The sculpture depicts two figures who symbolise the modern Black Country rising up from the flames of the old industries. The two figures reach upwards, their arms meeting to form a Gothic arch with two points. The male figure rises the flames that symbolise the furnace, while the woman, a bridge-like structure, evolves from rocky cube-like formations that depict the extraction of iron ore and coal from the earth. There are various industrial implements combined with the figures.
There was a limited competition for the commissioning of this work. The artists' brief, prepared by PACA, suggested that a figurative or representational work fabricated from metal would be especially appropriate, given the local community's close relationship with the former Bilston steelworks. It was anticipated that the sculpture would have to be at least 8 metres high to make the right impact. Three artists were shortlisted: of these, Sarah Tombs' proposal was chosen as the best suited to the site. This sculpture was scaled up by Arden Fabrications from a 1:10 model by the artist.
The work is intended to enhance and provide a recognisable marker on the Black Country Route, an urban dual carriageway that was opened in 1995, linking junction 10 of the M6 with the main route between Wolverhampton and Birmingham. Wolverhampton Metropolitan Borough Council, with the work of several artists, a charitable organisation, and some U.K. based manufacturers have provided public art on and around the carriageway. The Internet site 'Public Art on the Black Country Route' documents the whole development. (1)
The sculpture is named 'Beth's Arch' after one of the Bilston blast furnaces known as Elisabeth. Its scale reflects the awesome scale of the steelworks, with their huge interiors reminding the artist of the vast spaces of cathedrals.
Related works : All other works on the Black Country Route, including some non-sculptural pieces such as brick patterns, which are not recorded here.
PMSA recording information