‘We won’t be overcome by vandals’ - Eye to hold town hall celebrations despite attack on four oil paintings

Eye Town Hall was broken into and several paintings were vandalised over the Easter weekend.
Cllr Ri

Eye Town Hall was broken into and several paintings were vandalised over the Easter weekend. Cllr Richard Berry, Cllr Caroline Byles and Mayor Colin Ribchester. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Celebrations will be held at a Suffolk town hall tomorrow in defiance to the vandals who damaged four historic paintings.

Mayor Colin Ribchester beside one of the damaged paintings. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Mayor Colin Ribchester beside one of the damaged paintings. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Eye’s town hall committee had already been preparing for the unofficial opening to update residents on its £170,000 refurbishment project.

Members had given up their time over weekend to tidy, paint and polish the hall in readiness.

But they were saddened to find vandals had broken in between Friday and Monday to tear holes in four of the 19th century oil paintings in the council chambers.

Committee chairman Caroline Byles said she was “devastated”.

Committee member Caroline Byles was shocked by the vandalism. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Committee member Caroline Byles was shocked by the vandalism. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN - Credit: Sonya Duncan


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“It’s not the monetary value,” she added. “It’s because they are part of the heritage of Eye.”

The paintings’ subjects include Samuel Peck, who was Eye’s mayor when the hall was built; Sir Edward Kerrison, who fought in the Battle of Waterloo and helped fund the town hall; and Lord Cornwallis, a former Eye MP.

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Richard Berry, another committee member, said it was upsetting to happen so near to the celebration – particularly as the paintings had only been able to return to the chambers because of the refurbishment work.

“They add a great atmosphere to this grade II listed building,” he added.

Eye Town Hall was broken into and several paintings were vandalised over the Easter weekend. Picture

Eye Town Hall was broken into and several paintings were vandalised over the Easter weekend. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Peter Gould, who was the first to discover the vandalism, said: “These paintings are not only good work in their own right, they are also of significance to the town.”

Mr Gould said the vandals appeared to have torn the canvas with a key and wrenched it to make a hole.

They caused further damage by breaking in and also set off a fire extinguisher, which the committee had to clean up.

Although the vandalism threatened to put a dampener on today’s celebrations, Ms Byles said Eye’s resilient community would not be cowed by criminals.

“This is a terrible thing for someone to do and I hope they are truly ashamed,” she added.

“We’re hoping the community will be out in force to show this vandal that we are not going to be overcome by one senseless act.”

Today’s celebrations will feature the Gislingham Silver Band and a ukulele band together with the regular Wednesday market.

Visitors will be able to see the refurbishments, which have been funded by the National Lottery, Historic England, and councils. The project will resume this summer for final work.

Suffolk police is appealing for witnesses to call 101 quoting reference 17763/18.

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