The arch’s important heritage value and it’s chequered past mean that the unveiling attracted a lot of interest. The day started with a live interview on Radio Sheffield and throughout the day coverage included BBC Look North, the Yorkshire Post, the Sheffield Star and Radio 4 amongst others.
Robert Glassby (1835 – 1892), a stonemason and sculptor born in Mexborough became known as the “sculptor to the Queen” for his work on many high profile pieces including the Albert Memorial. He was in day to day contact with Queen Victoria as a result of the commissions from her and upon his death she sent a wreath to his funeral. Glassby was commissioned in 1860 by John Reed, a local pottery owner, to produce what is now seen as one of Glassby’s most important early commissions, the Glassby Arch.
The Gothic arch, approximately 5m high, is intricately carved containing dragons, gargoyles, skulls and other figures. It stood in the grounds of John Reed’s house in Market Street, Mexborough until 1968 when it was moved to Fern Villa, Church Street due to the construction of Mexborough bypass. A condition of it being moved was that it remained the property of the people of Mexborough and visible at all times. Unfortunately, with the demolition of Fern Villa and the construction of a new house in 2007 it was no longer visible and it also fell into disrepair.
It was during this period of ownership that the National Crime Agency seized the house, grounds and arch as part of a Civil Recovery Order resulting from investigations into alleged drug dealing and money laundering. In 2014, the National Crime Agency gifted the arch to the Mexborough Charity Trust and the people of Mexborough in perpetuity. The Trust was successful in obtaining funding from the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership through the Heritage Lottery Fund who were keen to support the restoration, reassembly and relocation of this historic structure.
The unveiling of the arch was attended by over 50 people, including a descendant of Robert Glassby who travelled up from Essex to be part of the day. The arch can be now seen in the grounds of the Almshouses in Church Street, Mexborough.
Locations in the Dearne
This event can be found at the following locations: