From Newsletter 41 August 1999
The Saga of the Abbey Outline – a cautionary tale
In 1995 it was thought fit a good idea that for our Millennium celebration we, as a Society, would outline the old Abbey church with paving slabs for the benefit of townsfolk and visitors. We thought at the time that it was rather early to start as the year 2000 was 5 years away. How wrong we were!
Here is a summary : June 1995 : we found that the Town Council were interested in forming a partnership with us to achieve the project. Meetings were held to formulate our Plans.
March 1996 : we arranged a meeting with the Town Council. We arrived to find that their committee had been called out on more ‘urgent’ business leaving just the groundsman to hold the fort. He told us that they had already decided to just outline the corners of the Abbey Church. Our small group left with steam rising. A strong letter was promptly sent to Town council expressing our disappointment at their response to our suggestion. By return of post great apologies were received.
April 1996 : another meeting was convened and Town Council agreed to do the job properly.
May 1996: our Society approached CAMAS to supply slabs, English Heritage for permission to carry out the work, and Cotswold District Council for planning permission. A difference in opinion concerning slabs resulted in another meeting with the Town Council on site. It was agreed to accept the council’s proposal to put slabs in a dotted line. Our proposal was to outline the old part in grey slabs and the new part in buff slabs. This was agreed.
July 1996 : English Heritage approval arrived and a further meeting on site with Town Council took place in the autumn. They were informed that any work done on site must be supervised by Cotswold Archaeological Trust.
Winter 1996 : outline marked out by CAT.
Spring 1997 : passing through the Abbey Grounds, a staff member of CAT noticed work going ahead without CAT being contacted. The Town Council were told to stop and comply with conditions. Work progressed slowly.
Spring 1998 : it was discovered that colour coding had been disregarded and half the choir stall had been done in buff and the other half in grey!
Summer 1998 : to compensate for this the slabs of the new part of the building were stained yellow. The yellow has washed off in the rain.
Finally, in Autumn 1998 – the work was completed.
Now for the notice board. A plan was initially agreed by Town Council in 1996. Scale drawings were made and submitted for approval by the council’s committee. These were left inadvertently with the planning applications. An irate member of the public then rang up to say the drawing was all wrong. He knew because he had read the report. He was told firmly that the archaeologists who wrote the report had in fact helped with the research on the drawing and agreed to it!
Town council apologised for leaving the drawing in wrong place. Drawing was returned for some minor alterations which were done. This was then returned for final confirmation. After waiting another 3 months drawing was retrieved only to find it has now been radically altered yet again. That is the position we are at the moment.
Will we get it ready in time for the Millennium? Your guess is as good as mine. All I can say is that Dawn, Peter (both from CAT) and I never ever want to do anything like this again!
Postscript: it was mostly ready and we did have a launch ceremony. About two years later the display panels had suffered from both water ingress and vandalism, and were removed