Four mosaic roundels, each relating different aspects of West Bromwich's past, are reflected in the stainless steel columns of the bus station entrance sign. The first shows broom bushes and an open book, with the left hand page featuring the profile of a child's head and the right hand page recording an inscription. To the left, the second roundel depicts the head of a man, again in profile, his flowing hair also serving as the smoke from factory chimneys. The other side of the circle shows four men working in a factory with tall arched openings and smoking chimneys. The third roundel depicts the head of a strong woman in profile, with pithead gear at her breast. A series of carts loaded with coal travel over a multi-arched bridge, with smoking factory chimneys in the background. Beneath the arches, three men are working: one of them is striking an anvil. The carts are pulled by a steam engine, on which a man in a stovepipe hat is standing. The fourth roundel features nature in the local area, with the two thrushes perched on the branches of an oak tree, and another flying in the sky. On the other side of the circle, the winter sun appears behind a group of leafless trees.
A fifth large oval roundel featuring a decorative design of hawthorns and nails at the entrance to the Kings Centre was added in September 2002. Unfortunately, it is already beginning to deteriorate: several small mosaic pieces are missing, while others are cracked. There is also chewing gum stuck over different parts of the surface. While of local interest, the mood of the piece is distinctly nostalgic and out of touch with present realities.
This is one of three related artworks specifically designed for West Bromwich Bus Station. Like the roundels, many of the short pieces on the bus shelter windows by local poet Dave Reeves are influenced by A Capful of Nails. Others explore local history, chronicling some of the many names associated with West Bromwich's past and present.
The tens of thousands of mosaic pieces were laid out on paper to the lead artist's design by two mosaic specialists, Ilona Bryan and Chris Willetts. The work was finally cemented in on site by Lou Galante of Cecconi Birmingham Ltd. Overall, the design can be seen as a development of the use of the anamorphic columns designed for the public toilets at Stourbridge bus station in 1993-94.
The project takes its inspiration from a book called A Capful of Nails by local writer David Christie Murray, who wrote about life in the nail-making industry and the struggles by workers to improve their conditions. The two central roundels feature the heroic Black Country couple at the heart of the novel. One particular passage was especially important: 'There was a wonderful pink hawthorn, generations old, and father broke off a branch of it for me. He carried a capful of nails in his hand and was on his way to sell them'. The design and the quotation around the large oval roundel is taken directly from this piece, while the figures in the two central anamorphic roundels at the entrance to the bus station feature the heroic Black Country couple at the heart of the novel.
on page of book on roundel furthest to the right (facing bus station): The Book of West Bromwich/in which much/has been written/and in which/There is much/still to be written.
Around circumference of large oval: There was a wonderful pink hawthorn, generations old, and father broke off a branch of it for me. He carried a capful of nails in his hand and was on his way to sell them. David Christie Murray 1896.
Related works : A commemorative panel in memory of Murray can be found in West Bromwich Library.
PMSA recording information