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Mill Road community breaks ground for temple archway installation





Around 200 people attended a ground-breaking ceremony to celebrate the first day of construction of the Gateway to India monument on Mill Road in Cambridge.

The archway will be constructed from decorative carvings salvaged from the former Bharat Bhavan Hindu temple on Mill Road inside the Old Library building, which was being renovated by Cambridgeshire County Council.

The stonework was saved by hairdresser Piero D’Angelico, on behalf of Mill Road Traders Assocation, when he heard that the council planned to dump the stones in a skip when it carried out renovation work on the building.

Groundbreaking at the Cambridge Gateway to India ceremony
Groundbreaking at the Cambridge Gateway to India ceremony

Now the archway is to be erected in the gardens of Ditchburn Place sheltered housing on Mill Road - formerly a workhouse and then a maternity hospital - where they can be enjoyed by residents and members of the public, thanks to a community-wide effort.

Piero said: “When I first saw the carvings inside the former temple and found out they were going to be thrown away by the county council, I was heartbroken. My grandfather was a stonemason and I learnt all about the trade from him. So, I knew the amount of work and skill that had gone into carving the temple arch and thought it was too beautiful an object to lose.

Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner at the Cambridge Gateway to India ceremony. Picture Bart Fajer
Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner at the Cambridge Gateway to India ceremony. Picture Bart Fajer

“I was determined to save it for the community and - although I didn’t know then how much of my time this project would take up - I am so happy that we have found a proper home for the archway so that everyone can see it.”

Piero negotiated with the county council to buy the stones for a nominal sum of £1 and then had to raise money to remove and store the carvings before petitioning Cambridge City Council for a public location to display the arch.

Cambridge Mayor Mark Ashton at the Cambridge Gateway to India ceremony. Picture Bart Fajer
Cambridge Mayor Mark Ashton at the Cambridge Gateway to India ceremony. Picture Bart Fajer

The stones do not have religious significance and are simply an example of Indian art, but they have been valued at between £500,000 and £750,000 by Apex Stone, the stonemasons that will install the archway.

Piero said: “The whole community has come together to support this project - we have had donations from many local people and businesses as well as donations of time and skill. We are still raising money to complete the build and install lighting but I am proud that we have done this as a community and have not taken a penny of council money to achieve this.”

The ceremony last Friday saw paving slabs removed on the spot where the arch will be erected and members of the community who had helped with the project were invited to break the ground.

The breaking ground ceremony for the Cambridge Gateway to India project
The breaking ground ceremony for the Cambridge Gateway to India project

Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner, who attended the ceremony, said: “This is such a Cambridge phenomenon. We’re standing on the site of an historic building that has played an extraordinary role in the lives of Cambridge people over centuries. And here we see people from all over the world coming together to remake Cambridge again in a new way. Piero, you have assembled a cast of thousands to make this happen. So it’s a brilliant success story. I am so looking forward to seeing this actually in place.”

Cambridge mayor Cllr Mark Ashton also praised the project. He told the crowd: “This really shows what happens when a community comes together and gets behind a project. And like any community, there has to be somebody who champions it. So I just want to acknowledge Piero because without his passion, his determination and his drive to get people alongside him this wouldn’t have happened.”

Representatives of the Indian Community and Culture Association were present at the ceremony.

Spokesperson Thak Patel said: “There’s no secret that these carvings were part of a Hindu shrine, which is just down the road, which is sadly no longer. However, we as a community are pleased that the carvings now have a new home with a new association, namely having cultural significance to add to this history of Cambridge, for all to enjoy.”

The Gateway to India temple archway
The Gateway to India temple archway

The site also received a blessing from a Hindu priest.

Work to install the archway is expected to start within three weeks and the official opening will take place in September.

The dias on which the archway will sit is set to be surrounded by brass plaques inscribed with the names of donors and people involved with the project. Anyone who donates £120 will be given a plaque at the site. To make a donation, email info@cambridgegatewayfromindia.co.uk or visit cambridgegatewayfromindia.co.uk



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