Monday, 25 June 2012

Reviving a Solihull Landmark

From L-R: Ana Manolescu, Ana Prescott, Victoria Newbery, the Mayor of Solihull,
Daniel Kirby, Wiktoria Kowalczyk, Anouska Johnson
The new-look Malvern Park gates were unveiled today, replete with some fantastic new shields designed by the borough’s schoolchildren.

The collection of decorative shields that now adorn the ornamental gates at Malvern Park was unveiled by the Mayor of Solihull, Councillor Ken Hawkins, in a ceremony on Tuesday.

Their designs were provided by: Anouska Johnson age 11 of Kingswood School, Wiktoria Kowalczyk age 11 of Mill Lodge Primary School, Mia Prescott age 10 of Greswold Primary School; Ana Manolescu age 11 of St Martin’s School, Victoria Newberry age 14 of St Martin’s School and Daniel Kirby age 14 of Merstone School.

The competition winners and their families were invited to join the Mayor at the unveiling ceremony, where the Mayor said: “You may not believe it now but in sixty or seventy years people will walk past these shields and see them as a familiar civic landmark. I’d like to thank all the youngsters who took part in the competition, our Neighbourhood Co-ordinators for their hard work, and also Darren Tipper of Protec Engineering who installed the metal shields free of charge.” 

The gates were given to the borough in 1956 by Councillor Billy Wright to commemorate the granting of a royal charter making Solihull a municipal borough.

The gates, which were designed by a local firm of architects, originally incorporated a number of small shields intended to display the borough’s coat of arms.

Locally there had been a feeling for some time that the Council should restore the 23 plain shields to their original condition. However, since no accurate records existed of how the shields were originally decorated, and since they were painted plain gold for many years, the Council’s Neighbourhood Services team were faced with a significant problem when they decided to revive the landmark.

With the help of Solihull Library and Information Services, and Mr David Dunster who had initially created the gates in the 1950s and now lives in Scotland, Neighbourhood Services discovered that the shields had, in fact, never had any decorations on them at all.

It was then decided to issue a challenge to the young people of the Borough to create designs for the shields that reflect what the Borough means to them. 

Every school in the borough was asked to take part and the Council received thousands of entries which have all been archived by the Council’s local historian at the Central Library.

Last year’s Mayor and this year’s Deputy Mayor, Councillor Irene Chamberlain, chose six entries that were considered outstanding.

The shields now hang proudly on the ornamental gates on New Road, Solihull, and some of the designs include a union jack, the silver fleur-de-lys taken from Solihull’s coat of arms, and a silhouette of St. Alphege Church. 

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