Men from the Ironbridge Coracle remember as the sculpture was unveiled
The banks of the River Severn now celebrate a man synonymous with Ironbridge’s past – Tommy Rogers, grandfather of the last Coracle of the Gorge, Eustace Rogers, who died in 2002.
An iconic image of Mr Rogers, wearing one of the famous coracles, has been recreated in a ‘paper cut’ sculpture, thanks to the efforts of the Ironbridge Coracle Trust.
The Mr. Rogers sculpture, created by Black Country artist Luke Perry of IHS Arts, takes pride of place in the flower beds next to the Gorge Museum and the Quayside Visitor Information Center.
The design of the sculpture has been simplified and scaled to actual size from a detailed image cut on paper by Ironbridge resident Dave Fieldhouse.
The installation was not straightforward, with the 228 kg (36 stone) monument having to be lifted by a crane and then bolted to a large concrete block so that it could withstand any flooding that could hit the city.
Tommy, born in 1843 and deceased at the age of 81 in 1924, was the father of Harry Rogers and the grandfather of Eustace (Eusty) Rogers.
He was one of the last sailors to tow barges and sail up the River Severn.
The sculpture is intended as a key link in the Ironbridge Coracle Trail that stretches from the Old Coracle Shed on Severnside, just west of the Iron Bridge, to the Green Wood Center in Coalbrookdale, where the New Coracle Shed is home to the coracle collection.
The installation of the sculpture was observed by Wayne Owen, a longtime resident, local historian and relative of Tommy Rogers.
He said: “Over the generations my family has always been connected to the Severn, either as barge owners or as sailors.
“I can trace my family in the gorge for over 300 years. My great aunt Christianna Owen married Harry Rogers, Tommy’s youngest son. Tommy and his family lived in the old cottages known as Cooper’s Arms in Severnside. The Coopers Arms were owned by the Owen family who were tax collectors and maltsters from the early 1800s. It remained in the family until 1939 when it was demolished as a slum.
“The remains of the cottages were recycled to build a new family home for Harry and his family. His son Eusty lived here until his death in 2002.”
Mr. Fieldhouse said he was honored to see his creation come to life.
He said: “I have always loved seeing this iconic image of Tommy Rogers one of the ‘Coracle Men’ of Ironbridge Gorge, so I felt very honored when the Ironbridge Coracle Trust asked me to reproducing it for them in the form of cut paper. I really enjoyed producing it with them and seeing the sculpture itself take shape from the original model. “
Mr Perry added: “It has been fascinating to learn more about Tommy Rogers and to work on such an iconic figure. As a family we are often in Coalbrookdale and it will be a real privilege to be able to see my work in such a picturesque setting and prestigious location. “
The Ironbridge Coracle Trust has said it is delighted to have the sculpture in place as the country emerges from the last lockdown.
A spokesperson said: ‘We are delighted to install the Coracle Man sculpture along the Ironbridge Wharf, ready to welcome visitors back to the World Heritage site now that the Covid restrictions begin to be lifted.
“We look forward to welcoming families to follow our Coracle Trail, from the old Coracle hangar on Severnside to the new hangar at Green Wood Center Coalbrookdale.”