Mill Road temple carvings sold for £1 ‘worth half a million’
Beautiful carvings from a former temple that were sold to a Cambridge hairdresser by the county council for £1 could be worth as much as £500,000.
The decorative archway has been salvaged from the former Bharat Bhavan Hindu temple on Mill Road inside the Old Library building, which is being renovated by the council and turned into offices.
Builders were set to throw the carvings in a skip until Mill Road hairdresser Piero D’Angelico, pictured, visited the temple site and decided they were too beautiful to destroy.
He bought the pink sandstone pillars and altar from the council for just £1 after learning they were destined to be broken up and he plans to install them in a public park so they can be enjoyed by the community.
But he was astonished when he learned the potential value of the stonework, which weighs more than six tonnes.
Piero said: “I’ve now been told by two separate people that to commission a carving this intricate and of this size would easily cost more than half a million pounds. When I first heard that figure I thought, ‘Wow! I knew they were valuable but I can’t believe they are worth so much.’
“But it has not crossed my mind to sell them – even though I have been approached by temples up and down the country asking about them. They belong to the Mill Road community and I want to make sure everyone can enjoy them. That’s why I’m applying to the city council to install them in the gardens at Ditchburn Place.
“I’ve even been contacted by the Indian High Commission, who are offering me their help.
“These carvings were made in India about 15 years ago from Rajasthan sandstone and they are stunning when you see them in person – as well as absolutely massive. I can’t believe they are going to be thrown away.
“My community back home in Castelluccio Valmaggiore in Apulia, Italy, where my grandfather was a stonemason, are really proud of what I’m trying to achieve.”
The stones will be looked after by builders’ merchants Travis Perkins after Piero set up a crowdfunder to have them safely removed from the old temple.
Matt Maslen, manager at Travis Perkins on Devonshire Road, Cambridge, said: “I didn’t realise how big they were when I agreed to store the stones. I’m obviously not an art expert but if you wanted something like that replicated it would cost about half a million pounds and someone was just going to destroy it. I’m basing that estimate on just the raw stone, which would cost a lot, and then the skill it would have to create. The hours of work that went into it are incredible. I don’t think Piero has done bad for a pound!
“We are storing it for them because we want to help out the community – and I’m pretty sure Piero put my arm behind my back.
“Mill Road has had a very rough time this year and if a big company like us can’t help people then the world is a bad place. I had no idea it was there and it would be great for people to appreciate its artistry.”
The Cambridge Independent approached auction houses to secure a valuation. Experts were unsure what the carvings would sell for as they were so unusual.
But Lida Kindersley, of the Cardozo Kindersley workshop in Cambridge, which specialises in stone cutting, agreed that to commission a work of this size would probably cost £500,000.
Like many local authorities, Cambridgeshire County Council is having to make savings in its budget following reductions in its government funding.
A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesperson said: “We have worked closely with the Mill Road Traders Association and Indian Community and Cultural Association (ICCA) regarding the former Mill Road library and the removal of the stone arch. We are pleased to see that the arch will remain a part of the city.”
You can support the crowdfunder at uk.gofundme.com/f/save-bharat-bhavan-carvings-on-mill-road.
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