Ian Henderson – the first Skelmersdale Development Corporation artist


Ian Henderson was the first  Skelmersdale Development Corporaton artist and was a mamber of the Development Corporation Board. Henderson was one of only two new town artists in the UK at the time.  He has provided invaluable help and information for my work, providing  provided me with insight into the workings of new town developments.

Skelmersdale New Town. Pictures from the Trinity Mirror Archive.An aerial view of a section of Skelmersdale new town. It shows (Foreground) the new church farm estate, the first built by the Skelmersdale developement corporation. 6th January 1976

Aerial view of Skelmersdale New Town

Was there value in putting art into new towns or was it mere “cultural shrubbery” ?

It had not occurred to the Development Corporation to think about the value of integrating art it into new town design until Ian Henderson had the initiative to suggest it. It is said that the artwork in Harlow and Peterlee New Towns did not derive from a board room level policy but from the conviction of strong minded individuals, and it was the same in Skelmersdale, with Henderson’s insistence that art and an artistic life for the community must be created. Henderson’s work in creating  a more stimulating environment for the population was very successful considering the limitations of his brief, and lack of budget, necessitating the use of left over building materials in his art works. His work went far beyond just improving a shabby environment. This was the 1960’s and planners believed that the still influential Radburn system was a worthwhile cost-effective social experiment – how could it go wrong? But, Henderson was keen to ensure that the environment should enable the growth of the inhabitants, and particularly their children.  He believed that if people did not own, or understand the art and if they could not make a connection with it then it became, i his own words,  mere “cultural shrubbery.”

Very few images  of Henderson’s work in Skelmersdale are generally available, but he has kindly let me use these images of his pop art sculptures, building decorations and other work that he created whilst employed by Skelmersdale Development Corporation between 1964 and 1966.

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