Sidmouth fireplace move "shelved"

PUBLISHED: 12:47 02 April 2012

The unusual Delftware tiled fireplace at The Knowle

The unusual Delftware tiled fireplace at The Knowle

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Dutch-style tiled fireplace at council offices should be on public display says Sidmouth man

A MAN, who has been trying to rescue a tiled fireplace at The Knowle district council offices, says he is disappointed plans are being postponed to move it to a protected property in Sidmouth.

David Jenkinson of Meadow View Close, Sidmouth, has been putting together a project to save the fireplace intact since 2007, when unitary authority discussions threatened the future of district councils.

“East Devon District Council and Knowle would have been redundant, so I started to make a case that the fireplace should be saved and put on public display,” he said.

The fireplace is situated in the council members’ committee room. Its 47 blue and white tiles, of people at leisure and ships, date to around 1890 and are “uncommon, rather than rare” tiles of apparently Dutch design but British size.

Mr Jenkinson is concerned the unprotected fireplace is at risk of accidental damage and moving it to a protected (listed) building with public access, would not only preserve it, but give the public a chance to see it.

He said he had been in discussions with chief executive Mark Williams and had contacted local councillors to seek their support for the move, saying: “It is surely incumbent on it (EDDC) to take advantage of the opportunity to place them in care of public trusts.”

Now, says Mr Jenkinson, who retired to Sidmouth in 2005, he has been told an EDDC officer had ordered the shelving of the move at present “because they were concerned it should not be disposing of assets before vacating Knowle.”

He said: “It is a bit of a shock. I have appointed, on condition of the council’s approval, a specialist to undertake the work to not only remove the tiles and fireplace but reinstate and make good.”

He said EDDC had a “duty of care” to ensure the fireplace was protected.

“The fireplace is of no significance in the prospective purchase of the building or site,” he added.

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