25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester: my most famous ‘engagement & empowerment’ project…and why I’ve waited 24 years to publish this story.

Many people will remember this picture, and the amateur metalwork of the ’25 Cromwell Street’ house sign. Sadly, many will remember the mugshots of ‘The Wests’ but, out of respect to the victims’ families, I won’t show those. But most people don’t know what happened next…until now…
A humble piece of amateur metalwork became world famous, for all the wrong reasons.
So much trauma for the victims’ relatives, and the local community. When we met with the community, many said they’d never spoken to anyone about it before our meeting. They had the ‘media pack’ constantly knocking on their doors and asking to film or photo from their upper windows, so had stopped answering the door.
A recreated but true-to-life image of what I saw on my first visit to Cromwell Street. The ‘House of Horrors’ on the left. A church next door!
An early decision was to demolish the house itself (and 23 next door) so we could engage with the community around a site, not a (stained) building.
Important to engage around a site rather than a building as it opens up more options and doesn’t close down the thinking, which is inevitably restricted by an existing structure.
It was important to local residents and the victims’ relatives that the new design for the pathway where 25 (and 23) Cromwell Street had been looked like it had always been there.
Almost there…
Emotionally and psychologically, it was important for the ‘healing’ process to design for ‘movement’ not encouraging stopping, looking, or thinking about the dark chapter in the area’s past.
The street name remains. The local community said they wanted to ‘reclaim’ their history and not hide from what had happened for one short, awful moment in that history.

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