GEMS from Bradford's past are being rescued from obscurity and are reappearing in the city centre.

These ornate stone carvings once graced the old Kirkgate Market, a much-missed Victorian structure which stood in the heart of the city for more than 100 years.

Now, after decades in storage, they are on display once more thanks to a team of volunteers working to boost Bradford's heritage.

More than a year ago, local artist and sculptor Marcela Livingston discovered that the stonework was lying in storage, after being saved by Bradford Council when the building was demolished.

So she teamed up with Dave West, director of not-for-profit group Little Germany Action, to find a use for a handful of the carvings and keystones.

Mr West said: "She told me about it, because she knew I was trying to put art into Little Germany. She said, 'Why don't we do something with these bits of stone, if we can get it out?'

"The next thing was, how the hell do we get it out?"

Mr West said the stonework they rescued had been lying outside, exposed to the elements.

He said: "It was all just outside in a great big courtyard, covered in weeds."

The pair persuaded a host of helpers, such as building firms Together Group and Manningham Concrete, to help take eight carvings to the conservation area of Little Germany and put them on display at the former Council building, Merchants' House in Peckover Street.

They were moved to the front of Merchants' House last year, but have now been propped on concrete slabs each side of the main staircase so they can be seen from the road.

The carvings include a cherub, an ornate apple tree and two of the original keystones.

Mr West said the area had needed a good clearing-out first.

He said: "It was full of syringes, contraceptives, it was horrible. I and a couple of friends dug it out."

Next, the team wants to add more stone chippings to hide the concrete slabs, and the work will be complete.

Mr West said he was pleased the magnificent carvings were getting a good showing once more.

He said: "These will have been carved in Bradford from exactly the same stone as all the buildings in this area.

"Little Germany and the Kirkgate Market were both constructed around the same time, in the 1850s, 1860s and so on."

The Telegraph and Argus has been asked not to identify the building where the stone was found, for security reasons, as many tonnes of the stone remain there, stored inside a large building.

Mr West said the weight of the remaining stone meant the floor "might collapse at any minute", but they were in a quandary as to how to move it, as they couldn't safely get any equipment onto the floor.

Mr West said: "There are still hundreds of bits, I presume they're from the same building. Some are fantastic items like these and some are a bit boring, but they all presumably fit together to form the arches that were in the original building."

* The old Kirkgate Market was built in 1872 and was pulled down 101 years later, in 1973.

The ornate Victorian building was demolished as part of a wider development of the four acres of land between Kirkgate, Westgate, Darley Street and Godwin Street in Bradford city centre, where the Kirkgate Centre and Kirkgate Market now stand.

But the loss of the building provoked anger, with traders and locals uniting behind the 'Hands off Kirkgate Market' campaign.

This saw tens of thousands sign a petition calling for the building to be saved, and many more joining eye-catching protests featuring make-up, costumes and fake coffins.

Defending Bradford City Council's plan in 1969, Council leader Alderman JN Horsfall said the old building was showing its age.

He said: "Among other deficiencies it has a worn out roof, bad cellars, stone floors, obsolete heating system, and the plumbing relating to the age in which it was built."

He said the cost of modernising it "would certainly run to many thousands of pounds and and might even approach the price of a new building".

Ald Horsfall said the private firm which would develop the site would pay a "handsome" ground-rent to the authority - in effect, the ratepayer.

He said: "Despite these clear financial advantages, there will, of course, always be those who mourn the passing of Victoriana.

"For our part we are firm in our belief that Bradford's future lies in the 21st, not the 19th century."