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Our new Village Boundary Signs

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Back in the 1980's Malpas was twinned with the village of Questembert in Northern France, and a number of successful exchange visits took place.

However, the twinning association has long since been dissolved, even though the existing village boundary signs were retained as an unintentional record of that time.

This year has seen contractors install new village boundary signs on all five main roads into Malpas village.

With a number of false starts and delays, it has taken over eight years to see the idea I first had back in January 2010, to become a reality.

It was then that my wife's brother-in-law, Ian, who showed me a picture of a sign that marked the settlement boundary of Bickershaw near Wigan. This sign was a copy from a painting he had done some years earlier of a steam engine sitting by a signal box.

It had been hanging in the bar of a pub where a local council official had seen it. He subsequently traced the painting back to Ian to gain his permission to use it for the Bickershaw village boundary sign to reflect the passing of a bygone age.

In 2012, I approached Cheshire West Borough Council for permission to install picture boundary signs in Malpas. However, initially permission was refused because of some confusion about the regulations.

When subsequently I found a copy of the highway regulations, that permitted pictorial signs, the Highways Officers eventually agreed to my request and gave me an estimate for the costs.

The initiative then stalled, as I struggled to find five iconic views suitable for the five entrance signs. In addition I questioned whether it was appropriate that I alone should decide on the pictures.

Fast forward another 4 years and I received a request from the Parochial Church Council (PCC) to give them help in getting some tourist signs for St Oswald's sited on the A41 trunk road. Again we were to fall victim to the highway guidelines for the signage of tourist attraction and our idea where not supported.

It was at this point my thoughts turned again to the existing severely weathered and damaged boundary signs. So in conjunction with a representative of the PCC, Ian O'kell, I resurrected the plan to replace the village boundary signs with the idea of using a picture of St Oswald's Church.

A picture was subsequently found that was a copy of an original painting of St Oswald's Church by artist Kenneth Rowntree.
Apparently in 1951, Kenneth had been commissioned by St Oswald's Rector, Guy Hepher, who had then produced Christmas cards copies, and sent them to parishioners and friends.

The proposal to use the painting as the model for the signs was subsequently shared with both the Parish Council and the Parochial Church Council to obtain their support for the project.

The understanding was that copyright of the painting was still owned by the family of the late Mr Rowntree.
At the beginning of 2017 a lengthy attempt to trace the family was made. Success was finally achieved in April 2017 when permission to use Kenneth's painting as a template for the signs was generously given.

Further significant delays have been incurred due to sign production problems and the need to finalise the locations with Cheshire West Council Borough Council.
Three of the new locations are now set further out of the village; this to accommodate the increased sign size and the housing growth in the village.

It has been a long and at times a frustrating journey to complete the project, but we have finally succeeded.

In recognition, I would like to thank Bonamy Devas for giving us permission to use Kenneth Rowntree's painting as a template.

Also Ian O'kell, Adrian Waddelove, Sue Griffith and Andrew Coward for their help in making this happen.

Chris Whitehurst
Malpas Ward Councillor 2015 – 2019
1st May 2019

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