Small Bells Ring Research Trip

Our recent Smeaton300 research trip to a marina felt very in-keeping with John Smeaton’s work on various navigations, bridges and harbours. The destination was Lower Park Barnoldswick Marina to visit Small Bells Ring; Peak Morison‘s beautifully crafted narrowboat and floating library.

Originally created as part of the Super Slow Way (on the corridor of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal from Blackburn to Pendle), Small Bells Ring offers a floating retreat for readers and writers who can explore the galley, writer’s room, comfy reading salon and a corridor that magically transforms into bathroom. Despite it’s diminutive size the boat houses the UK’s largest collection of short stories with over one thousand books for both adults and children.

This year, Small Bells Ring artists Heather Peak and Ivan Morison have been commissioned to create Moon Palace, our Smeaton300 mobile observatory that tours Leeds in the second half of Leeds 2023. Moon Palace is being fabricated from a converted school bus and will bring similar small space opportunities to the boat so it was great to see how Heather and Ivan had created so much within so little.

It reminded us of the same compact space within John Smeaton’s Eddystone Lighthouse and the precise attention he paid to its interior fixtures and fittings. In his book ‘A Narrative Of The Building And A Description Of The Construction Of The Edystone Lighthouse With Stone’ John Smeaton describes some of the furniture his carpenters fitted to the tiny circular lighthouse rooms:

“Three cabin beds to hold one man each, with three drawers and two lockers in each to hold his separate property, which were fixed in the upper room or chamber. In the kitchen, besides the fire-place and sink, were two settles with lockers, a dresser with drawers, two cupboards, and one platter case. In the lantern, a seat was fixed to encompass it all round, the door-way excepted, serving equally to sit upon, or stand to snuff the candles; and to enable a person to look through the lowest tier of glass panes at distant objects, without having occasion to go on the outside of the lantern into the balcony.”

Then, as we were leaving the boat, we spotted some starry artwork which got us thinking about looking at the skies and Moon Palace all over again.

Moon Palace is by Heather Peak and Ivan Morison. It is an East Leeds Project and LEEDS 2023 Co-Production and is commissioned by Foxglove and LEEDS 2023 for Smeaton300. The work is based on an original idea of a mobile observatory by East Leeds Project. Developed in collaboration with the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Leeds.