Trawlermen Memorial

A bell that sounds with no warning

‘However we die, we have no control of the exact timing of our death. The randomness of this moment, even though we may know we are beyond saving, is perfectly but abstractly represented in the concept of an unpredictable bell toll. We are alive until that moment comes.

The idea of an erratic bell strike offers an opportunity for the solemn contemplation of death – whether we hear the bell strike or not.’ — Christian Barnes, Vista Projects.

This proposal consists of two level unenclosed spaces linked to each other, one facing the Humber and the other facing the road at St Andrew’s Quay. The names of the 6000 lost at sea, the number itself and the name of the memorial are inscribed on the walls. The larger inscriptions, the name of the monument and the number of dead are used to identify the monument from the road.

The area facing the road is intended to be formal, a place for gatherings, a civic space (when the occasion demands it) offering some shelter from the wind. It is also for individual visitors throughout the year to walk through and read the names of those lost at sea. We have thought about the statistical scale of the mortality associated with the fishing industry (the quantity of dead), the personal experience of immediate family and, as time passes, those researching their ancestry who could visit this place, find names and take rubbings from the walls.

A bell that offers memory

The roadside area is linked to a second unenclosed space facing the Humber accessed through a passage where a glimpse of the estuary and of the bell we have placed at the heart of the memorial is offered. The wall to the right is formed from corten steel to suggest the convex shape of a boat hull as if it were in a dry dock. The unpredictable operation of the bell is explained in text on the wall at the end of this passage.

Once facing the water the wall is concave enclosing the visitor, buffering the sounds of the retail park behind and functioning as an acoustic mirror. It is intended to be a space of sanctuary where the sounds of the estuary can be isolated and where it is possible to sit or stand in quiet contemplation.

The bell is placed at a low level just above the ground. The striking hammer used to make it sound is concealed beneath it. Visitors may touch it.

At any moment it may strike as a signifier of death. The wall behind it will project that sound into the estuary.

We propose that the bell is operated by a control system that will give a precise number of strikes over a 25 year period. After this it will be silent. This number should be the same as the inscription wall and correspond to the exact number of those memorialised here and lost at sea over the last century.