4 November 2012

Romany's Vardo, Wilmslow, Cheshire

In April 2010 I made a post about the vardo in Wilmslow that belonged to the broadcaster and writer George Bramwell Evens, aka Romany. Now Dave Cash tells me about some very negative developments. It's unfortunate that I can't link a video clip, which includes Councillor Ron Menlove talking – but not out of his mouth. I'll let Dave tell the tale here:

'In December 2011, Romany’s caravan was sent to North Wales for professional restoration by Valley Stream, at Romany Society expense, after a lifetime exposed to the elements. A pre-restoration examination revealed the caravan was generally in good condition for its age but did detail some concerns, particularly to the chassis springs, due to its immobility. And exposure to the elements. The restorer recommenced the provision of a weather-proof shelter and it is the cost of this shelter which appears to have persuaded Cheshire East Council (CEC) to dispose of the caravan at this time.

Rev Bramwell Evens (Romany) bought this road-menders living van second-hand in 1921 and undertook DIY repairs with his wife, Eunice, as detailed in her book Through the years with Romany. Since she donated the caravan to the Romany Memorial Committee of Wilmslow UDC c1948, it is evident from a recent Freedom Of Information request to CEC that no subsequent local Authority had a reserved budget for its maintenance, despite family expectations that the caravan would be maintained after handover.

It appears Macclesfield Borough Council did undertake some essential DIY local repairs as late as 1992.

Since CEC's inception, it has only spent £130 on a post-restoration visit to the restorers in North Wales despite the £7,000 restoration being paid for by the Romany Society.

Rod Menlove, CEC Councillor for Wilmslow and CEC Environment cabinet, responsible for Parks and Leisure, is on record for suggesting Romany’s caravan, whilst of national importance, is only 75% original, thus reducing its heritage value. Little does he realize that every cell in his body has been replaced, probably several times, during his life!

Others have suggested that original replacement with modern restoration materials, as per recent Cutty Sark restoration dilutes historic importance/value.

We suggest Romany’s caravan is only the physical focus for the man’s passion. It provided background for his studio-based natural history broadcasts and source material for his influential books.

Visitors to a recent popular Saturday Wilmslow market were asked:

Should the Vardo remain in Wilmslow (Yes/No)

Is it a Visitor Asset (Yes/No)

Who should have future responsibility for it? CEC, Wilmslow Town Council (WTC), The Romany Society, or other (eg Bradford)

373 members of the Public responded to the research questionnaire (100%)

233 responders are Wilmslow (SK9) residents (63%)

120 live within approx 20 miles of Wilmslow (32%)

20 visitors live further afield, i.e. Stoke on Trent, Aberdeen or overseas (5%)

369 agreed the Vardo should remain in Wilmslow (98%)

363 regard it as a Wilmslow asset (97%)

As for future responsibility for the Vardo:

27 suggest it should remain CEC (7%)

200 suggest WTC (54%)

58 suggest the Romany Society regains control (15%)

ZERO persons thought Other, eg Bradford museum (0%)

This survey is on-going in some Wilmslow shops etc, in an attempt to achieve 1000+ responders.

A weather-proof diplay shelter for the Vardo would cost approximately £25,000 installed, obviously a cost concern for CEC & WTC, although neither has considered approaching Lottery Heritage Fund or other sponsors since deciding to find a new owner.

The grandson of "Romany" would be happy for the Vardo to stay on display in Wilmslow, if suitable shelter can be provided.

The Romany Society is yet to ballot its members on their preferred location as the Committee is split 3-4.

Readers can contribute to a "Keep the Vardo in Wilmslow" fund, solely for office/admin costs at this stage. Account details are:

Sort Code 57 13 27. Britannia Bank Account Number 00 00 00 00. Account Number 357 688 145.'

Below is a link to my earlier blog post, with the vardo in its appropriate position.

ADDENDUM: Dave Cash sends me a link ('Romany's Caravan Goes to Bradford') that confirms that Wilmslow has now lost the vardo that stood in the Memorial Gardens very near the centre of the town for well over sixty years and was a colourful reminder of the town's history. In a local questionnaire, an overwhelming majority of almost exclusively local people chose to retain the vardo in Wilmslow, and not a single person wanted it in Bradford. Nevertheless the vardo has now been pensioned off to Bradford Industrial Museum, where it will be just another display, in a place that as far as I know has no link to the vardo's history. It appears that Rod Menlove of CEC is the main perpetrator of this madness, and yesterday CEC sent out a press release crowing 'Romany Vardo Saved'. Don't believe the hype: Cheshire East Council just threw an important part of its history out the window.

Romany's Vardo at Wilmslow
Romany's Caravan Goes to Bradford

1 comment:

Martin Titley said...

...the West Riding connection:
"As a Methodist minister, his ministries included Goole; the Methodist Central Hall, Carlisle (1914–26); Huddersfield (1926–29); and the King Cross Methodist Chapel, Halifax (1929–39), after which ill health forced him to give up the ministry. He retired to Wilmslow, where he died, leaving his wife, son Glyn and daughter, Romany June."