A Victorian Marvel


23rd May 2016

Culture in Doncaster – Have Your Say

Doncaster’s Creative & Cultural Strategic Partnership (CCSP) would like to hear from people who live, visit, work, or study in Doncaster, to find out what they think about culture in Doncaster, where they go to find culture both in Doncaster and in other areas, and what they would like to see more of in the borough. Have your say – share what you love and what you’d like to change in this survey, before 19th June 2016. Complete the survey here.

The partnership will use your feedback when developing a Culture programme in the future. If you would like help completing this survey, or you have any questions about the CCSP or the survey please call 01302 734620, or email culture@doncaster.gov.uk.

18th May 2016

You can now be the proud owner of your very own Elephant & Mahout figurine, modelled on the iconic carving which stood in the Sand House’s Cloisters tunnel. For full details please go to our Shop page.

Bronze-effect in box Sand-effect elephant

7th April 2016

The illustrated talk on 5th May takes place as part of the two-week long Doncaster Heritage Festival. The full programme of all events in the Festival can be seen here Doncaster Heritage Festival 2016- Public version.

26th March 2016

Two illustrated talks about the Sand House, which are open to the general public, have been arranged. One takes place on Wednesday 27th April and the other on Thursday 5th May, both in the evening. They are ticketed events and details can be found on our Events page.

19th February 2016

Further to our post in December about a Sand House play, we can announce that development workshops have been taking place this very week at Cast in Doncaster. At the end of this period of development a second stage application will be made to Arts Council England It will seek funding to write, produce and perform the play. We shall let you know what is happening as the project develops.

13th December 2015

Fantastic news just in!

Discussions took place earlier this year with playwright Peter Spafford and Carla Starkey of Fifty6 Ninety6 theatre company concerning the potential for creating a play based on the Sand House. As a result, Carla submitted a grant application to Arts Council England a few weeks ago, seeking funding for the early development phase of the play. We have just found out that the application was successful! We are all very excited, because this project has the potential to introduce the Sand House to a completely new audience.

We shall keep you posted as the project develops

2nd October 2015

Every month this year, one person who has completed our Sand House Experience online survey during the month is selected at random to receive a copy of the definitive book, The Sand House – A Victorian Marvel Revisited, signed by Richard Bell. Since the survey launched in April, we have given away five signed books and a sixth is awaiting a reply from September’s winner. Why don’t you complete the survey too, please, if you haven’t already done so? You could be a winner too.

31 August 2015

A few days ago I acquired a small, oval gate-leg table which, according to quite strong circumstantial evidence, once stood in the Sand House. It was very tempting to think that this table may have been the very same table that appears on a photograph taken inside the Long Room c.1920, during the Hague family’s occupancy. However, after trying unsuccessfully to mock up the newly-acquired table to match the table in the old photograph, I have to conclude that it is not the same one, although there are distinct similarities. Take a look for yourself.

Table in Hagues' Long Room Table 20150831 edited 2 Table 20150831

The first image is part of the c.1920 photograph showing the table in the Long Room. In the centre is a mock-up with the newly-acquired table, aimed at re-creating the same appearance. Finally, you can see what the table looks like in its entirety.

The main problems with trying to match the table are the position of the two legs that are visible at the left-hand end and the fact that the c.1920 table top seems to have a vertical edge, rather than a moulded one.

To help add more circumstantial evidence, does anyone out there know when these small, oak, oval-topped gate-leg tables were made? Its quality is quite poor, with single dowels used for the lower joints. When the leaves are down the table top is 24 inches by 13 inches. When up, it is 24 inches by 34.5 inches. It is 28.5 inches tall.

Any information you can provide would be very helpful, please.

25 July 2015

Thank you to everyone who came along to the Sand House talk at the Friends of Doncaster Museum meeting today. It was great to see such interest in the subject. It was especially rewarding to see some younger people in the audience, too. Please don’t forget to fill in the online survey at this link.

17 July 2015

Earlier this week exploratory discussions took place about creating a drama production relating to the Sand House. With well-known playwright Peter Spafford and theatre company Fifty6Ninety6 keen to be involved and the lovely new theatre in Doncaster, Cast, offering to facilitate, we are very hopeful of being able to bring you more news of this venture later this year.

14 July 2015

Last Tuesday, BBC Radio Sheffield featured our plans for The Sand House Experience on the Toby Foster at Breakfast Show, as part of their ‘Love Where You Live’ series. The 8-minute audio clip can be played by going to this link.

13 July 2015

We have now had three lucky winners of signed copies of the definitive Sand House book, by Richard Bell and Peter Tuffrey. Each month during 2015, the names of everyone who has completed the online Sand House survey that month are put into the hat and a winner is drawn. You could be a winner if you complete the survey. It not only provides very useful information about what The Sand House Experience should include, but it provides vital evidence of support for the project.

1 July 2015

We are delighted to announce the launch of The Sand House Education Pack. Everything that a teacher may need to teach this unique part of Doncaster’s history. Huge thanks are due to Phil Sheppard, local primary school teacher and Sand House project supporter, for preparing this excellent set of resources. To download the education pack please go to this link.

26 May 2015

Our online survey about the proposed Sand House Experience is gaining a lot of interest lately, thanks to some great work by Amanda, one of our team members who has been publicising the survey via Facebook. We are truly grateful to everyone who has completed the survey. Not only does it provide very useful information to influence the design of the proposed visitor attraction, but it also demonstrates support for the project, which is vitally important to potential funders. If you haven’t already filled in the online survey you can do so by clicking here.

6 May 2015P1100684

A few days ago an extraordinary event occurred. Two people whose great-great-grandfathers had created icons from Doncaster’s past paid a joint visit to Doncaster Brewery & Tap. They both sampled beers named after their ancestors’ creations. On the left is Richard Bell, great-great-grandson of the Sand House creator, Henry Senior. On the right is Patrick Stirling, great-great-grandson and namesake of the man who designed the Stirling Single locomotive. The respective beers are Sand House Blonde ale and Stirling Single coffee stout.

30 April 2015

The Sand House Survey is available for you to complete, please. Not only will your answers influence how we take forward The Sand House Experience project, the very submission of your survey will help to demonstrate to potential funders the level of support that we have. Please complete the survey by clicking here.

18 February 2015

A meeting has taken place with the Curriculum Head, Visual Arts & Media, at Doncaster College. This was a follow up to the initial work carried out by student in 2014 to create a 3-dimensional computer model of the Cloisters tunnel. New targets have been agreed, which will see this year’s students carry the project forward and develop additional 3D models. It is intended also to branch out and involve other learners in different aspects of the project.

16 December 2014

In recognition of the collaboration between the Sand House project team and Manna Community CIC, a web page for The Sand House Experience has now been posted on Manna’s website. You can visit it via this link.

7 December 2014

You may not have known that the definitive book about the Sand House, by Richard Bell and Peter Tuffrey, is available as a Kindle edition, from Amazon. You will find it at this link.

19 October 2014

We now have a Facebook page!

13 October 2014

Today we are delighted to be able to announce that we have joined forces with Manna Community CIC to collaborate on The Sand House Experience project.

Manna is an established Community Interest Company with an experienced Board of Directors. Its Directors have been involved in delivering a number of other projects of community benefit over several years. They will use their skills and expertise in company management and their network of professional advisors to support the project team in bringing ‘The Sand House Experience’ to fruition. Manna provides the legal framework under which to move forward.

For some time, Manna has aspired to include a heritage attraction in its plans, and The Sand House Experience fits very well with that aspiration. From the Sand House project team’s viewpoint, Manna provides the legal framework under which to move forward.

This association with Manna is a major boost for the proposed Sand House Experience. Manna brings not only a wealth of expertise, but also an established legal structure. With their help, we are looking forward to delivering a very successful project for Doncaster.

4 October 2014

A very productive progress meeting look place earlier this week, in which the Sand House project team agreed to collaborate with another local organisation to pursue our aims. Details of this collaboration will be posted in the near future.

3 September 2014

This update has been emailed out to our supporters:

We can report continuing good progress on plans to create ‘The Sand House Experience’ in Doncaster.

Groundworks Architects have completed the general arrangement drawing and outline specification for the work that will need to be done on the fabric of the building that it’s hoped will house the attraction. Cost estimates are now in preparation. We hope to be in a position to reveal details of the proposed venue in the not too distant future.

RS Heritage submitted their early thoughts in August on how the venue may be fitted out internally. We were very happy with those initial ideas and, as a result, RS Heritage have provided additional sketches and some outline costings.

In early August, a meeting took place with Arts Council England, at their Dewsbury office. It was ACE who was the principal supporter of the 2012 ‘Sand House – The Elephant in the Room’ project. The meeting went well and gave us some clear direction on which aspects of The Sand House Experience align themselves best with ACE’s funding criteria. Having now established good lines of communication with both Heritage Lottery Fund and ACE, the project funding strategy can be refined once the costs of all the major elements have been estimated.

Probably the most significant development over the past few weeks has been to open up discussions with an established local organisation whose aims and objectives align very closely with ours. That organisation has expressed an interest in acting as the over-arching legal body for progressing The Sand House Experience. Were this arrangement to be implemented, it would relieve us from the need to set up our dedicated charity, with its own Board of Trustees. Having a ‘parent company’ to take the lead in managing the main legal, commercial and financial matters would enable us to focus much more on the core activities of building and running The Sand House Experience. Our project team is due to meet in the near future to decide whether to enter into collaboration with this other local organisation.

We look forward to providing more details of the above developments in future updates.

30 August 2014

Please note that the venue for Richard Bell’s illustrated talk on October 7th to the Barugh Township Local History Group has been changed. Please see the Events page for details.

1 August 2014

The following update was recently emailed out to Sand House supporters.

Good progress continues to be made on a number of fronts in planning The Sand House Experience visitor attraction in Doncaster.

Groundworks Architects have now submitted draft plans for the proposed venue and are about to begin some 3D drawings and prepare costings. We thank them very much for their support in kind for the project’s development.

Groundworks Architects are concentrating on the work needed to the fabric of the building, so this leaves the design of the exhibition / display fit-out for others to develop. As a result of the appeal that was included in June’s update email, a meeting has been held with RS Heritage (part of RS Displays), of Finningley, near Doncaster. Specialist companies with proven experience in museum and visitor attraction design and build are relatively few, so to find one almost on our doorstep was a very pleasant surprise. RS Heritage’s list of successful projects includes extensive work at York’s Castle Museum, as well as Doncaster Museum, many other locations around the UK and overseas. RS Heritage appear to be more than capable of creating the replica of the Sand House’s Cloisters tunnel, which will be the centrepiece of The Sand House Experience. They have agreed to prepare some plans and costings for the venue’s fit-out.

Once the outline plans and costs are available we shall be in a much better position to approach funding bodies with specific proposals. Nevertheless, contact is being maintained with Heritage Lottery Fund, following the meeting with them in May. Also, a meeting has been set up with Arts Council England, in early August, to discuss how they may contribute. This is seen as a vital step, especially as ACE were the major supporter of the very successful ‘Sand House – The Elephant in the Room’ project in 2012. Other funding sources are being explored following attendance at a recent ‘Meet The Funders’ event, organised by Doncaster CVS in the Mansion House.

The first draft of the Constitution for the proposed legal entity (a Charitable Incorporated Organisation) is nearing completion. Also, the Business Plan is in preparation, although the costings referred to above are needed before that can be finalised.

Doncaster College students in the School of Creative Industries continue to work on the 3D computer model of the Cloisters tunnel, and to model how its replica will fit into the proposed venue. It is expected to complete this work early in the next academic year and then move on to modelling the original Sand House itself. Nevertheless, the work that they have already done has proved beneficial when talking with stakeholders.

Over recent weeks visits have been made to seven local primary schools to tell pupils about the Sand House. A secondary outcome from these visits, over and above educating the children, is that they have provided  / are providing letters of support for The Sand House Experience.

So, in summary, many positive steps have been taken in the few weeks since the previous update was sent out. All the indications remain extremely positive for The Sand House Experience.

21 June 2014

Over the past few weeks Richard Bell has visited seven primary schools in Doncaster to spread the word about the Sand House. Pupils from Yr3 to Yr6 have been fascinated to discover such a wonder ‘on their doorstep’. They have also been keen to lend their support to the proposed Sand House Experience.

With post-1066 local history forming part of the National Curriculum for Key Stage 2 pupils from September 2014, the Sand House is set to become a popular subject for Doncaster area schools.

4 June 2014

The following update was recently emailed out to Sand House supporters.

Much has happened in the two months since the previous update and we remain confident that the new project (now being referred to as ‘The Sand House Experience) can be delivered.

Productive meetings have taken place with Doncaster Council’s Conservation and Planning Officers and with the head of Museums. Crucially, we have also met with Heritage Lottery Fund representatives at their Leeds office. At this latter meeting we were able to clarify which parts of the proposed project satisfy HLF’s funding criteria, so that we shall be able to focus on those parts when making a funding application. On a similar theme, contact has been re-established with Arts Council England (who supported the 2012 ‘Elephant in the Room’ project) and a meeting with them is expected in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, Groundworks Architects, of Nottingham, have very kindly been undertaking some early scheme development work in relation to the venue that we are hoping to use. Their outputs are expected shortly.

A replica of the Cloisters tunnel remains a core part of the project. Two companies which provide artificial climbing walls and caving systems have been approached for expressions of interest and assistance. We also intend to approach other companies who have experience in designing and building visitor attractions, to find the most appropriate way of recreating the Cloisters. If anyone has any suggestions or knows of any companies who may be able to help, please contact me.

Doncaster College is becoming increasingly involved in the new Sand House project, including the personal involvement of the Assistant Principal. Students in the School of Creative Industries are making good progress with creating a 3D computer model of the Cloisters tunnel and showing how it fits into the proposed venue. The involvement of the college is expected to be very attractive to funders, as will be the 3D model they are producing, when trying to visualise the completed venue. Three of the students came along to the recent Local History Fair to demonstrate their work, creating a great deal of interest among the Fair’s visitors (see attached image).

Local schools will be a key target audience for the completed project. Therefore, I have begun a series of visits to primary schools, talking to Key Stage 2 pupils about the Sand House and nurturing their interest in what we are doing.

We have accepted a very kind offer from Finn Varney, of Aberration Films, to film a promotional video for the project, free of charge. Work on the film began at the Local History Fair. We also thank Finn for re-editing the documentary film produced in 2012, to make it fit for use for years to come.

The main priorities for the next few weeks are to prepare the Constitution for the Charitable Incorporated Organisation (which will run the project in the long term) and to draft the Business Plan. We are also intending to gather more support through an online questionnaire.

If you would like to keep fully up-to-date with developments please visit both the News and ‘Sand House Experience’ pages). You can also follow me on Twitter @sandhouseman.

23 May 2014

Last Saturday’s Local History Fair was very successful for the Sand House project team. Our stand certainly caught visitors’ attention, with its hi-tech gadgetry! Three of the Doncaster College students (Matthew, Nathan & Simon) who are working on the 3D modelling of the Sand House tunnels came along to demonstrate their work. Also, Amanda & Rachel were sounding out people’s views about the proposed permanent visitor attraction, while Finn (of Aberration Films) was filming it all going on. A very good day.

P1080137  WP_20140517_001

4 May 2014

An excellent and potentially very fruitful partnership has been formed with the School of Creative Industries at Doncaster College. Several students who are studying Creative Media Production (Games Development) are working on a Sand House project. Their work initially involves ‘building’ a 3D computer model (with virtual walk-through facilities) of the Cloisters tunnel, complete with its carvings. This work will not only provide a real-life, local subject for the students to study, but the model will also be a great boon when showing potential funders of the Sand House project what the finished venue will look like. After the initial work, it is intended to build a complete computer model of the entire Sand House and its tunnel network.

19 April 2014

A site visit with Groundworks Architects of Nottingham to the proposed venue for the new Sand House project took place earlier this week. They have very kindly agreed to undertake some preliminary scheme development work to help firm up the costs prior to making detailed approaches to funding bodies.

13 April 2014

There have been very productive meetings over the past few days involving Doncaster Council’s Planning and Conservation Officers, the Manager of Doncaster Museum and the School of Creative Industries at Doncaster College. All the indications remain extremely positive for the new Sand House project, with all parties being very supportive indeed. It is hoped that a planned meeting tomorrow with a firm of architects will prove to be equally useful.

30 March 2014

The following update was recently emailed out to Sand House supporters.

Earlier this month a Project Enquiry Form was submitted to Heritage Lottery Fund as the first step in seeking their support for the new Sand House project. Their reply, received a week ago, gives cause for optimism. Although HLF would not be in a position to fund the project as it is currently presented, they have offered to meet us to discuss the ‘interesting opportunity’ that the Sand House presents. The meeting is scheduled for early May.

In the meantime, a very positive meeting of project supporters, held on 17 March, has endorsed the current project scope. In particular, the meeting unanimously committed to the idea of including a physical replica of the Cloisters tunnel. Our strategy will be to approach a range of funders to fund various parts of the project, aligning elements of the project scope with the funding parameters of each particular organisation. We hope and trust that this will enable us to proceed, much as currently proposed.

A core of people who are prepared to be trustees of the Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) that will lead the project has been identified. Decisions on taking on trustee roles are awaited from a few other people, but I am satisfied that a very viable and competent Board of Trustees can be formed.

In order to have the necessary information available to approach potential funders, it is vital that a Business Plan is created over the coming few weeks. I am about to start working on the BP, a key part of which will involve budget-estimating the cost of the proposed work. If anyone has any experience of estimating building, architectural and building services works, or knows someone who has, their help would be much appreciated (although I should point out that it would be in a voluntary capacity! J).

To promote the new Sand House Project, we shall have a display at the Doncaster & District Heritage Association’s Local History Fair. This takes place on Saturday 17 May 2014, between 11:00 and 16:00hrs at the Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery. It is hoped that some of the Doncaster College students who are working on 3D computer modelling of the Cloisters tunnel will demonstrate their work. Two of our supporters are working on a questionnaire aimed at gathering public opinion about and support for the project.

If you would like to keep fully up to date with developments please visit the Sand House website regularly (both the News and The Sand House Experience pages). You can also follow me on Twitter @sandhouseman.

22 March 2014

A reply has been received this week from Heritage Lottery Fund, in response to the Project Enquiry Form submitted two weeks ago. Although HLF would not be in a position to fund the project as it is currently presented, they have offered to meet us to discuss the ‘interesting opportunity’ that the Sand House presents. The meeting is scheduled for early May.

In the meantime, a very positive meeting of project supporters has endorsed the current project scope and we shall be looking to a range of funders to enable it to proceed.

13 March 2014

A Project Enquiry Form was submitted to Heritage Lottery Fund 8 days ago, as a first step towards seeking funding for The Sand House Experience project. An answer is expected from HLF some time next week. In the meantime, work is progressing with setting up a charity to take the project forward.

6 February 2014

The following update has just been emailed to Sand House supporters:

Good progress has been made over the past month, as we lay the foundations for the exciting project to create a visitor attraction in Doncaster, based upon the unique Sand House.

A very good response has come from inviting expressions of interest from potential trustees of the Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO) that will set up and manage the project. There is a clear eagerness to take The Sand House Experience forward. The potential trustees show a good range of skills and backgrounds that can only benefit the project. If you’ve been thinking about putting yourself forward as a trustee it’s not too late; just get in touch with me, please. In particular, it would be really good to broaden the trustees’ skills base with someone with an accountancy or legal background.

The aims and scope of The Sand House Experience have been further defined recently. A meeting involving several of the key players who brought you ‘Sand House – The Elephant in the Room’ in 2012 took place on the 23rd January. Attendees included Jamie Wardley, sand sculptor and Director of Sandinyoureye, whose subsequent projects have included the amazing ‘Fallen 9000’ on one of the D-Day landing beaches. Jamie remains extremely committed to ‘Sand & Vision’. The meeting was very productive and creative, with some great ideas coming forward.

We are maintaining close contact with representatives of a particular town centre venue, where we are hoping to locate The Sand House Experience. As we have not yet established the legal entity (CIO), nor accessed any funding at this stage, we are not in a position to give a firm commitment to the venue. Therefore, the project is being set up in such a way as to be able to go ahead in any suitable venue, should the current one cease to be available. Nevertheless, in the past week the proposed venue has been measured up and an outline plan for the layout is being prepared.

Another excellent piece of news is that a link has been established with Doncaster College (The Hub). The College’s School of Creative Industries is very keen to help the project. For example, their students’ skills in 3D computer modelling are expected to be invaluable. Their first task is to produce a virtual walk-through of the venue to show how it will look when completed, something that is certain to be of value when approaching potential funders.

Over the coming weeks the parallel activities of setting up the CIO, designing the venue’s layout and opening up discussions with major funders will take place. It’s going to be a busy time, but probably so will the next two years!

If you’d like to keep fully up to date with developments please visit the Sand House website regularly (both the News and The Sand House Experience pages). You can also follow me on Twitter @sandhouseman.

1 February 2014

You can listen to Thursday’s Sand House interview on Sine FM by clicking on this link. The interview begins about three-quarters of the way through the one hour programme, Right On Our Radio.

30 January 2014

I enjoyed talking to Jon at Sine FM today about the Sand House and especially about The Sand House Experience project. A link will be posted once the show’s podcast is available.

25 January 2014

An exciting week draws to a close. The Sand House Experience project is moving ahead quickly. We have had an excellent response to the invitation to people who are interested in becoming trustees of the charity that will run the project. This was boosted by articles in both the Doncaster Star and Doncaster Free Press a week ago.

On Thursday we held a meeting with several key parties to begin firming up the aims and scope of The Sand House Experience. With advice from DMBC officers and great creative input from Jamie Wardley (Sandinyoureye) and Finn Varney (Aberration Films) we made real progress. All participants had played key roles in the 2012 Elephant in the Room project, so have a deep understanding of the subject.

Yesterday included a very productive meeting with representatives of Doncaster College, talking about the use of 3D imagery not only to enhance the finished venue, but to help in promoting the project to potential funders.

We’ve come a long way in 2014 already. Please keep visiting this website to watch the progress.

19 January 2014

There’s been a very positive response to the invitation for expressions of interest in being a Trustee of the charity that will set up and run The Sand House Experience sand sculpture heritage and arts venue. We already have a core of potential Trustees, but would like to strengthen the group even more. Please contact us if you are interested, especially if you have a background in fund-raising, teaching,  accountancy or law. But if you’re merely passionate about helping to make this project happen, we’d still like to hear from you. In due course, other voluntary roles will need to be filled, too.

10 January 2014

Exciting news about a new Sand House project can be found on a new page that has been added to this site. Please click here to find out about The Sand House Experience and how you can help to make it happen.

11 November 2013

We are pleased to report that, further to the News item posted on 21 October 2013, the images discovered at Cusworth Hall Museum have now been added to the Gallery. Please take a look and, if you have any comments, we’d be delighted to hear from you.

21 October 2013

Fantastic news! The glass plate images of the Sand House that have been found at Cusworth Hall Museum represent the single most important Sand House find in 30 years. There are over a dozen images and most of them contain subject matter that cannot be seen on any other photographs of the site that are known to exist. They were taken by Mr Horace Franklin in the late 1930s (probably 1936). This was the time after the Sand House had been vacated by Doncaster Corporation, but before it was demolished and in-filled. Permission has been obtained to display these newly-found images on this website, so they should be available to view in the next 2 or 3 weeks.

7 October 2013

Some glass negatives, apparently taken at the Sand House, have been located at Cusworth Hall Museum, Doncaster. Richard Bell is making arrangements to view them and hoping that they show something different from the other known photographs of the Sand House.

15 September 2013

In the past couple of weeks I have had meetings with Doncaster CVS and with a solicitor with specialist knowledge about setting up Charitable Incorporated Organisations. A CIO  seems the most appropriate vehicle under which to progress the new Sand House Project.

23 August 2013

The proposal to create a permanent visitor attraction, along similar lines to last year’s ‘The Elephant in the Room’ exhibition is still very much alive. I had two very positive meetings on the subject yesterday and we have a plan of action to make this project happen. Watch this space!

16 August 2013

The sand artist who created the Elephant and Mahout for last year’s Sand House exhibition, Jamie Wardley, is involved in a fantastic project at the moment. He and a team of 200 volunteers will be making silhouettes of the 9000 civilian and military personnel who died on the first day of the D-Day landings at Arromanches. The project takes place on 21st September 2013, Peace Day.  It is attracting a great deal of interest, with the BBC ‘One Show’ and ‘Coast’ programmes being among those due to cover it. You can find out much more and arrange to take part by visiting The Fallen 9000.

4 July 2013

You may notice that format of the Contact Us page has been changed. Due to a technical problem, messages sent via the previous contact form were not getting through to me. This meant, of course, that enquiries were not being answered, so I do apologise for this. I am in the process of following up with replies to all the questions that were submitted and not previously answered. The new format, with its linked email address and telephone number, should ensure that everyone who tries to contact me should now be able to do so. I’m really sorry for any inconvenience that the non-working contact form caused. Richard Bell

24 May 2013

Last evening I gave an illustrated talk about the Sand House to the Sprotbrough Ladies’ Circle. I should like to thank them for their hospitality and attention, as well as for their donations to The Stroke Association.

If you are looking for a speaker for a group in the Doncaster area and would like to know more about the Sand House, please contact us.

10 May 2013

Yesterday evening I gave a Sand House talk as part of the first ‘Turn the Page for the Doncaster Literary Festival‘. It was not the usual talk, as this time it focused on how I became interested in the subject and how the two books came about. The unusual venue was a packed Cask Corner Bar in Doncaster, partly so that the audience members could be offered a drink of Doncaster Brewery’s Sand House Blonde Ale.

The event seemed to be well received; I certainly enjoyed giving the talk.


3 May 2013

Yesterday I visited the Williamson Tunnels Heritage Centre in Liverpool, along with Colin Joy and Richard Young from Doncaster Council’s Tourism team. The purpose was to gain an insight into setting up and running a visitor attraction relating to something with clear similarities to the Sand House. I’d like to thank Dave Bridson and Sian Roberts for their hospitality and their advice, which will doubtless help in the proposed project for a Sand House attraction in Doncaster.

Visit to Williamson Tunnels 2 May 2013

Visit to Williamson Tunnels 2 May 2013

28 April 2013

Stephan Richeux has been in contact. A former journalist with Doncaster Free Press and Doncaster Star, he now lives and works in Nottingham. But the key piece of information is that Stephan has written a self-published book entitled “The Sandhouse”. It is a sci-fi novel, using the real Sand House as a key location in the story. I have yet to read it, but if you’d like to find out more information you can do so by clicking this link.

18 April 2013

The ladies of Finningley Women’s Institute were very attentive at last night’s Sand House talk. I thank them for their generous donation to the Stroke Association.

16 April 2013

Preliminary plans are in hand to try to establish a permanent visitor attraction in Doncaster dedicated to the Sand House. It is intended to incorporate a replica of ‘The Cloisters’ tunnel, with its remarkable carvings, as part of an exhibition about the Sand House. There will also be a permanent sand sculpture workshop, where people young and old can learn how to create art works of their own from sand. A potential venue for the visitor attraction has been viewed and work is in hand to generate interest from organisations who can support such a project.

12 February 2013

Two recent illustrated talks about the Sand House have been well-received. The Selby Antiques Society provided an attentive audience of almost 50 people last Thursday evening and yesterday afternoon it was return visit to Doncaster Central Library. The latter talk was part of the Doncaster Local Heritage Festival, which runs until Friday 22 February.

15 December 2012

Today Jamie Wardley, the sculptor responsible for the Elephant and Mahout carving at ‘The Elephant in the Room’ exhibition, showcased his ice carving skills. His ice trail at Bradford’s City Park told the story of a Little White Fox searching for Santa. The Little White Fox has to take a letter from Mrs Claus to Santa and along the way he meets many animals, as you’ll see below.

01 Little White Fox02 Mrs Claus03 Polar Bear04 Reindeer05 Snow Leopard06 Arctic Hare07 Snowy Owl08 Wolf09 White Whale10 Santa's Sleigh11 Fox delivers the letter to Santa

1 December 2012

A date, time and venue have been set for a Sand House illustrated talk during the Local Heritage Festival in February 2013. Please see the Events page for details.

24 November 2012

Many of the illustrated talks about the Sand House that Richard Bell presents are for private groups. However, there will be at least two opportunities in 2013 for anyone who wishes to attend one of the talks to do so. On the afternoon of Monday 11 February there will be a Sand House talk at Doncaster Central Library, as part of the Local Heritage Festival. On Thursday 9 May there will be an evening talk at Cask Corner, on Cleveland Street, Doncaster. That particular talk is part of ‘Turn the Page – for the Doncaster Literary Festival’. Please see the Events page for further details.

2 November 2012

Henry Senior, creator of the Sand House, was one of Doncaster’s notable people featured in a Halloween Walk around Hyde Park Cemetery, Doncaster. Seven characters from Doncaster’s past were portrayed by local actors, telling their stories to the large crowd of visitors. It’s estimated that about 200 people attended.  You may like to find out more my visiting the website of the Friends of Hyde Park Cemetery.

15 October 2012

Gave my Sand House illustrated talk to the ‘Tuesday Group’ at Finningley today. They had kindly moved their meeting to Monday this time to accommodate my availability. They were both attentive and generous with their donations to The Stroke Association. If you are a member of a group in the Doncaster area and would like to hear the talk, please Contact us.

2 September 2012

Very best wishes to Ian and Alison Blaylock on the launch of their new Doncaster Brewery.  Here’s to the success of the venture and thank you for recognising the Sand House in naming their blonde ale. Cheers!


29 August 2012

The public launch of the Sand House Blonde Ale takes place on Friday 7 September in the (Little) Plough from 2pm and in Cask Corner from 4pm. Please drink responsibly.

26 August 2012

Two important additions have been made to this website.

Firstly, a short video has been added to The Elephant in the Room page, showing the sand sculptures being dismantled.

Secondly, a Gallery of Exhibition page has been created (as a sub-page of The Elephant in the Room). This gallery displays photographs taken during the exhibition. If you wish to obtain a high resolution digital copy of any of the photographs details of how to do so are included on the sub-page.

25 August 2012

Further to the News item on 26 July, Doncaster Brewery, the new real ale micro-brewery that is about to open in Doncaster, will be including Sand House Blonde in their range of beers. We wish Ian and Alison Blaylock great success in their new venture. We also look forward to tasting the Sand House Blonde ale!

26 July 2012

Exciting news about a proposed link to the Sand House that will help to keep the subject alive and, indeed, bring it to a new audience!  Keep watching for details.

19 July 2012

Most of the volunteers who carried out room steward duties at The Point for ‘The Elephant in the Room’ met up last evening for a meal to celebrate the success of the project. It was a very enjoyable gathering, spent at the Bar & Bistro, East Laith Gate, Doncaster.

10 July 2012

Richard Bell presents illustrated talks about the Sand House, in the Doncaster area. There are usually a few each year but, as it happened, two had been booked for yesterday.  39 members of the Doncaster Retired Teachers’ Association attended an afternoon event and 13 members of the recently formed Kirk Sandall Women’s Institute came along to their evening meeting. Both groups were very attentive and also generous in their donations to The Stroke Association, Richard’s supported charity. If you are looking for a speaker in the Doncaster area, please Contact us.

5 July 2012

We can now reveal that the total number of visitors to ‘Sand House – The Elephant in the Room’ exhibition, from 23 April to 29 June 2012 was 4459. There were 49 days on which the exhibition was open during this period, totalling 390 hours. The number of visitors averages out at one person every 5 minutes.

4 July 2012

Just over one week ago the area around The Point thronged with people who had gathered to see the Olympic Torch Relay pass by. Many of them were encouraged to go inside The Point to see ‘The Elephant in the Room‘ exhibition. As a result, during the 3-hour period between 10am and 1pm, an amazing 317 visitors entered the Gallery, nearly 10 times more than the average for such a period.

1 July 2012

Although we always knew that the ‘Elephant and Mahout’ was a temporary sculpture, it was still a bitter-sweet experience to demolish it today. It had become an old friend and seemed to have been there for more than the two months that it actually stood. The sand is to be recycled, so will not go to waste.


30 June 2012

After closing the exhibition doors for the final time yesterday, the process of taking down the exhibits began today.  All the small sculptures have now been ‘recycled’ back into the bags of sand. The ‘Elephant and Mahout’ will go a similar way tomorrow, so the opportunity to be photographed on the elephant’s back was too good to miss.

23 June 2012

It’s interesting to note how the ‘Elephant and Mahout’ is gradually going back to nature. Over the course of the past few days spots of green lichen have begun to appear on the left-hand side of the sand sculpture, where it faces the windows. The sculpture is beginning to seem quite aged.

20 June 2012

Watch the Olympic Torch Relay pass right in front of The Point next Tuesday 26 June, at just after 11am. Then why not go inside and have a look (or another look) at ‘Sand House – The Elephant in the Room.’ The photograph below was taken at a sneak preview of the torch in York yesterday.

6 June 2012

Tickets are going well for tomorrow evening’s illustrated talk on ‘The Sand House – A Victorian Marvel’, but there are still places left. Visit the Events page for details. The Cafe at The Point will be open both before and after the talk (which will run from 7pm to about 8pm).

2 June 2012

Some really interesting information came forward at the Oral History Day on Thursday. We had a great chat with a lady who clearly remembered visiting the Sand House c.1936 and who also happened to be the last landlady of the nearby Alma Inn. Then there was the gent who had a set of photographs taken on the day that the final infilling of the tunnels began, in 1984. Fascinating stuff!

30 May 2012

There is now a trail of ‘Elephant in the Room’ logos through Doncaster town centre to The Point! With kind permission from Roy Dean, Town Centre Manager, Sprayaway Surface Restoration Specialists have early this morning jet-washed about one hundred (or more) elephants on to the footways! You will find them in St Sepulchre Gate, French Gate and Baxter Gate, then right up High Street and Hall Gate to The Point on South Parade. It’s a great way to publicise the exhibition, without any long-term consequences. The logos will degrade naturally as the surface becomes dirty, but they should remain until the exhibition closes on 29 June.

26 May 2012

Today was the final day of stonecarving demonstrations at Doncaster Minster. Andrew Bramley and John Swift of the West Riding Stonecarving Association showed interested visitors some of their fine skills and allowed those who were interested to have a go for themselves. The photographs show (left) Andrew working on a reproduction of a design from a headstone and (right) showing two interested onlookers how it’s done!


25 May 2012

The new Civic Mayor of Doncaster, Councillor Christine Mills, will be visiting ‘The Elephant in the Room’ at The Point on Wednesday 30 May. We had a visit from her predecessor, Councillor Eva Hughes, earlier this month, so are delighted to host our second mayoral visit in barely 3 weeks.

20 May 2012

For those who missed the live broadcast by BBC Look North on the evening of 1 May, you can view it by clicking on this link.

19 May 2012

We are grateful to Shaun Flannery Photography for a great set of photographs of the official opening of ‘Sand House – The Elephant in the Room’ at The Point, on 1 May. Here is a small selection.





14 May 2012

Last Saturday saw our 1000th visitor to ‘Sand House – The Elephant in the Room’ Exhibition, outstripping our estimates for visitor numbers. Some great comments being made in the Visitors’ Book, too.  And don’t forget that the stone-carving demonstrations take place at Doncaster Minster next week (Thursday 24, Friday 25 and Saturday 26).

10 May 2012

Today was the first of two days of sand sculpture workshops for schools.  The children loved them and so did the teachers!  Don’t miss out. Book your tickets for the Family Workshops on Saturday 12 May and you too can have just as much fun, learning from the people who brought you the Elephant and Mahout. Tickets available from the Tourist Information Centre, 38-40 High Street, Doncaster, DN1 1DE.

5 May 2012

Over the first three days of the ‘Elephant in the Room’ Exhibition we had over 400 visitors!  Judging by the comments in the Visitors’ Book it seems to have been very well received. If you haven’t yet visited, please come along and see the Exhibition for yourself.  If you’ve already been, please come back after the full documentary film is available, in a few days’ time, and tell your friends and family to come too!

3 May 2012

Initial visitor figures for the exhibition are very encouraging indeed. The ladies at the Café at The Point had to work even harder than usual yesterday! Lots of positive comments being made and many memories being prompted.  For those with youngsters, have you thought about taking part in the Family Workshops on Saturday 12th May?

2 May 2012

The Elephant in the Room exhibition was officially opened by the Earl of Scarbrough yesterday evening, in front of invited guests. The exhibition was very well received, with some very positive comments being made. We were also delighted to host Tom Ingall, of the BBC, who broadcast live interviews from The Point into both the lunchtime and evening editions of Look North. Great publicity!

28 April 2012

The five small sand sculpture exhibits that are inspired by the Sand House have been started by the training course students. The results are going to be entertaining and thought-provoking.  In the meantime, the Elephant and Mahout is nearing completion.

27 April 2012

The trainees on the Sand Sculpture Course have begun thinking about their exhibition pieces.  There have been some very interesting ideas discussed this afternoon. The bottom section of formwork has been removed from the Elephant and Mahout.

26 April 2012

A faithful re-creation of the 100-year-old photograph of the Elephant and Mahout means that the damage to the carving that had already occurred by that date is reproduced in Jamie Wardley’s version.

25 April 2012

More progress with the ‘Elephant and Mahout’ today and the training course for artists wanting to learn sand sculpture skills started, too!

24 April 2012

Removing another level of formwork

Carving downwards

23 April 2012

Front view of intial carving, before detailing

22 April 2012

Carving started

21 April 2012

Topping off the structure

Filling the formwork

20 April 2012

Base sand and lower formwork in place

19 April 2012

45 tonnes of sand arriving