When Atherstone Civic Society announced that it was going to Save the Pound, local people thought that it had joined the Eurosceptics. It was understandable because no-one had seen Bentley Pound for years. Its crumbling walls had disappeared beneath a dense blanket of brambles. A rectangular stone compound, the pound was used by the parish ‘pinder’ to pen up stray animals until their owners claimed them and paid a fine. A decade ago, when anxiety about the state of this ancient structure was first expressed, there were still villagers in Bentley who had memories of this.
Application for listing
In 1992 the Civic Society applied to have the pound listed, and there followed ten years of indecision about its future until the Merevale Bentley Parish Council suggested that the Civic Society might be the most appropriate organisation to undertake the repair. The Society had carried out a number of projects and had experience in obtaining funding.
At first they considered applying for a Local Heritage Initiative, but having talked to Chris Tomlin of the Countryside Agency, which administers this grant they decided to keep the LHI for a really big project. Instead they applied to Waste Recycling Environmental Limited for funding under the Landfill Tax Credits Scheme. ‘This operates differently to other funding bodies in that WREN pay the contractors direct,’ says Judy Vero, secretary of Atherstone Civic Society. ‘However, all payments were made quickly and efficiently and monitoring was straightforward.’
A source of matching stone was found locally and donated to the project and the Society was also given a bench, one of a number donated by Lady Dugdale to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The Society also erected an information board, so that passing walkers and cyclists could read the pound’s history whilst taking a rest on the bench.
Inevitably we went over budget on the specialist building work, but WREN’s Project Manager for Warwickshire, Angela Alun-Jones, was very helpful and offered us an extension to the grant. However, we managed to re-jig other items in the budget and actually finished with an over-spend of only £3.40, which we met from our own funds.
Involving local people
‘The key to a successful project is to involve local people, so that they have ownership of it,’ says John Charles-Jones, chairman of Atherstone Civic Society, who managed the project. Kate Roberts, an artist who lives opposite the Pound, did a pen and ink drawing which was used as a logo. Society members researched the history of the Pound and published a leaflet to coincide with the celebration, to which all the village was invited. Steve Hawkins, representing WREN said that he was very impressed by the large number of local people who attended.
This has been a very satisfying project, and we are grateful to WREN for making it possible,.