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Last Updated: Friday, 21 October 2005, 09:41 GMT 10:41 UK
Sculpture sell-off plans scrapped
Rosewall sculpture
Rosewall was due to be auctioned at Bonhams
The Royal Mail has backtracked on controversial plans to sell a 600,000 sculpture that has stood in a Derbyshire town for more than 40 years.

Bosses had planned to auction the Dame Barbara Hepworth sculpture, Rosewall.

It was bought to stand outside newly-built pension fund offices in Chesterfield in 1963.

It has been withdrawn from the auction at Bonham's in London after protests. The borough council said it was part of the town's heritage.

Chesterfield MP Paul Holmes had even asked questions in parliament over the proposed sale of the 2.5 ton sculpture.

Having a piece of public art like this in a former mining town is quite a big thing
Ray Russell, Chesterfield Borough Council leader

Town leaders now hope to attract lottery funding to ensure it can be kept in Chesterfield.

Bonhams said the piece, which has never been offered for sale before, was the highlight of its sale of 20th Century British art next month.

It had been expected to break the current record for a Hepworth of 620,000.

Chesterfield Borough Council passed a motion at a meeting on Wednesday calling for it to be withdrawn from the auction.

Lottery discussions

Council leader councillor Ray Russell said: "The withdrawal is very much the first stage.

"We are talking to the Heritage Lottery Fund to see if we can get them to put in a big chunk of money.

"Having a piece of public art like this in a former mining town is quite a big thing."

A Royal Mail spokesperson said: "Royal Mail's chairman, Allan Leighton has withdrawn the sculpture from the auction.

"No decision has yet been taken on its future, but we are confident we can resolve it."

Dame Hepworth, who died in 1975, based the piece on a hill next to her studio in St Ives.

When the decision was taken to sell the sculpture originally, the Royal Mail said the piece was not an "integral part" of the company's heritage.

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