Outcry from Edinburgh alumni has led to the return of the former McEwan Hall entrance gates, which were set to be auctioned off by Sussex-Based Summer Place Auctions on 21 September, according to a recent University of Edinburgh Press Release.
The sale of the late 1890’s wrought-iron and carved sandstone gates was expected to make a return of £120,000. The item description in the Summer Place auction catalogue outlined the sale of the gates to be a “unique opportunity to acquire a very impressive entrance way from a Grade 1* listed building in UNESCO World Heritage Site.”
However, when University of Edinburgh Principal Sir Timothy O’Shea received a great number of discontented messages about the proposed sale, he struck a deal with the auctioneers to veto the plan.
In a University Press Release, Professor O’Shea said: “On hearing news of the proposed auction, Edinburgh graduates far and wide contacted the University to express their fondness for the gates. The views of our alumni are very important to us so we are happy to bring the gates back.”
David Black, heritage campaigner, wrote to The Edinburgh Evening News about the amended decision. Black stated: “Had this sale gone ahead it wouldn’t merely have been the historic built environment being damaged – it would have damaged the reputation of Edinburgh University as an institution, and the international reputation of the city with it.”
“The built heritage of Edinburgh belongs to all of its citizens, and should not be regarded as the property of any single institution to dispose of at will.” In Black’s letter to the Evening News he claimed that the University of Edinburgh had shown a “philistine arrogance” which “truly beggared belief.”
Black remarked: “The University authorities and Sir Timothy O’Shea should be commended for making the right decision in this case.”
The entrance way was removed due to the University’s £33 million McEwan Hall and Bristo Square development project that was initiated in early 2015. McEwan Hall has been on campus since 1897, and was very much due for refurbishment.
However, another strong objective of the project is to create a more open space, allowing for easier movement. With an open plan in mind, the gates were not featured in the landscape design.
In a University Press Release James Rylands, Director of Summer Place Auctions said: “We are delighted to be able to work with the University to facilitate the return of the McEwan Hall entrance way to Edinburgh where we hope it will be admired by residents and visitors for many generations to come.”
The gates are set to be reinstated within a few months and the remainder of the development project is expected to be completed by January 2017.
Image: Duncan Grey