May 21 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Thieves have been told not to bother trying to steal from a Mousehold Heath memorial to a man described as “a real son of Norwich” – because the latest version does not contain any valuable metals.
As the Mottram Memorial was reinstated on St James’ Hill there was one particularly keen observer, the sculptor of the plinth’s original bronze plaque.
David Holgate, 73, who lives in central Norwich, was commissioned to produce the plaque of the city skyline from the popular beauty spot in 1972.
He remains disappointed that the Norwich Society have had to resort to the plaque now being replaced by an acrylic copy because of thieves - but is still pleased to see his work returned to its intended home.
Mr Holgate said: “I’d much rather it could be in bronze. It was 40 years ago when it was cast; I was a young man! It was such a job, it took far longer than I expected, it took months and I was actually running out of time.”
Mr Holgate said the first cast of the plaque, which he designed using several photographs of the Norwich skyline taken from St James’ Hill, was not up to standard.
A second was close to being good enough and he intended to clean that up, until a third cast came out which was “nearly perfect”.
“This was on the Saturday morning and it was due to be unveiled at 12 o’clock,” Mr Holgate added with a smile. “At that time I was living in south Norfolk, so I finished and drove back to get changed. I came dashing in and they had already unveiled it!”
The Mottram Memorial has begun life in its fourth incarnation, after being plundered by thieves for its valuable bronze carving three times since its unveiling in 1972.
The memorial plinth is based on the crest of St James’ Hill on Mousehold, one of the most famous views of Norwich as it provides a view of most of the city’s skyline.
As reported in the Evening News in May 2011, the memorial bronze plaque of the skyline’s famous landmarks was stolen and the memorial’s granite was badly damaged.
But there was a happy ending to the story as the plaque was recovered two months later after a scrap dealer recognised it and informed police.
The memorial is in memory of author Ralph Hale Mottram, who was Lord Mayor of Norwich in 1953 and 1954 as well as chairman of the Norwich Society, before he diedin 1971. Yesterday a ceremony was held as the memorial was unveiled in its latest form, containing no valuable metals.
Peter Bentley, chairman of the Norwich Society, sent a clear message to any potential thieves by saying: “Those involved with thefts or metal thefts, please leave it alone so that all those who visit Mousehold Heath may enjoy it.”
The Norwich Society, which donated £2,500 towards the restoration work, has been working with the Mousehold Conservators to decide how best to return the memorial to St James’ Hill.
The original 1972 skyline was created by sculptor David Holgate and cast in bronze. The plaque and the dedication plate have now been replaced with acrylic copies and a large sign in the ground in front of the memorial tells would-be vandals that there is no metal involved.
The ceremony marked the beginning of the Norwich Society’s 90th anniversary year, with current Lord Mayor of Norwich, Ralph Gayton, cutting the ribbon at the ceremony.
Mr Gayton said: “Ralph Mottram was a real son of Norwich, born and raised at Barclays Bank in Norwich, which, of course, was Gurney’s Bank, and I’m pleased to say I have one of his books on my book shelf.
“I was just 17 when he became Lord Mayor, which was a time of great change in Norwich, with work towards slum clearance and rebuilding of war damage, including of the Curls’ store, which is, of course, now Debenhams. I’m sure we all appreciate the contribution Ralph Mottram made to the city during his time as lord mayor.”
Mr Bentley went on to talk further about Mr Mottram, who was born in 1883, talking of his Spanish Farm Trilogy books, published in 1927 and based on his first world war experiences, which were adapted into a film called The Roses of Picardy.
He also once said Mousehold Heath was “the property of those who have the privilege of Norwich birth”.
- Are you restoring a valued object? Contact reporter David Freezer on 01603 772418 or email@example.com
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