Note: since posting this in March 2021, Piero has managed to save the stonework and obtain planning permission for erecting it in the front garden of Ditchburn Place. Click on the image below to visit Piero d’Angelico’s dedicated website.
Former Bharat Bhavan Temple carvings in old Mill Road Library “to be taken down and skipped”
Piero d’Angelico, 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.
UPDATE 1 (Sunday 4th April 2021) We have reached the target – thank you! Every additional £ we receive now will go towards the important task of re-homing this piece of Cambridge heritage and not just safely dismantling and storing them.
UPDATE 2 (Saturday 10th April) We have had so many emails and phone calls from people who want to help and we are very thankful to you all!
The funding goal has been raised to £6000 to reflect the installation costs of the carvings, which may also include a heritage plaque telling their story, as well as lighting which changes colour for specific events such as Diwali or the Mill Road Winter Fair. You have all made this happen, with people in Mill Road, Cambridgeshire, and across the country pitching in to help – but please keep passing on our message as every £ helps!
(It is possible that this number may rise again, but every £ donated helps us do more to save, preserve, and respect this piece of Cambridge heritage.)
Note: as of Friday 23rd April 2021 at 17:30 the money raised stood at £5,260
Cambridge Independent, Friday 23rd April 2021, by Alex Spencer
Beautiful carvings from a former temple that were sold to a Cambridge hairdresser by the county council for £1 could be worth as much as £500,000. Read the full article, here.
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.
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 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?