Among Those Dark Satanic Mills
Among Those Dark Satanic Mills is one of the most poignant lines in William Blake’s Jerusalem and was one of the main themes in last years Olympic opening ceremony with the new dark satanic mills rising from England’s Green and Pleasant Land in which the olympic rings were then manufactured from red hot steel with sparks flying to the ground and hammers beating in what must have been a dangerous and cacophonous atmosphere in those pioneering steel mills. Being in Shropshire with Telford on our doorstep (15 miles from Shrewsbury) known as the birthplace of industry and the town where Abraham Darby invented the steel making process that is still used to this day and the world’s first iron bridge spanning the River Severn at Coalbrookdale in the town that is now known as Ironbridge and is a UNESCO world heritage site it is unsurprising that this is a major influence in The Jerusalem Gallery.
After Ironbridge in 1779 (Thomas Telford and Thomas Fanouls Pritchard) came the canals and the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct (Thomas Telford and William Jessop) also on our doorstep spanning the River Dee between Shropshire and Wales. The Pontcysyllte Aquaduct remains the highest navigable aquaduct in the world today is another UNESCO world heritage site, built between 1795 and 1808 and 38.4m at its highest point it is a testament to the tenacity and ingenuity of those who built without large cranes and modern construction equipment. The steel trough at the top of the stone piers is 307m long, 3.6m wide, 1.6m deep and is still watertight and in use today after more than 200 years thus we really have to take our hats off and salute those pioneering ironmasters and civil engineers.
At The Jerusalem Gallery, we wish we could do so much more to honour these geniuses who put the great in Great Britain, sadly many of their factories are now long gone, modern health and safety and environmental laws would no longer permit their continuing production. We do however attempt to document their legacy here in the form of stunning images of their achievements. For us it is not only the factories that speak of the industrial revolution which is so central in Blake’s words but the connection of the factories with England’s Green and Pleasant Land through the canals and railways that wove their way through the land connecting those Dark Satanic Mills which made the industrial revolution viable. One has to consider that the mills for their very existence depended on the land providing raw materials and fuel which had to be transported to the mills and the fact that those same waterways and railways took finished products from the mills to both domestic consumers and to the docks for export around the world.
It is The Jerusalem Gallery’s intention to provide a holistic coverage of everything mentioned in William Blake’s poem, from The Green and Pleasant Land to the Dark Satanic Mills, Chariots of Fire, Arrows of Desire and Did Those Feet Walk Upon England’s Pastures Green. Even the feet refer to a holistic part of the industrial landscape in our opinion it is not only the people that toiled in the Dark Satanic Mills but the horses who helped pull loads on carts, the pigs, cows and sheep whose fat was used to produce tallow for the candle maker, the canaries used to detect poisonous gases in the mines Etc and not to forget the lions who have appeared on royal coats of arms.
The Jerusalem Gallery goes however on step further, in identifying that Jerusalem was not built on England’s Green and Pleasant Land we have taken the liberty of squaring the circle both with modern images, we cannot rebuild the old factories and brick chimneys from the industrial revolution, and by looking overseas to both the places where the products of England’s Industrial revolution were taken and to other lands which had their own industrialisation. An example of this can be seen in the modern automobile factory pictured here which is located in Germany and in the railway building which is now a craftsman workshop in New Zealand.