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Article: Jem Southam - The Pond At Upton Pyne

Jem Southam - The Pond At Upton Pyne

Jem Southam - The Pond At Upton Pyne

Now available to pre-order, Jem Southam's The Pond at Upton Pyne.
Published by Imagebeeld Editions, March 2024

£48 Pre-Order / £55 RRP
Shipping from March 11th
All Pre-Orders will be signed



The pond at Upton Pyne formed at the site of an eighteenth-century manganese mine.

Located on land owned by a local family who were involved in the mining venture, the first excavations began in March 1788. It was originally an open-cast mine employing just a few men who worked with ladders, picks, shovels, horses and carts. The quality of the ore in the load was rich, and once refined it was shipped from Exeter Quay to London and Bristol, where it was used predominantly in the production of glass. After a bright start the output of the mine steadily diminished and by 1823 it had ceased production, leaving a large pit, shallow on the east side near the road and becoming deeper towards the west, where it is overhung by a cliff.

January 2001

Known locally as ‘The Black Pit’, it gradually filled with water to form a pond. Within living memory the land around the pond had been used to keep the village pigs and to grow vegetables. However, over the years, as so many relics of the Industrial Revolution, it became increasingly derelict, full of discarded household goods, a car, farm and garden waste and fallen trees.

This is a story in three parts. The first two are built around the three-year cycles of the two projects to improve the pond. The third is a short epilogue that places the site in a wider geographic perspective.

February 2001

The pictures present a collection of histories. Within the broad sweep of time they encompass a thousand years of a large estate on the borders of a city that has since Roman times been a regional capital; the comings and goings of the Industrial Revolution; the decline of agricultural life with the advent of modern farming; and the urbanisation of village life.

Within the span of the six years the pond had risen and fallen, trees had collapsed while others grew, herons and a kingfisher had returned, the roof of the shed adjacent to the pond had fallen in, the collection of farm machinery had grown, and the number of ducks living in and around the pond had significantly increased.

Running as threads through the work are the myths that pervade our imaginations and motivate so many of our actions; and the wonder at what we too might leave behind.

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