Bobby the Iron Horse, a 15 foot high sculpture of a draught horse pulling a fully laden cart, stands at the roundabout connecting Longmeaney Gate to Schleswig Way. It was erected as a tribute to all the horses in the past that were employed to move heavy goods around the area. Leyland was once known as the ‘Garden of Lancashire’ and horses would be a frequent sight pulling produce from farm to shops. Even when the canals and railways came making horses redundant for long distance travel, they would still be used for the ‘last mile’ moving loads from canalside and railway yards to their final destinations. They only declined in the 1950s as the combustion engine became widely affordable.
The original idea for a horse sculpture came from Ulnes Walton Bridleway Association. This organisation has two main purposes: to help riders and horses habituate to heavy traffic and to create new bridleway routes to bypass the busiest roads (for more on their work see their website here). South Ribble Borough Council was able to secure funding from the Preston, Leyland and Lancashire City Deal for the creation of the sculpture. Sponsorship also came from CW Berry, who supplied the cart.
The sculpture was created by David Palmer of DP Structures. Basing it on a breed known as a Welsh Cob, he used photographs from the 1800s of draught horses pulling heavily laden flat carts for inspiration. Mr Palmer’s work is familiar to many who travel through Lancashire. He created the evocative South Ribble War Memorial, the Farington Shuttle that commemorates the Lancashire Cotton Famine and the haunting larger than life sculpture of Alice Nutter who was accused of being one of the Pendle Witches. His signature look on these and many of his other works is to use pre-rusted steel (known as Corten). On Bobby, the main body is pre-rusted with the mane and hooves made from stainless steel as a sharp contrast. Ulnes Walton Bridleway Association were able to source used horseshoes from Rob Golder, a blacksmith from Chorley. These were used by Mr Palmer to represent the horse’s muscles.
Once the horse was ready for the site, it took three hours to transport it by low loader bringing it from Nelson to its current position. The horse and cart were then bolted onto pillars which descend through its display mound. In turn the pillars were bolted onto a concrete foundation. The statue was unveiled on the 20th October 2017, and along with a Centurion tank, a fire engine and a vintage tractor, it is now one of the four Leyland gateway features.
The site chosen for Bobby was originally where the home once stood of Frank Sumner, a local rag and bone man. He had many horses over the years, but one of his best loved and longest serving ones was named Bobby, and so that name was chosen for the sculpture.
Park in the layby on Schleswig Way. Head a short distance along the grass verge and then turn left to find the footpath. Follow the footpath leftwards and keep the River Lostock on your right. Follow the branch of the path that runs parallel with Schleswig Way (which can be glanced through the trees) until the roundabout where Bobby stands. There are a number of paths and bridleways in the area, all worth exploring, which go through the remnants of Hocking Wood.
Site visited by A. and S. Bowden 2022
Leyland’s Tudor Grammar School
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