Stevenage to keep its greatest art treasure despite council sell-off

The Henry Moore Sculpture in its new position in Barclay School

The Henry Moore Sculpture in its new position in Barclay School - Credit: Archant

Hertfordshire’s greatest art treasure is to stay put in Stevenage despite Herts County Council’s plan to sell off much of its extensive art collection.

Chimneys by Fred Uhlman. Picture: Herts County Council

Chimneys by Fred Uhlman. Picture: Herts County Council - Credit: Archant

The treasure comes in the form of the majestic sculpture by the legendary Henry Moore which sits in the foyer of The Barclay School, and seems to convey a message of support and strong community values throughout the school’s entrance.

The piece is insured for some £20 million, making it by far the biggest jewel in the council’s collection – which is in total covered for some £26 million.

The Henry Moore was commissioned for Barclay because it was one of the first purpose-built schools to open in Britain after the Second World War.

Incredibly, Moore – who lived at Perry Green in Hertfordshire – reportedly accepted the tiny fee of £750 for the item.

Lake by Gabriel Couderc. Picture: Herts County Council

Lake by Gabriel Couderc. Picture: Herts County Council - Credit: Archant


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When he heard about the council’s plan to sell off much of its art collection, Barclay headteacher Mark Allchorn was rightly concerned the school could lose its prized possession.

But he was relieved when he called the council and was told the statue would not be towed off on the back of a lorry any time soon.

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He told the Comet: “I think this is a really important commitment from the council, as it’s great our young people can see the family group.

“It symbolises all that is good about The Barclay School.”

Remarkably, the sculpture was only saved from the elements some seven years ago.

Despite its 500kg weight, it once stood outside the school – and would-be art thieves tried to haul it away in 2011.

After this, it was decided to relocate it inside the foyer as an impressive monument to the school’s sense of community.

In total, the council has a collection of 1,826 works of art, the majority of which were bought by the council between 1940 and 2000. Many are now in storage.

The county council wants to reduce the collection to 167 works that are “highly significant to the history of Hertfordshire”, and is asking people to comment on its plans in a special consultation.

The art includes acrylics and oil paintings – 112 works, including some by the Great Bardfield artists Edward Bawden and Kenneth Rowntree, and Sussex modernist artist Edward Wadsworth.

There are also 70 drawings and watercolours, 95 lithographs and silkscreens, 114 aquatints and etchings, and 37 miscellaneous works including lino cuts, pots and textiles.

You can comment on the consultation at hertfordshire.gov.uk/s/artconsultation.

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