Picture of one of the Ripon sculptures, a soldier leading his horse, made by Econ

Gritter maker Econ helps Ripon mark WWI centenary with sculpture trail

Published:  07 November, 2018

Gritter manufacturer Econ Engineering has helped mark the centenary of the end of the First World War with a series of dramatic steel sculptures in Ripon, where it is based.

Designed by local artists Jeanne Mundy, Joe Priestley and Dan Metcalfe, the trail of 14 six-foot-high steel silhouettes of soldiers has been installed at significant locations around the city to commemorate the servicemen and women who died in the war and those who returned.

Fixed in place by local volunteers, the steel sculptures were produced at the Econ Engineering factory in Ripon and the firm donated the steel from which the soldiers’ striking silhouettes were precision cut.

Econ Engineering managing director Andrew Lupton said: ‘As Ripon’s largest employer we were really proud to be able to help bring this incredibly imaginative art project, commemorating the end of World War I, to life.

‘Although it’s more usually used in the high-tech manufacturing process of Econ gritters and hot boxes, our super-size laser cutter, which enables precision cutting of sheets of metal up to 60m2, was perfect for creating the sculptures of the soldiers.

‘It took us less than two weeks to cut out all 14 of the figures from the sheets of relatively malleable mild steel.’

The city has strong First World War links: between 1914 and 1918, 350,000 troops were stationed at Ripon Camp for training while thousands more injured soldiers were treated in the city’s 670-bed military hospital.

‘These amazing steel sculptures seem to have really captured people’s imagination in Ripon and become a focal point for their own personal reflections on war and conflict,’ said Mr Lupton.

The individual figures include the silhouette of a lancer leading his horse, a nurse guiding a blinded soldier and a soldier with his gun lowered and his helmet off.

Dan Metcalfe, one of the artists involved in the design of the sculptures, said: ‘We wanted to broaden the focus as much as possible to make the whole installation very inclusive. We took inspiration from many different sources including an engraving on Royal Lancers’ regimental silverware at Catterick and the John Singer Sargent painting Gassed.

‘It was important that we focused on the sacrifice of the servicemen and women who returned from the war as well as those who died on the battlefield and we have installed several figures at Sharow – a village just outside Ripon – where the British Legion’s Lister House provided care and rehabilitation for ex-service people.’

He added: ‘The whole project has proved to be really important for Ripon as a community and we couldn’t have done it without Econ. They donated the materials, the manpower and their own time and have been brilliant throughout.’

The steel soldier silhouettes can be seen at St John’s Church, Sharow and across Ripon.

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