Opinion divided as Newport Chartist mural faces demolition
NEWPORT’s celebrated Chartist Mural is facing demolition after Cadw declined to list it.
The Welsh heritage body’s decision comes as Newport council said it would not be possible to preserve the artwork in its current state, saying relocating or leaving the mural in place would jeopardize the £100 million Frairs Walk project.
However the authority is to commission a city memorial to the Chartists and is to consult with the public on what it should be.
A spokesman for Cadw said the mural, located in a walkway off John Frost Square, had fallen short of its criteria for listing on grounds of its "special architectural interest".
"The quality of building to which the mosaic is attached is poor and the underpass itself has no intrinsic design merits. It was also felt that there was no specific association between the location of the mural and the Chartist uprising," he said.
Cadw had worked with the council to find a future for the mural but “the costs associated with relocation are too great for this to be a viable option."
A Newport council spokeswoman said the council had to consider the wider picture: “Unfortunately, it may have proved a fruitless effort to save the mural and too big a price to pay, both financially and for the overall good of the city and its residents."
The spokeswoman said that, following the listing request and on Cadw’s advice, the authority commissioned engineering consultants Mann Williams about the potential for relocating the mural.
That work found it would cost “at least £600,000” with “real risks that the mural would not survive such a move”, the spokeswoman explained.
It was also acknowledged that there was a danger relocation or leaving the mural in situ “would jeopardise the Friars Walk scheme which is seen as vital for the regeneration and revitalisation of the city centre.”
"While it will not be possible to preserve the mural in its current state, we have made a commitment to commission a memorial to the Chartists within the city. We will consult with the people of Newport to agree the most appropriate way to celebrate the Chartist movement," the spokeswoman said.
She added records have been made of the mural and officers will look at how this can be used to preserve the memory of the art work.
The 20th Century Society architectural pressure group had asked Cadw to list the mural as an example of post war public art.
Yesterday the society’s Henrietta Billings said the group was “really disappointed that Cadw have taken this decision” and that the society was reviewing where it goes from here.
The chartist mural was commissioned in 1979 and created by the artist Kenneth Budd. The mural is 35- metres long and is made up of more than 200,000 pieces of tile and Venetian smalti.
It depicts the Chartist Uprising of 1839 when 5,000 men marched into Newport and gathered outside the Westgate Hotel. More than 20 Chartists lost their lives, and many others were injured.
The demolition of the mural is not planned to take place as part of the first phase of demolition works at John Frost Square that the council is currently seeking a contractor for.
Council "betrayal" - campaigner
A CAMPAIGNER against the demolition of the Chartist Mural yesterday he felt betrayed by the council, but one councillor said common sense has prevailed.
The decision by Cadw not to list the mural comes after a high-profile campaign to save the art work, which saw 2,335 people signing a petition online.
Peter Rawcliffe, chairman of the campaign, said: “I feel that the people of Newport have been betrayed by Newport council because the campaign was told the council were going to do all they could to keep it.”
Mural campaigner Stephanie Roberts, herself a mural artist from Malpas, said she was devastated by the news.
Criticising the developers of Frairs Walk, Ms Roberts said: “Queensberry Real Estate have come in, barged their way through Newport and destroyed a part of Newport’s cultural heritage.”
The son of mural artist Kenneth Budd, Oliver Budd, said: ”Newport has got this massive problem that they desperately need this development.
“In my opinion it could have been more imaginative thought about it. If people want to find a way to save things they get done. If they don’t, they don’t.”
However Councillor Matthew Evans, Tory group leader, said: “I think common sense has prevailed. Logistically and financially we cannot afford to jeopardize the £100 million redevelopment.
But he said: “I sincerely hope that the council does ensure that a replica or something similar is progressed.”
Senior Newport Tory Cllr David Fouweather said he saw both points of view but added: “I sympathise with people that support it. If we could find a way that could incorporate it into Friars Walk that would be fine but the shopping centre is far more important.”
Labour Lliswerry councillor Allan Morris said it was a “sad day” but added: “However progress is progress and it must be an absolute priority to find a suitable replacement in a prominent location as soon as finances allow us to do this.”
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