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Locke Park Tower in Barnsley could be saved by artists
Locke Park Tower, Barnsley
Locke Park Tower is the highest point in Barnsley. In its better days, people viewed the town from the wooden platform at the top of the tower

The once proud monument of Locke Park Tower in Barnsley is crumbling.

It is the highest point in the town but was shut in the early 1990s because of its dangerous state.

Engineers say the tower requires top to bottom work on the stonework, ornate carvings and the wooden viewing platform at the top - but to restore the tower to its former glory would cost £250,000.

Now famous names are coming to its aid. Local painter Ashley Jackson and sculptor Graham Ibbeson have donated pieces of their work to save the crumbling tower.

Many people think the tower, which dates from the 1860s, was built as a memorial to Joseph Locke. He was a famous Barnsley railway engineer who set up the world's first locomotive factory with George and Robert Stephenson, of Rocket fame.

But in fact Locke Tower is a memorial to Joseph Locke's wife, Phoebe, and it was paid for by her sister.

Archive photograph of Locke Park Tower in Barnsley in its heyday (1910)
Archive photograph of Locke Park Tower in Barnsley (1910)

The Friends of Locke Park want to raise the £250,000 needed to restore the tower. Alison Andrews is one of the Friends of Locke Park:

"The Tower is part of Barnsley's heritage. In years gone by, people went to the top of the tower to look over the whole of Barnsley. It's such a shame that it has been left leaning to one side and falling apart, when it should be rebuilt so that people can use it again."

Locke Park Tower, Barnsley
Locke Park Tower was closed in the early 1990s and has fallen into disrepair. Pictured August 2010

Barnsley businessman Alan Mills plans a celebrity auction to raise some of the money. He is asking local artists and celebrities to donate their items for auction.

Ashley Jackson has donated a signed limited edition print of The Cow and the Calf at Ilkley. He spoke to BBC Radio Sheffield in August 2010: "Barnsley loves Locke Park. It would be a tragedy to see it fall down - it's very dear to our hearts. Now that local government haven't got any money, we need to raise £250,000 ourselves."

Sculptor Graham Ibbeson has donated a version of his famous bronze miner for the charity auction. His father worked at Riddings pit at South Kirkby.

"The miner sculpture is a monument to my father, his colleagues and those who died down the pit. The original statue is supposed to be life size but actually it's about seven foot tall and a metre across the shoulders.

"The replica I've given to raise money for the Locke Park Tower Fund is the prototype of the real one. It's a signed small-scale model.

"Locke Park is the lungs of Barnsley. The Friends of Locke Park have already made improvements to the park since its decline and it's looking better than it has done, but it still needs a lot of money."

Dickie Bird at the unveiling of his statue in Barnsley, 2009
The prototype of Graham Ibbeson's sculpture of Dickie Bird recently sold for 2000

Ibbeson's statue of the Barnsley-born cricket umpire Dickie Bird was unveiled in July 2009. Dickie's finger signalling 'out' has caused controversy:

"It should have been on a higher plinth but the ground slopes so it looks like he's giving the finger to anyone who's leaving Barnsley!" says Ibbeson.

The prototype of the Dickie Bird sculpture sold at a recent auction for £2000 and it is hoped that the miner sculpture prototype will raise a good amount for the Locke Park Tower Fund.

The Locke Park Tower has been provisionally earmarked £50,000 by Barnsley Council for restoration. The Friends of Locke Park are also applying for National Lottery funding - but they need a Plan B in case the funding bids don't come off:

"We have to have a contingency plan," said David Allen, Chairman of Friends of Locke Park. "If we fail on the Lottery front we will have to look at different avenues so we're trying to raise awareness of this need to save the heritage of Barnsley.

"If our bids are successful, we could do all kinds of things such as replace the flower beds around the Tower. This would make it a real eye-catcher and a huge asset to the park and town."

In pictures: South Yorks statues
02 Aug 10 |  Arts & Culture


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