Pier owner discovers Art Deco stained glass broken by workmen

An auctioneer who sold his house to buy a pier has uncovered a 1930s masterpiece in stained glass - only to discover workmen broke half the panes in the 1960s.

Steve Hunt, 32, has been living in Colwyn Bay's Victoria Pier since New Year's Eve, having sold his home in Cambridge to fulfil his dream of owning a pier.His ambition is to restore the pier, now an eyesore, to its former splendour, and make it the focus of the town's tourism trade once again.The pier's centrepiece is a pavilion built in 1934, after fire destroyed the original buildings.Some of the finest artists of the Art Deco age were engaged to ensure the building was stylish and fireproof.Mr Hunt was hoping the most important decorative features remained intact, behind the spartan additions of 1968.But when he cut a large hole in the suspended ceiling to expose the showpiece stained- glass skylight, he found that one-third to a half of the glass panes had been broken.Now he faces the task of getting new glass made to match the texture of the surviving panes.

"The workmen just smashed holes to put in the ceiling hangers," said Mr Hunt.

"They could have lifted the panels out and stored them, but it was more fun to throw a hammer through the glass."

Fortunately, the original leadwork that divides the panels is all intact.

He believes the window was designed by Mary Adshead, best known for her church murals. She was responsible for the pavilion's overall decoration and left a detailed account of the colours.

In the restaurant adjoining the pavilion, another Art Deco treasure may be hiding - two large murals by artist Eric Ravilious. Mr Hunt said they were probably plastered over by the 1960s workmen and could be exposed again by chipping away the plaster.

However, the workmen may have painted over the murals before applying the plaster and the paint of 1968 would have been stronger than Ravilious's paint. Experts may be needed to guide the restoration.

Ravilious went on to become one of the foremost painters of World War II before he was killed in 1942 during an air-sea rescue mission. An exhibition of his work is now on view at the Imperial War Museum in London.

Mr Hunt will permanently re-open part of his pier to the public on Saturday. He has tidied the front and let a franchise for a cafe on the pier.

The pavilion's floor is too unstable for public entry, but Mr Hunt hopes to open the room by late summer for people to see the skylight.

This could encourage visitors to donate towards the restoration programme, which will cost up to £4m.

Mr Hunt bought the pier because he has always been fascinated by entertainment in the early 20th century. He was just 14 years old when he bought his first fairground ride, dating from the 1920s.

Since then he has owned a fairground and an amusement arcade packed with old mechanical games.

He runs Britain's only auction house devoted to antique gaming machines and plans to display some of his own collection, which includes "What the Butler Saw" peepshows, at the restored pier in Colwyn Bay.

He also publishes a specialist periodical called Antique Amusement Magazine.

Mr Hunt hopes that donations and grants will enable the pier's Art Deco ballroom - where Morecambe and Wise, Ken Dodd and Harry Secombe once performed in summer variety shows - to be used for light entertainment again.

He also intends to demolish the 1970s building at the pier entrance, described as ugly, and install replicas of the original Moorish booths.

600450 Pier owner discovers Art Deco stained glass broken by workmen glassonweb.com
Date: 17 January 2004
Source: Icwales.icnetwork.co.uk

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