06 November 2015
A South Yorkshire town is celebrating today after a unique piece of local history was restored to community ownership.
Today marks the end of a long and dramatic journey for the five metre tall Glassby Arch, which has included time in the private ownership of an alleged drug dealer, an effort to auction it on eBay, and its attempted theft by rival criminals.
The elaborate gothic arch, which is a Grade 2 listed monument, was created in 1860 by Queen Victoria’s sculptor Robert Glassby, who went on to work on the Albert Memorial.
It was discovered in the Mexborough garden of alleged drug dealer and money launderer Maurice Turrall in 2013 when the National Crime Agency seized his house as part of a Civil Recovery Order. The arch was gifted to the people of Mexborough by the NCA, and its restoration was secured by the Mexborough Charitable Trust.
It has now been carefully pieced together by local stonework specialists GL Beale Contractors Ltd at its new – and hopefully permanent – home, which is the site where Robert Glassby was born in 1835.
Andy Lewis from the National Crime Agency said: “The arch has had a dramatic history and that carried on even after we seized it as part of our civil recovery investigation.
“While we were in the process of sorting out where it would be moved to, someone Turrall owed money to tried to steal it and hold it for ransom.
Giles Brearley, Trustee of the Mexborough Charitable Trust, said:“Turrall lost his personal wealth because we were able to prove that his property was linked to criminal activity. The NCA will use all its powers to pursue the assets of criminals, but we are usually talking about cars, houses, jewellery and bank accounts. We don’t often take possession of something which is so clearly meaningful to a community and we are really glad to have had the opportunity to help return it where it belongs.”
“The future of the arch had to be secured and the prospect of saving the monument for future generations to enjoy and siting it at Robert Glassby’s birthplace seemed to be a double achievement. It has been a long hard task to effect but it was worth the effort.”
The arch was originally built by Glassby for a local businessman, John Reed, and it remained in the garden of his home for more than a century. When a new ring-road was built through Mexborough in the 1960s, both Reed’s home and the arch were knocked down. A local councillor bought the arch and it was taken piece by piece to the house on Church Street that Turrall would later move into.
But Turrall took a dislike to the structure so attempted to sell it, putting it up for sale on auction site eBay in March 2004 with a starting price of £1,100. Doncaster Council granted a preservation order the same month whilst the Mexborough and District Heritage Society tried to raise enough money to keep the arch in the town
In February 2014 thieves were spotted dismantling the arch but police tracked them down and the missing pieces were returned. The men were each given a police caution.
Maurice Turrall is believed to be on the run in Spain.