Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Barbara Jones mural 'Adam naming the animals'

The Barbara Jones Mural at Yewlands School, Sheffield (demolished 2009)

The Scottish architect Sir Basil Urwin Spence (1907 - 1976) designed several secondary schools in the 1950s where murals painted by significant artists were integrated into the foyer or public entrance of the schools. At Duncanrig school in Scotland (1956) the mural might have been demolished with the rest of the school had it not been for the presence of a bat’s nest. At Yewlands secondary school in Sheffield, also designed by Spence (1954), a mural by Barbara Mildred Jones (1912-1978) was sited on a wall just outside of the school hall, where children would line up before entering. The school was at the time part of the West Riding Education Authority under Chief Education Officer, Sir Alec Clegg. Jones was already an established and successful artist who specialised in public art and book illustration. She had been commissioned to produce several large murals for the Britain Can Make it exhibition (1946) as well as for the Festival of Britain (1951). The colourful and vibrant mural was a significant feature of the building for some decades but at a certain time, we do not know precisely when or by whom, a decision was made to remove it by concealing it with plasterboard. Hidden from view, the mural stood blind for three decades while schooling continued at the site until in 2008 an opportunity came to rebuild the school entirely; a process involving the destruction of the original school building. During the process of demolition a memory of the mural emerged - an ex school goveneor recalled its past presence in the school - which led to it being uncovered and an unsuccessful campaign to have it preserved. It was demolished along with the Basil Spence school to make way for a new building on site.

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