A South Yorkshire town has seen a grade two listed monument restored to its original glory after it was seized from an on-the-run drug dealer.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said it found the five metre high gothic Glassby Arch when it seized a house belonging to Maurice Turrall, who is evading British investigators and believed to be in Spain.
The arch was created in 1860 by Queen Victoria’s sculptor Robert Glassby, who went on to work on the Albert Memorial in London.
It was discovered in Turrall’s garden in Mexborough in 2013 when the NCA seized his house as part of a Civil Recovery Order.
The NCA said Glassby built the arch for a local businessman, John Reed, and it remained in his garden for more than a century until the house found its way in the path of a new ring road.
A local councillor bought the arch and it was taken piece by piece to the house on Church Street which would eventually become Turrall’s.
“The arch has had a dramatic history and that carried on even after we seized it as part of our civil recovery investigation.”Andy Lewis, National Crime Agency
An NCA spokesman said the wanted man tried to sell it on eBay, with a starting price of £1,100, but Doncaster Council granted a preservation order the same month.
Last year two men tried to dismantle the arch but police tracked them down and the missing pieces were returned. The men were each given a police caution.
The arch was gifted to the people of Mexborough by the NCA and its restoration was secured by the Mexborough Charitable Trust.
It has now been carefully pieced together by local stonework specialists GL Beale Contractors Ltd at its new home - the site where Robert Glassby was born in 1835.
Andy Lewis from the NCA said: “The arch has had a dramatic history and that carried on even after we seized it as part of our civil recovery investigation.
“While we were in the process of sorting out where it would be moved to, someone Turrall owed money to tried to steal it and hold it for ransom.
“Turrall lost his personal wealth because we were able to prove that his property was linked to criminal activity. The NCA will use all its powers to pursue the assets of criminals, but we are usually talking about cars, houses, jewellery and bank accounts.
“We don’t often take possession of something which is so clearly meaningful to a community and we are really glad to have had the opportunity to help return it where it belongs.”
Giles Brearley, trustee of the Mexborough Charitable Trust, said: “The future of the arch had to be secured and the prospect of saving the monument for future generations to enjoy and siting it at Robert Glassby’s birthplace seemed to be a double achievement. It has been a long hard task to effect but it was worth the effort.”
Robert Glassby, who was born in Mexborough, first trained as a shoemaker but by the age of 15 was apprenticed to a Joseph Barlow, a quarry owner.
In 1857 he started studying drawing and modelling at Sheffield School of Art. Among his works was a statue of German Emperor Frederick III, originally sited in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.
At the time of his death, Glassby was working on a marble bust of the late Grand Duke of Hesse, commissioned by Queen Victoria for the Royal Mausoleum in Berkshire and a bust of philosopher Thomas Carlyle.