Beautiful Indian stonework under threat

Former Bharat Bhavan Temple carvings in old Mill Road Library “to be taken down and skipped”

Piero, Mill Road Traders Association Ambassador, writes…

I am launching an appeal to save this beautiful carved stone being skipped.

These pictures are from the former Bharat Bhavan Temple located in the Old Library on Mill Road.

Since the County Council got it back in its possession, there has been work set in progress to restore the fabric of the building, unfortunately all this carved stone is destined to be taken down to be skipped. I feel that this a completely sacrilegious act to destroy such beautiful work.

I believe it is worth at least £80,000 as it took thousands of hours of work from many sculptors from India and was shipped all the way to Cambridge.

I am appealing to Cambridge City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council to use those carved stones in a memorial, I already have in mind three locations in Mill Road where it could be placed as a memorial.

We must protect diversity and cultural identities in Mill Road. We haven’t got much time as work begins on Monday 29th March.

The cost for it to be taken down professionally and stored is only £3,000. Mill Road Traders Association can contribute part of the cost but we’d like the community to encourage the authorities to support this project. Mill Road Traders’ Association have also set up a crowdfunding page Save Bharat Bhavan carvings on Mill Road on GoFundMe with a target of £3,250.

If you would be interested in supporting us or have any questions or concerns please email millroadtraders@gmail.com.
Or phone/text/WhatsApp 07909 611 776.

Piero d’Angelico

Our Web Editor adds…
For those wishing to learn more about the background to the library, the temple and its repossession by Cambridgeshire County Council please read on and explore the links below.

The library was built by Cambridge City Council, but passed to the ‘new’ Cambridgeshire County Council under the two-tier reorganisation brought in by The Local Government Act 1972 on April Fool’s Day 1974.

Mill Road Library, from the Capturing Cambridge website

For a brief history of Mill Road Library, click the image above.


For how the reasons behind the County Council’s repossession and the current work, see Debbie Luxon’s report and Frank Gawthrop’s comments.

The 5000-strong Cambridge community fighting against eviction by Debbie Luxon, Community Reporter, Cambridge News, 12th October 2019.

The Indian community organisation that took over the library were granted a 25 year full repairing lease on a peppercorn rent in exchange for maintaining the building fabric. This building which is grade 2, listed was considered a financial liability to the County so this was seen as a zero cost way of maintaining the structure.

Unfortunately the lessees did not spend any money on external maintenance in 10 years allowing water to enter the building and cause extensive damage. The City Council which is responsible in law to ensure listed buildings do not fall into disrepair served notice on the County Council about the deteriorating state and the County sent in surveyors who have estimated the repairs to be in the region of £300,000.

The community association having had free rent declined to pay so the County obtained a court order to regain possession. They may have spent a lot of money on carved statues but they have left local council tax payers with a huge bill.

The lease was held by a company limited by guarantee. This is a fairly usual way that community groups take on financial obligations as it protects the members from any personal claims.

Having cost local tax payers in the region of £300,000 I, for one, think enough public money has been spent already on this failed project. If private individuals want to contribute that is fine and appropriate. If these carvings are valuable they are the property of the company limited by guarantee which leased the building. What are the directors doing about this?

Frank Gawthrop, on Nextdoor.
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

6 Comments (Don't forget to scroll down to subscribe to website updates.)
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Mill Road TV
Guest
1 April 2021 12:43
Edward Jenkins
Guest
31 March 2021 12:58

If there are some remaining art-deco style fittings still remaining in the old Sally Army’s shop site, previously a Cinema dating from that era, it may be possible to retain and save some of it in the same way as suggested for the carved stonework at the Bharat Bhavan site?

Gill Westland
Gill Westland
Guest
29 March 2021 17:06

p.s. I used the library as a local child. It gave me access to books not available at home and that I would not have thought to read.

Edward Jenkins
Guest
29 March 2021 17:03

This situation has been known about for at least the last two years, now, as so often is the case, reality and panic sets in!
Would it not be possible to negotiate a temporary storage of the stonework, so that the pieces could be auctioned reclaiming some of the building restoration costs for the Council. Failing that, it might be worth considering using the pieces, either externally within the Iron Works Grounds, or even within the New Community Centre that is presently under construction.

Gill Westland
Gill Westland
Guest
29 March 2021 17:03

The library should never have been closed down in the first place. It used to serve the community well in all sorts of ways. Rock Road, in an affluent neighbourhood was kept open at the time. Don’t know what the plans are for the building but really like what was done to Milton Road library in recent years. They still have a local library.

As to the stones, yes they are worth saving. They are beautiful and worth more than putting into a skip.

Margaret
Margaret
Guest
29 March 2021 16:56

Local people campaigned to keep our library open but the County was determined to close it down. Now we need to reclaim it as a local community resource and make sure we don’t lose it. The Library had been running for nearly a centrury when it was shut down on the grounds that the County couldn’t afford to run it, but we are much richer than we were a century ago when the library was set up. This should be an exciting opportunity to improve facilities for local people.