Cambridge: Saving a Mill Road temple from doom
Beautiful carvings from a Hindu temple have been saved from the skip thanks to an art-loving hairdresser – but now donations are needed.
Piero D’Angelico saw builders were working on the Old Library on Mill Road, which most recently had been used as a place of worship.
After taking a look inside the former Bharat Bhavan temple, he discovered that the intricately carved stone pillars around the former altar were due to be smashed down as the building is being renovated by Cambridgeshire County Council.
Now he has persuaded county council officials to hold off the demolition while he raises the cash to pay for sympathetic removal of the stonework which he hopes to display locally in a public outdoor space.
Piero said: “My grandfather was a stonemason and sculptor who mostly worked on restoring churches. As a boy, I used to work with him and so when I saw these carved columns I knew that thousands of hours of craftsmanship had gone into creating them.
“I thought it would be a criminal waste to destroy them so I’ve been talking to the contractors who have been very sympathetic and if I can raise money for the work and specialist equipment then they will allow them to be removed carefully and preserved.
“They really are beautiful and I think something that the general public would enjoy, so I hope that once they are removed I might be able to find somewhere that is willing to host them. I have a couple of places in mind to approach.”
He added: “We must protect diversity and cultural identities in Mill Road.”
Piero, who is the ambassador for the Mill Road Traders’ Association, has called on his contacts for help and says he has received many messages of support. He has set up a fundraising page and is hoping to raise £3250 to pay for the works to save the carvings, which he believes are worth around £80,000.
The carvings were created from pink sandstone in Rajasthan and shipped to Cambridge from India.
The campaign is being backed by John Preston, former historic environment manager at Cambridge City Council, who wrote to the county council saying: “The shrine is of great cultural and religious importance to the Hindu community. It needs to be treated with the respect appropriate to its symbolism and significance, and found a suitable new home, not a skip!”
The county council took possession of the grade II listed building, which had been leased to the temple, and is carrying out essential renovations, after it was vacated by the Indian Community and Culture Association in January 2020.
The council has said the team on site will work with Piero D’Angelico to ensure the stonework is removed safely. The building is rumoured to be destined for office space, but a council spokesperson said: “A decision hasn’t been made (about) what the building will be used for yet, we are still looking at options.”
The money must be raised in the next few days in order to save the carvings.
To donate, visit https://bit.ly/3fqV7OR.