Newport Chartist mural: Listing bid by 20th Century Society

Scene from the mural The mural depicts a fatal confrontation between democracy protesters and troops at Newport's Westgate Hotel in 1839

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The 20th Century Society is to ask heritage body Cadw to list an historic artwork in Newport facing demolition to make way for a shopping development.

The 35m (115ft) mural depicting the 1839 Chartist uprising was created in a city centre subway in 1978.

More than 1,500 people have signed an online petition calling for the artwork to be preserved.

The local authority proposes creating a replica of the mural on the wall of the city's museum and library.

The artwork is a mosaic of 200,000 pieces of tile and glass at the entrance to John Frost Square.

Start Quote

We were amazed that this could be threatened in the way it is at the moment”

End Quote Spokeswoman The "0th Century Society

It details the 1839 Chartist uprising or Newport rebellion led by the Chartist leader John Frost, a magistrate and mayor of Newport who was forced out of office for his radical views.

A champion of universal suffrage, he led a march of around 3,000 people in to the town and a confrontation with troops positioned at the Westgate Hotel which left between 10 and two dozen protesters dead.

Frost was convicted of treason and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered but this was commuted to transportation.

He survived and later returned to Britain, where he continued to campaign for political reform until his death aged 93.

The mural was created in 1978 by artist Kenneth Budd and first faced the axe in 2009 until a development scheme planned at that time was scrapped.

'Powerful local story

A current £100m city centre shopping development would see it demolished, with the replica created by Budd's son, Oliver.

The 20th Century Society, a charity that champions building and public art from that era, says it a stunned to learn of the mural's possible destruction.

A spokeswoman said its conservation committee have voted unanimously to approach Wales' heritage body Cadw to have the mural listed.

She said: "We were really impressed by it, with the scope of it, its beautiful design and construction and it clearly has great links to a powerful local story.

"We were amazed that this could be threatened in the way it is at the moment.

"This highlights the vulnerability of public art particularly from the 1960s and 1970s, which were designed to liven up often mundane places and buildings.

"It is beautifully executed with an incredible amount of special detailing.

'Replica'

"We would really like to see it retained, either incorporated into the new development on the site or relocated."

In a statement, Newport council said: "In March 2012, following public consultation, a decision was taken by the previous administration to recreate the Chartist mural.

"The mural's present location will be lost when that area of the city centre is demolished to make way for a much-needed new shopping and leisure development.

"The cost of moving the mural is not economically viable and a number of alternative options were considered.

"The proposal, which was to create a replica on the wall of the museum and library, received the most support from the public and was also the one favoured by the artist's own son who owns the copyright to the work."

Cadw said to list a building it must have architectural and historical interest, have close historical associations with people or events of importance to Wales.

"Age and rarity are also relevant," said a spokesman.

"The older a building is, and the fewer surviving examples of its kind, the more likely it is to be of sufficient historical significance to be listed.

"After about 1840, because of the greatly increased number of buildings that were built and have survived, much greater selection is needed to identify the best examples of their type and only these can be listed."

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