‘Utopian Realism’ is an exploration of rural utopianism, idealism and industrialism in the North East of England and Mid Wales by the artists Mair Hughes and Bridget Kennedy.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Historical links

I live in a small village called Allenheads in the North Pennines. It is situated in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty (ANOB) and has a rich industrial heritage. During the 1850's the North Pennines was one of the world's largest producers of lead and lead ore (galena). As part of this project I want to investigate the life and work of a man who had a great influence on Allenheads during this time of industrial prosperity and whose ideas on education and organisation can still been seen in the planning and architecture of the village.

This man was Thomas Sopwith.

He was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1803, he died in London in 1879. In 1845 he was appointed as mine agent by WB Lead and moved to Allenheads.

I must say now I am not an historian by any stretch of the imagination. If you want to find out more about Thomas Sopwith you might like to follow the link to the side of these posts to read extracts of his biography by B W Richardson. Sopwith kept an extensive diary for the majority of his life which he re-wrote in later life (burning the originals). I've been looking at these diaries on mirco film at the Robinson Library (University of Newcastle upon Tyne). They are fascinating as he had so many interests and socialised with so many of the important thinkers of his day. However, I don't want to get lost in the mists of time..........

You will see as these posts unfold how his ideas permeate my artistic practice. For now see below for a portrait of Sopwith with some beautiful wooden models that he designed and produced as geological teaching aids.

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