Saved and still going strong after 55 years! The mosaic we installed for Hull Co-op

If you live in Hull or have ever visited it then you’ve no doubt seen the East Riding city’s biggest piece of public artwork; the iconic Three Ships mosaic which overlooks the junction of King Edward Street and Jameson Street and which was installed by us in 1963.

 

Artist Alan Boyson was commissioned by the Hull & East Riding Co-operative Society to design the striking installation on the front of its new department store as a way of celebrating Hull's long maritime history. It bears the Latin motto “res per industriam prosperae” (the success of industry) and spells HULL in the ships’ masts.

The building, which also hosted a nightclub for a few years, was vacated by the Co-op in 1984 and it was converted into a BHS store in 1985 but has remained vacant since the retail chain’s collapse in 2016. Since then plans have been drawn up to redevelop the area.

Thankfully Hull City Council has made a commitment to make the iconic mosaic a central feature of the £130m Albion Square development which will include shops, restaurants and apartments.

If you want your own Three Ships mural, then the recipe is; first take a 66ft x 64ft concrete screen and add 4,224 foot square slabs each made up of 225 tiny cubes of coloured Italian glass – that’s 950,400 in total!

The mural was fixed in one of the first modified cement-based adhesives. Up to that point in time all fixing was either in sand and cement or an organic solvent-based adhesive such as Richafix, which wasn’t suitable for exterior work.

The modifier used was probably Modocol E600, which was a powder that was mixed with neat cement to make a cement-based adhesive. It was made obsolete when dry powder adhesives came on the scene; the BAL products from Building Adhesives were one of the first.

In May 2007 the mural was locally listed by Hull City Council, who described it as a "superb example of modern public art".

The designer of the mural, Alan Boyson, chiefly worked in glass, ceramic and concrete, died aged 88 on 19 August this year after an illness.

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