been well received and used. Hand sculpted out of a trunk of yew, it has the words ‘Humanitas’ and ‘Hospitabilis’ carved into the sides, meaning ‘humanity and hospitality’.










Carved Wooden bench by Clinton Challinor


In the summer of 2006 Clinton worked on a whole trunk of cherry tree from the National Trust at Attingham Park. Clinton worked on site in Cross Houses outside the community centre over a period months. This bench has a figure lying down incorporated into the design, so when you sit on the bench it could be as though you were sitting at the bedside of someone in hospital. This wooden bench was installed in the village between the original workhouse buildings and opposite the old hospital, which is now the new headquarters of Shropshire Homes.




<June 2011>
Site by MASSIVE Art & Design Solutions