New Village Boundary Signs.
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 week 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, 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 saw it — and he traced it to Ian to gain his permission to use it for the Bickershaw sign to illustrate a bygone age.
In 2012, I approached Cheshire West Council for permission to cost and install picture boundary signs in Malpas but initially permission was refused because of some confusion about the regulations.
When subsequently I found a copy of the guidelines, that permitted pictorial signs, the Highways Officers reluctantly agreed to my request and gave me an estimate for the costs.
Then the initiative stalled, as I struggled to find five iconic views suitable for the five entrance signs, and I was not sure that it was appropriate that I alone should decide on the picture.
Fast forward another 4 years and I received a request from the Parochial Church Council (PCC) to provide them with help in getting some tourist signs for St Oswald's on the A41 road. Now we fell victim to the highway guidelines for the signage of tourist attractions!
It was at this point my thoughts turned again to the now severely weathered and damaged existing boundary signs. So in conjunction with a representative of the PCC, we resurrected the idea of the village boundary signs with the idea of using a picture of St Oswald's Church.
One was found that was a copy of an original by artist Kenneth Rowntree, who had been commissioned by St Oswald's Rector, Guy Hepher in 1951, to paint it. Copies of this I understand were used on Christmas cards he sent 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.
A successful attempt was made, too, to trace the family of the late Mr Rowntree which still owns the copyright to the painting, to seek its permission to use his work on the signs. This was readily given.
Further significant delays since have been due to production problems and the need to finalise the locations with Cheshire West Council — three of which have been moved further outside the village centre.
It has been a long and frustrating journey to complete the project but we have finally succeeded, and I would like to thank Bonamy Deva, Ian Okell, Adrian Waddelove, Sue Griffith and Andrew Coward for their help in making this happen in time to give Malpas an overdue Christmas present!
Sir John Talbot Leisure Centre, Whitchurch