Council’s botched attempt to airbrush Riesco from web history

Riesco 2Croydon Council breaks its own policy and goes against its own legal advice next week when part of the publicly owned Riesco Collection of precious Chinese porcelain, which was given to the borough by Raymond Riesco half a century ago, is flogged off in a pawn shop auction in Hong Kong.

And just like the Conservative party nationally, which has been trying to erase their broken election pledges from the interweb, Tory-run Croydon Council has been trying to airbrush history on their own website, to eradicate embarrassing references to the Riesco Collection.

And as you might expect of Croydon Council, they can’t even do that properly.The council website has various pages about the borough’s parks and properties, including one for Heathfield House, the former home of the Riesco family. The page has for some time detailed the history and attributes of Heathfield, its gardens and the neighbouring farmland, how it once had stables where Derby-winning horses were trained, and how the house was sold by Raymond Riesco to Croydon Council in the 1950s.

Until very recently, the Croydon Council web page explained – accurately – how millionaire Riesco’s world-famous collection of Chinese porcelain had come to be given to the corporation.

The council’s website specifically referred to Riesco making a “gift” of his collection, something which is supported in deeds from the time, and is an important legal point for Croydon Council in 2013. The legal status of the collection has been a little awkward for the council, and therefore they have been trying to mislead people about it. Auction house Christie’s slick sales video buys in to this deceit, referring to the council “acquiring” the collection, insinuating that it was in some way “bought”, so that now it is the council’s to “sell”.

Now you see it... How Croydon Council's own website used to describe, quite accurately, how the Riesco Collection was gifted to Croydon "on the condition that they were not split up"

Now you see it… How Croydon Council’s own website used to describe, quite accurately, how the Riesco Collection was gifted to Croydon “on the condition that they were not split up”

The council website said: “In 1958, Riesco made another agreement with the Corporation under which he would make a gift of his collection of Oriental China, complete with 15 showcases and a collection of etchings – mezzotints and watercolours, to the Corporation on the condition that they were not split up.”

Notice that? “On the condition that they were not split up”.

The website also noted: “Due to lack of security at Heathfield the Riesco collection was moved to Fairfield Halls in Croydon. The collection is now housed in its own gallery in Croydon Clocktower.”

But as if by magic, just recently, the council’s Heathfield web page has undergone a change.

Now you don't... the updated Croydon Council Heathfield page, with the embarrassing truth about the Riesco Collection (almost) all removed

Now you don’t… the updated Croydon Council Heathfield page, with the embarrassing truth about the Riesco Collection (almost) all removed

The paragraph explaining how the Riesco Collection had been gifted to the council, under strict legal conditions, has suddenly vanished. As if it had never happened. They wish.

Unfortunately, the twerp who was dispatched to try to erase this piece of history, in Orwellian Ministry of Truth style, did not manage to work through the whole article, so that the sentence about the move of the Riesco Collection from Heathfield, first to the Fairfield Halls and thence to the Clocktower remains, hanging there somewhat limply, without any explanation of what this collection is. Or was.

Which sort of sums up the leadership of the Tory-run council very well: they are liars, but incompetent even at that.

  • HT for spotting this – and importantly having the archived web page – to Anthony Miller

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4 Responses to Council’s botched attempt to airbrush Riesco from web history

  1. davidcallam says:

    The people of Croydon are not bothered. Or so it would seem, judging by their disinclination to fund a judicial review.

    And the Labour opposition on Croydon Council has been muted in its response. So Mike Fisher and his Philistines have carte blanche.

    • You base your assumption on a false premise, David.

      The people of Croydon are bothered about the unauthorised and unlawful sale of the Riesco Collection, to the extent that they raised more than £15,000 in a matter of a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, the campaign group was ill-served by lawyers and the legal system, with a scale of costs presented for immediate payment which was impossible to meet when set against the limitless resources – through using Croydon residents’ money – arrayed against them by Croydon Council.

      What was very interesting was the utter silence when it came to presenting a serious challenge to the council’s conduct from Sarah Jones, who had used the Riesco Collection as a keystone of her campaign to win selection as Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Croydon Central.

  2. davidcallam says:

    The people of Croydon have a chance to show their displeasure, free of charge, at the forthcoming local authority elections next May.

    I hope they do, but I fear they will not.

  3. Pingback: Croydon Borough Council’s Riesco Collection: selling cultural heritage to offset austerity | (un)free archaeology

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