Finally, Kettering's mosaic looks set to have a new home

After years of searching for a place to put it, the mosaic could be reinstated in the town centre

Thursday, 10th December 2020, 11:24 am
Updated Thursday, 10th December 2020, 11:32 am
The mosaic, pictured at Tresham Institute before it was removed.
The mosaic, pictured at Tresham Institute before it was removed.

The Kettering mosaic finally looks set for a new home 13 years after it was saved from demolition.

The 45ft x 15ft artwork, which was previously on the wall of the old Kettering Grammar School in Windmill Avenue, was removed in 2007 before the building was torn down.

Ever since it's been stored at the Kent studio of Oliver Budd, the son of mosaic creator Kenneth Budd, with Kettering's Civic Society looking for a new place to display it.

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Suggestions of the Kettering Conference Centre, Newlands Shopping Centre car park and new Tresham College - where the grammar school once sat - all fell through.

But it may now be put on display in the High Street/Meadow Road area with Kettering Council revealing their plan to do so as part of a £4m scheme to revitalise the town centre.

Civic society secretary Monica Ozdemir said: "I just feel like cracking open a bottle of Champagne.

"This has been a long time coming. We can see the end of the tunnel now."

The mosaic depicts a modernist abstract interpretation of the town's coat of arms which also shows its rich religious, cultural and industrial heritage, including Kettering’s links to the birth of the baptist missionary movement, William Knibb and the abolition of slavery.

It is the only remaining link to the grammar school which educated Thomas Toller, William Knibb, John Alfred Gotch, Sir Alfred East and HE Bates - and where pupils confounded experts by picking up the first signals from Nasa and Soviety satellite launches in the space race.

Many of Kettering’s manufacturing industries are also depicted in the mosaic.

When the mosaic was taken down in 2007 it was done so 'jigsaw-style' and peeled off the wall in a special sticky-backed fabric. When it is eventually restored it will be done in trays so that should it ever need to be dismantled it will be easy to do so.

The mosaic was specially commissioned for Kettering Grammar School in 1962 and was the first mosaic that Kenneth Budd designed before going on to be famous, creating the Kennedy Mosaic in Birmingham’s Bullring Shopping Centre and hundreds more around the country.

And it will be a special moment for his son Oliver when it is reinstored - as it may be his final job.

Ms Ozdemir said: "Oliver is really excited. That mosaic was the very first one that his father put up.

"When he's done this mosaic Oliver said he can then retire.

"It's a wonderful thing to end your career on something your father started."

It's hoped that it may be put on display either next year or in 2022. A documentary about the story of the mosaic is also in the pipeline.

The mosaic works look likely to take place as part of the Kettering High Street Heritage Action Zone programme, which has received just under £4m in funding over the next four years.

The cash will be used for grants to improve shop fronts, converting and repairing historic buildings and street scene improvements.

Cllr Scott Edwards, Kettering Council's portfolio holder for community and leisure, said: "As part of the Kettering High Street Heritage Action Zone programme, which has secured funding from Historic England and represents a total investment into the town centre of £4m over the next four years, we are thrilled to be working closely with Kettering Civic Society amongst other stakeholders to deliver this project which aims to breathe new life into our town centre by revitalising buildings and helping to regenerate a vibrant place for locals, businesses and visitors.

"A crucial part of the project is focusing on improving the public space along the southern end of the High Street through to Meadow Road and the street scene within the wider town centre. We are keen that the installation of art forms a key component of this.

"The current proposals suggest the potential for restoring and reinstating the Kettering Mosaic as part of these plans.

"This week the project team have launched the Street Scene Improvement Survey (https://thisiskettering.com/hshaz-survey/) which seeks the views of the public. The results of this survey will shape and influence the final design and I would therefore encourage all to get involved.”

To find out more about the Kettering High Street Heritage Action Zone programme click here.