Born in Peterborough, Roy Kitchin spent part of the Second World War as a Bevin Boy (a boy conscripted to work in the coal mines), before serving in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
Using the skills he’d learned there, he turned his hand to sculpture under the tutelage of William Bloye, making large scale works from steel and iron. Kitchin became a successful artist (working primarily with steel), a lecturer at Newcastle University, had solo exhibitions at places such as Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Hatton Gallery, and – with Pam Brown – founded the Ironbridge Open Air Museum of Steel Sculpture.
There were two attempts to place a Roy Kitchin piece in the heart of Middlesbrough during the 1980s. Initially, this smaller metal sculpture was planned for the brick plinths on the newly-renovated part of Linthorpe Road behind the Cleveland Centre, but Graham Ibbeson’s Shopper & Child and Gardener Tending Flowers ended up being chosen instead.
The sculpture was one of a series made by Kitchin in the early 1980s, many of which ended up in the grounds of the Ironbridge Museum.
The museum closed in 2018 but many of the works can now be found at the British Ironwork Centre in Oswestry.
One Roy Kitchin piece that did make it onto the streets of Middlesbrough was his Mechanical Arch (1983).
Commissioned by Cleveland County Council and Northern Arts for the new Cleveland Gallery, the arch was made of steel donated by British Steel and was designed to symbolise the area’s steel and engineering history, with the tubes joining the structure representing Teesside’s rolling mills.
However, as an almost identical piece can be found at the British Ironwork Centre, it’s not entirely clear whether this was indeed a bespoke piece.
Mechanical Arch cost £8,000, £5,500 of which came from Cleveland County Council, £1,400 from Northern Arts and the rest along with materials from British Steel.1 You can find the arch alongside other sculptures on Victoria Road, Middlesbrough (outside the Victoria Building).
Thank you to Tony Duggan (as ever) for his time and insights.
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