The Borrowcop Gazebo - Planning a Restoration

At the Society's Open Forum meeting in May 1979 Jack Ballinger reported on the plan to re-roof the Gazebo and to restore it to its former glory. Sadly, as so often in Lichfield, progress was slow.

The following extracts from the Society's newsletters tell the story.

[May 1984]

The Civic Society's active attempts to stimulate action to prevent deterioration and dilapidation of this ill-documented historic building date back to before 1978. Following publication of plans for its restoration and the mention of very large sums of money being required, our President, Jack Ballinger, has been seeking further detailed information from the City Council.

"The project retains high priority with the City Council and work is expected to commence on site, not later that the middle of July - of this year. Delay has been caused because the work involved has been built into a program which is the concern of the Manpower Services Commission and the amount of the original estimate has had to be pruned to fit in with that program.

The City Council is apparently only responsible for providing finance for about 10% of the overall cost of the scheme but on completion will assume full responsibility for subsequent maintenance.

Although the scheme is being handled by the MSC special consideration is being given to the provision of proper supervision and the use of additional skilled labour where such is required. This is apparently one of the reasons for the very considerable cost envisaged and has thereby contributed to the delay in undertaking the work.

Complicated and extensive details of costing were available but the actual extent of the scheme was less clear. Architects' drawings of the Gazebo itself were among the papers and these were an extension of and obviously more informative than those originally supplied by the Society; but no site plan was produced and there was no indication of how much of the very considerable total sum was being spent on the building and how much was attributed to approaches, site works etc. It was not even clear if the whole of the expenditure was confined to the Gazebo area or if it covered other projects in which the MSC was also involved.

The one encouraging feature was the confirmation of an early starting date and it will be interesting and indeed important to see if this is maintained.

Civic Society members will not be surprised that the president and members of the committee continue to seek assurance that the quality of the work to be carried out will be of an adequate standard.

[October 1984]

"Civic Society 'delighted' at restoration plans for 18th century building" ran the press headline on 9th March following an announcement that at long last something was to be done to restore the Gazebo. Perhaps we should have reserved our delight for after six months no work has been done on the building. Kurt Calder in his report of 29th February quoted Mr John Heddle [MP] as saying that "he is well placed to find funds to put the Gazebo in good repair and is inviting all parties to discuss a restoration campaign".

The Civic Society has been campaigning for at least six years for this work to be done and has written letters, produced drawings and proposals and attended meetings with representatives of the City Council. When the Society started its campaign the cost of restoration would have been insignificant in comparison with the 30,000 mentioned in the press report.

[December 1984]

Many members have expressed their anxiety about the continued deterioration of the Gazebo. We have been assured by the Project Manager of the Staffordshire County Council Community Programme Agency that the work of restoration will start before the end of January. The delay in commencing the work is said to have been due to a shortage of labour with adequate skills to undertake the work involved. The team which has been working at Hamstall Hall will transfer to the Gazebo.

The Society's committee is endeavouring to arrange for the project Manager to speak to members on the work of the Community Programme Agency, and particularly the restoration of the Gazebo, at the earliest opportunity. He has agreed to do so and we are seeking a convenient date.

[May 1985]

The Tuesday following Easter Monday is perhaps not the best time to hold a meeting but on the 9th April that attendance figures were only slightly less than those for recent meetings. Members interest in the Gazebo and its deterioration is first referred to in a Committee Minute dated 15th January 1962 when the Secretary "was instructed to write to the Town Clerk regarding the Council's intentions for repair and maintenance". A graph showing the escalation of 'cost to conserve' during the twenty-three years from that date would serve equally to demonstrate the flight path of the space shuttle! But we should not carp - (after how long is carping justified?) - rather we should rejoice that at last work is being done.

Mr J.M. Harrison, as Project Manager, was able to assure the meeting that the restoration now being undertaken would be both thorough and skilled. His slides, photographs and detailed records showed the depth of the research which has been undertaken and his talk confirmed the extent of rebuilding which is required. No completion date can yet be given and a search is underway for roofing materials to replace those which have been lost.

We are sure that members of the Council would find Mr Harrison's talk to be of great interest, not only for its informative content but also for the thoughts on timely conservation or expensive rebuilding which it might stimulate.

[September 1985]

We understand that the rebuilding of the Gazebo is well advanced and that the work has been of a commendably high standard. We look forward to its early completion.