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Mystery of the missing coat of arms

Posters appeal for help in finding plaque which vanished from St Pancras Community Centre

23 March, 2017 — By William McLennan

The plaque before it vanished

A HUNT is underway to find a prized coat of arms that went missing from the side of a community centre that once housed the works of acclaimed artists.

“Missing” posters have been plastered on walls and shop windows appealing for information since the metre-high metal plaque disappeared from the St Pancras Community Centre in Camden Street. It was due to be removed and put into safe storage ahead of the demolition of the building earlier this year.

The centre was used as a studio by Peter Laszlo Peri and hosted exhibitions including works by David Hockney. But the plaque, which is the emblem of the Metropolitan Borough of St Pancras and also adorns the front of the Town Hall in Judd Street, disappeared overnight before works went ahead.

It is believed somebody climbed scaffolding and unbolted it from the wall before making off. Sonia Uddin, who has been leading the search for the missing coat of arms, said: “They put scaffolding up and then it went missing. We are thinking it could be a local person who thought, it’s just going to be thrown away. They must have done it at night.”

Ms Uddin is one of a community of artists who still reside in nine live-in studios in Camden Street that were built by St Pancras Council in 1966. But the neighbouring community centre, which was designed as the exhibition space for the artists, has made way for a four-storey block of flats Ms Uddin made daily recordings of the demolition for a future exhibition that was to include the restored coat of arms.

 Ms Uddin, left, with other residents of Camden Studios in Camden Street

“Obviously it doesn’t belong to me, so I saw it as belonging to the community and maybe I could restore it, exhibit it and then figure out what happens to it next,” she said. Mr Laszlo Peri, whose sculptures are part of the Tate Collection, lived, worked and exhibited at the studios in the 1960s.

Mr Hockney was among contemporary artists to have work displayed in two exhibitions in the late 1960s with the Medical Aid Committee for Vietnam. Ms Uddin applied to Historic England to have the community centre listed, but the request was rejected.

She said: “They recognised the importance of the site and the history, the local heritage, but they thought Camden should recognise it locally. But obviously now it’s too late and with Camden being the developer, it’s quite difficult. It was an amazing building and it’s sad the council chose to demolish it, rather than work with it. Watching that building come down, it was in pretty good condition, they really had to work to bring it down. It could have been restored, I think.”

Ms Uddin said that the motto displayed on the coat of arms, “with wisdom and courage”, could be “adopted by passers-by, and even our newly formed TRA (tenants and residents association)”.

Anyone with information is asked to contact camdenstudios1966@

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