The gateway to Cornwall has a stunning new landmark – a 22-metre Celtic cross standing high above the River Tamar in Saltash.
Designed by Cornish artist Simon Thomas, the cross is the centrepiece of the Elwell Woods Project, which has also seen the restoration of steeply-sloping woodland overlooking the river and close to the town’s iconic road and rail bridges.
Joe Ellison (left), project manager for the Elwell Woods scheme and a Saltash Town Councillor, says: “I believe the cross will help by brining a lot of people into Saltash. Everyone who sees it, even those who were critical, are agreeing on that. It’s got technology from the marine and aeronautical industries. It is designed for a life of 25 years but the way it has been constructed it will last a longer than that, I am sure.”
Liam Bradley of the Saltash Waterfront Residents’ Association said: “It has taken three years to get the cross in place and it looks remarkable. Simon’s vision has created a stunning piece of public art that will stand as a monument to Cornwall for years to come.
“We would like to thank everyone involved in the project for their commitment and enthusiasm.”
Simon Thomas originally designed the sculpture for the Millennium celebrations, but the project stalled due to a lack of funding. It is a modern interpretation of the traditional Celtic cross, inspired by the Neolithic landscape of Cornwall, its engineering heritage and the modern forward-looking Cornish identity.
Simon said: “The sculpture not only represents a proud Cornish heritage, but also the Cornwall of today, which is an exciting and vibrant place, open to new ideas and celebrating its uniqueness.
“The Cornish Cross truly marks the Gateway to Cornwall, inviting visitors and welcoming travellers home.”
Building the cross was a collaborative process for the company in charge of construction. Gateguards, based at Newquay Airport, rose to the challenge of marrying art with a specialist engineering project.
The company is known for building replica historic aircraft for film and museums, but their projects can be far more complex. Project manager Duncan Healey assembled a team of fellow Cornish experts to bring the project together.
David Kendall of Optima Projects was responsible for the structural design and engineering for the composite structure of the cross. Composites engineer Stig MacDonald was brought in for his materials expertise, while composites specialist Dan Emuss took charge of the three spars.
The cross was built in one piece at Newquay Airport and delivered by road to Saltash, where two cranes lifted it into place.
Duncan Healey of Gateguards said: “This was an incredible project to be involved with. Over 6,000 individual geometric pieces have been made to create the structure, with no two blocks identical.
“Ten people worked on building the cross. We have all felt the same, that this is a very specialised engineering project, but more importantly, a work of art.”
The Cornish Cross, part of the wider Elwell Woods regeneration project, was principally funded by a £450,000 grant from Community Spaces, a Big Lottery Fund programme managed by Groundwork UK. Additional support came from Cornwall Council, Saltash Town Council and the Duchy of Cornwall.