Within Living Memory
with Philip Leason
of the Stone Historical & Civic Society
Moving out of Granville Square, we continue our virtual stroll down Stone High Street of the recent past, and find ourselves face to face with some controversy. The residents in Stone have never shied away from making their feelings known when they do not agree with proposals by the Town or Borough Council (Readers are only too well aware of this independent spirit as it was so amply demonstrated in the reactions to recent proposals for Westbridge Park).
And in 1997 the outcry was over an arts project which would be installed as a result of the building of Christchurch Way. The County Council, under the relatively new legislation, were obliged to allocate 1% of the capital sum of the building of the road for an artistic project to improve the access to the town.
Recommendations for the project had been channeled through Stone Town Council who were then in favour of a pair of ornamental gates to be placed at the top of the High Street (opposite the Poste of Stone) and they had duly consulted three artists for their designs. However, none of the designs submitted passed muster and so a fourth artist was consulted.
A large number of residents were unhappy with the prospect of the gates and, predictably,many traders in Granville Square and along Radford Street were totally opposed to the idea of gates which they felt would shut them off from the rest of Stone High Street. It was also felt that gates would spoil the vista looking up the High Street and obscure part of the War Memorial. So on 24th March, 1997 a packed public meeting was held in the Crown Hotel at which it became increasingly obvious that the majority of people present objected to the idea of the gates.
It was decided to hold a survey in order to canvass the views of residents. The Town Council received 24 letters and 150 phone calls from people in favour of bollards and seven letters and 39 phone calls from residents in favour of the gates. Despite this overwhelming mandate, when the matter was discussed at the next meeting of Stone Town Council in June, 10 councillors voted for the gates and 5 for the bollards.
The main argument to surface against the bollards was the safety issue – it was feared that children would run into the road. In addition, it was felt that if the bollards were light-weight, they could easily be damaged by ram-raiders. However, if on the other hand they were too heavy, then they would be difficult to move. The Councils recommendation for the gates was then passed to the County Highways Committee.
Not to be deterred, on 14th July six electors visited the Town Council Offices and completed a form calling for a town meeting to be held over the council’s decision to install gates and at the subsequent packed meeting held on 23rd July, 10 electors voted for the Town Council to hold a poll on whether to install gates or bollards. Leaflets were then produced for and against the bollards. One of the leaflets produced opposing the gates read “Bollards to the Council!”
The referendum was held in September and 1,332 voted for the bollards and 1,144 voted for the gates. The referendum cost the Town Council over £3,000. And so on Monday 8th September the Area Highways Committee made up of Stafford Borough councillors and Staffordshire County Councillors voted 5-4 in favour of the bollards.
Today we have the very attractive railings depicting the legend of the founding of Stone and bollards to stop the traffic.
ED. Unfortunately, these days everybody seems to be in too much of a rush to appreciate this iconic “gateway” to Stone … Stone’s eventful history should be on firmly the curriculum of Stone’s middle schools … perhaps it’s time to resurrect Norman Cope’s legendary comprehensive book on the very subject, with a addendum to catch up on the last 60 years. Ideas anyone?
I hope that the above will be back memories to some readers and will be of interest to others. Please help us to keep the heritage of Stone alive for generations to come. If you have any photographs relating to the anything mentioned here please contact Staffordshire Past Track. All photographs will be treated with the utmost care and returned safely to their owner after they have made digital copies.