The grand opening of a beautifully carved stone archway “Gateway from India” was observed at Ditchburn Place on Mill Road on Friday, 1 September.
The ceremony was attended by representatives from the Indian High Commission and the Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Cambridge’s Mayor Jenny Gawthrope, MP Daniel Zeichner, Mayor of Harrow Cllr Ramji Chauhan and other key dignitaries.
Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner shared a message from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. He said, “On behalf of all parliamentarians, we would commend everything that’s been done today.”
The representative of the Indian High Commission, Sanjay Kumar, said, “Mill Road with its rich history and diverse community provides the perfect location for installation of the Gateway from India. It will also represent an enduring friendship and partnership that India and the UK share.”
Former Chair of the Cambridge Hindu Association Thak Patel said, “The carvings have a religious past having adorned the Hindu shrine, which sadly is no more, but they stand here today as a gateway from India, a symbol of hope, maybe even reincarnation, that has brought the whole community together regardless of belief.”
The Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire, Professor Roderick Watkins praised the project for bringing the community together. He said, “This grand occasion is dedicated to celebrating the cross-cultural vibrancy of the Mill Road community.”
The stonework was saved by Piero D’Angelico, on behalf of the Mill Road Traders Association. He started the project and saved the stones after persuading Cambridgeshire County Council to sell them to him for £1. Since then it has been the work of an entire community to remove, store and re-erect the carvings in a new archway design for the public to enjoy.
Piero said, “My grandfather was a stonemason and he taught me all about the craft as a child. When I saw the carvings, I knew how special they were and how much work they had taken and I knew I had to save them. So many people in the community around Mill Road have helped out with their skills or advice or with donations to make this happen - it has really brought everyone together.”
Piero further added, “People are proud to have their names around the gateway. There are names from many communities and from businesses. People are even remembering loved ones who were born at the old maternity hospital on the site. Everyone feels part of this project.”
Shapour Meftah, chair of the Mill Road Traders’ Association said, “I want to say a heartfelt thank you to everyone involved in fulfilling this project. It’s been a lot of hard work and many people including traders, councillors, and a lot of members of communities who have contributed their time and hard work in achieving this wonderful community project.”
At the end of the ceremony, Sir Pascuale Marchese, Mayor of Castalluccio Valmaggiore, Italy, which is Piero’s home town, and Cambridge’s deputy mayor Baju Thittala Varkey laid a plaque in memory of Piero’s grandfather and master stonemason Falco Gian Pietro.
The decorative carvings had once adorned a Hindu shrine in the Old Library building on Mill Road, Cambridge. But they had been set for demolition by the county council after it reclaimed the building and it was only the determination of Piero D’Angelico that prevented them being destroyed. The pink stone carvings were originally made by stone masons in Rajasthan (India) and installed in the Bharat Bhavan shrine in 2006 and the shrine was inaugurated in 2010.