Hereford's biggest benefactor needs a better deal

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OVER a century on from his heyday, Rev John Venn may yet have a part to play in the future for a Hereford he did so much for.

The name of arguably the city's biggest benefactor came back to the fore through the campaign to save the its former working boys home - now Herefordshire Council's Bath Street offices and soon to be the new city fire station if the council gets its way.

Founded in 1875, the boys home was strongly backed by John Venn, campaigners say its a site that could salute his legacy.

This week, though, the John Venn recognition effort celebrates a small scale victory.  A board on the arch that takes his name to tell his story.

Venn's Arch, off Commercial Rd, leads to St. Peter's graveyard where John Venn - former vicar of St Peter's - is buried alongside his sister Emilia, another charity champion for the city.

With its urgent need for restoration, the archway is an ongoing heritage campaign in its own right.

The board goes some way to saying why that work needs to be done.

Hereford's outgoing mayor, Cllr Phil Edwards, says he was "astounded" at how little the city knew about one of its greatest social reformers.

It took mayoral charity work to bring Cllr Edwards up to speed on John Venn.

Along the way he shared what he learned with schools, community groups and individuals alike as well as raising money for the restoration of the arch through one of  his mayoral charities, the Hereford Society for Aiding the Industrious (HSAI) set up by - John Venn.

Cllr Edwards hopes the board can help keep the recognition effort going.

"The aim is to continue the education of passers by about John Venn and the  HSAI by the installation of an Information Board at the Commercial Road site," he said.

Sited just inside the Arch, the board is a Hereford City Council (HCC) initiative.

HCC is keen to promote the path through the graveyard as a link between "old" and "new" Hereford - new being the Old Market development.

The restoration of the Grade 2 listed arch, however, is a costly concept, but Cllr Edwards has pledged his continued support with help towards fund raising and grant bids.

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