Blackpool's heritage assets to be revalued after Buffalo Bill statue theft

Blackpool Council is to revalue its heritage assets including its art collections with a senior officer admitting there were ‘lessons to be learned’ from the recent loss of a historic statue.

The Gaucho statue
The Gaucho statue

There was dismay when it emerged last October the town’s Buffalo Bill statue, which had been displayed in Central Library until being placed in storage, had been stolen.

The sculpture – officially called The Gaucho and depicting a cowboy and his bucking bronco – had been taken from a council storage unit two years previously.

At the time the theft was kept secret by the council who feared the bronze statue could be damaged or melted down. It was also confirmed the artwork, which had been valued at £15,000, was not insured.

Coun Martin Mitchell told a meeting of the Audit Committee, a valuation of heritage assets was vital especially in light of the fact “recently a valuable statue went missing.”

Steve Thompson, director of resources at the council, said in future there would be an annual inventory of all heritage assets, and added: “I think there are lessons to be learned from that particular episode.”

The Audit Committee has recommended an external valuer with appropriate qualifications is used to carry out the valuations, although a full valuation could take up to four years to complete.

It is thought the Buffalo Bill statue was either commissioned for the Great Exhibition held at Crystal Palace in 1851 as part of the American display, or for the World Fair in New York where it was also on display.

Music hall entertainer Perci Honri donated it to Blackpool Council in memory of his father-in-law Alderman William Broadhead, who was a director of the Tower Company.

After hearing of the theft, Percy’s great grandson Paul Honri who lives in Gloucestershire said “councils should be taking more care of what they have”.

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