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Protecting the community’s cultural heritage is vital

07 March, 2019

The ceramic Madonna and Child, which was a centrepiece within St Christopher’s Nursery

• FOLLOWING the excellent article by John Gulliver (Wanton vandalism of art for the people, February 28), I write to lament further the damage being done to our community’s cultural heritage and thus its soul.

Of course, buildings must often be demolished to make way for new and better ones, but demolition should never be blind to what is being destroyed and construction companies need to think before obliterating forever works, which, treasures in themselves, are especially precious because they represent a vision and a history of community.

Over-hasty demolition of historic structures is irresponsible and demonstrates a disregard for social partnerships. For example, it seems likely that the beautiful ceramic Madonna and Child, which was a centrepiece within St Christopher’s Nursery has been destroyed. It originated with the establishment of the nursery under the auspices of St Mary’s Church in Eversholt Street.

The artworks of Gilbert Bayes and others that have been destroyed were more than just beautiful; they were the embodiment and reminder of the pioneering, radical, partnership between church and housing association created in the early 20th century by Father Basil Jellicoe and other priests of St Mary’s, which resulted in a massive slum clearance and the establishment of the St Pancras House Improvement Society.

Father Jellicoe believed that religion was about ensuring “the right for people to live decent lives”, and my colleagues and I continue today to believe that. I therefore ask that all the remaining works should remain in situ and be properly conserved and incorporated into the new buildings.

And I give my full support to the idea of creating a Somers Town museum which would celebrate our district’s rich and important history, including Father Jellicoe’s ground-breaking model of social housing which insisted that we must care for people’s souls as well as their bodies.

Parish Priest, St Mary’s Church,
Eversholt Street, NW1


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