The Twentieth Society is shocked and deeply saddened that Newport City Council has begun the demolition of the Chartist Mural today. The move follows Cadw’s unexpected decision in September to reject our application to list the work for its special artistic and historic interest.
A local campaign collected over 4,000 signatures in support of keeping the mural, and a protest in the city centre against the destruction of the piece had been planned for this weekend and widely publicised.
Henrietta Billings Senior Conservation Adviser, Twentieth Century Society said, “We are shocked and deeply saddened to see the destruction of the Chartist Mural – started by Newport Council today. The speed with which the demolition has begun ahead of the public demonstration this weekend is startling. Future generations will look back on this day with great regret. It is without doubt one of Wales’ best pieces of post war public art.”
In their listing assessment, Cadw recognised that the mural is “a major piece of public art providing an important connection to the city’s heritage”. They also acknowledged that works of art fixed to structures or buildings can be listed independently. But they then unexpectedly turned it down for statutory protection on the grounds of its relationship to its context- the building to which it is attached, and the “adjacent urban environment”.
Note to editors:
The Twentieth Century Society submitted a listing application for the Chartist Mural to Cadw, the Welsh Government’s heritage body, in July 2013. The application was turned down in September 2013.
The Chartist mural was constructed in 1979 by Kenneth Budd, a renowned figure in post war mosaics who produced a wide number of important public art commissions across Wales and the West Midlands. Budd started his career with William Mitchell, one of the best known English post war public artists – several of Mitchell’s works from the 1960s have been listed at our instigation.
The 35m mural depicts the famous 1839 Chartist uprising in the city and is made from 200,000 pieces of ceramic tile and Venetian glass mosaic. The mosaic is so intricately designed that it is possible to see subtle variations in colour, different skin tones and expressions in the faces of the protesters in the mural. The surface of the mural is not flat – projecting elements like the spears and guns provide an added layer of detail that gives the mural 3-D qualities.
The location of the Chartist Mural was deliberately chosen to be placed adjacent to John Frost Square to commemorate the events of 4 November 1839 and to act as a memorial to the 20 Chartists who were killed by soldiers outside the nearby Westgate Hotel.
John Frost, later Mayor of Newport, was one of the Chartists who had marched that day from the Monmouthshire valleys in support of their demands for reform of the parliamentary system then in operation. The six demands of the Great Charter were for voting by secret ballot, a vote for everyone aged over 21, annual elections to Parliament, all constituencies to have an equal numbers of voters, abolition of the property qualification for MPs and payment of MPs.
For further information please contact Henrietta Billings 020 7250 3857 or Henrietta@c20society.org.uk