Dame Judi Dench joins legal bid to protect 500-year-old Mulberry tree


Dame Judi Dench has joined the legal bid to save ‘the East End’s oldest tree’ after a council granted permission for it to be moved.

The 500-year-old Mulberry tree – which is thought to have been planted during the reign of Henry VIII – sits on the grounds of the now-closed London Chest Hospital in Bethnal Green.

It survived the Great Fire of London in 1666 and attacks by German bombers during the Blitz in the Second World War.

But now, the tree could die if plans to move it go ahead, campaigners say – with the London site earmarked for the development of 291 luxury flats.

Dame Judi said the plans to build flats on the site of the tree ‘fills me with horror’.

Tower Hamlets Council gave permission for the 291-flat development on the site last October – despite it being inside the Victoria Park Conservation Area and a Tree Protection Order being placed on it since 1973. 

Dame Judi Dench  has joined the legal bid to save 'the East End's oldest tree' (pictured) after a council granted permission for it to be moved

Dame Judi said the plans to build flats on the site of the tree 'fills me with horror'

Dame Judi Dench (right) has joined the legal bid to save ‘the East End’s oldest tree’ (left) after a council granted permission for it to be moved

Edmund Bonner - who was Bishop of London during the reign of Henry VIII in the late 15th and early 16th century - is said to have planted the famous black Mulberry tree in his gardens next to what is now Victoria Park in east London. Pictures show the bishop flogging a sweating heretic with the tree supposedly in the background (pictured)

Edmund Bonner – who was Bishop of London during the reign of Henry VIII in the late 15th and early 16th century – is said to have planted the famous black Mulberry tree in his gardens next to what is now Victoria Park in east London. Pictures show the bishop flogging a sweating heretic with the tree supposedly in the background (pictured) 

Edmund Bonner – who was Bishop of London during the reign of Henry VIII in the late 15th and early 16th century – is said to have planted the famous black Mulberry tree in his gardens next to what is now Victoria Park in east London.

Pictures show the bishop flogging a sweating heretic with the tree supposedly in the background.

Dame Judi said: ‘The thought of the 400-year-old Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree being dug up to build a block of flats fills me with horror. 

This pandemic has taught us that we should respect nature not destroy it.

‘Please support the campaign to save Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree so that this beautiful old tree can live and flourish in the East End of London for generations to come.’

Developer Crest Nicholson got a waiver from the council in 2017 allowing them to cut back and dig up the tree to clear the way for the proposed development.

The East End Preservation Society have launched a petition to block its removal - claiming experts say the tree (pictured) would not survive its uprooting

 The East End Preservation Society have launched a petition to block its removal – claiming experts say the tree (pictured) would not survive its uprooting

Campaigners took the decision to the High Court at the time and the decision was then quashed.

But new plans have since been submitted, and the council yet again granted permission to relocate the famous black Mulberry.  

The East End Preservation Society have launched a petition to block its removal – claiming experts say the tree would not survive its uprooting.  

And this week, the group succeeded in getting a judicial review at the High Court over the redevelopment of the former-hospital – and therefore moving the tree. 

In 1941, the tree survived being bombed down to almost a stump in a World War II an air raid explosion which killed 30 people. 

Charring is still visible on the trunk, which is propped up with wooden planks.

Conservationists fear the trunk could be split by the planned relocation. 

After the Grade II listed hospital was built, nurses would traditionally dance around the Mulberry tree at Easter

After the Grade II listed hospital was built, nurses would traditionally dance around the Mulberry tree at Easter

In a report written by experts for the developers, it was claimed the tree was more likely to have been planted when the Victorian hospital was opened in 1855 and is not a ‘veteran tree’.

However, campaigners say that even in the 19th century the tree was believed to have been of a great age.

Geoffrey Juden, chair of the East London Garden Society, said: ‘We understand there is currently a pressing need for genuinely affordable housing in Bethnal Green but we also recognise a responsibility to future generations.

‘The pandemic has taught us we must show respect for nature and in future we should avoid building densely-crowded housing.

‘We want the development to be done in a sensitive and humane way – so that it does not damage the historic Mulberry Tree and the built heritage of the hospital building, blighting the Victoria Park Conservation Area.

‘Last year, our lawyers researched and drew up the grounds for Judicial Review. We submitted these to Tower Hamlets Council to give them the opportunity to withdraw their decision but they refused.

‘Consequently, we have no choice but to proceed to Judicial Review at the High Court if we are to save the Bethnal Green Mulberry and stop this bad development.’ 

A 1941 picture of the Bethnal Green Mulberry tree after it survived the Blitz during World War II

A 1941 picture of the Bethnal Green Mulberry tree after it survived the Blitz during World War II

So far the group have raised more than £15,700 towards the legal fees.

To encourage donations, anyone giving more than £100 can get a cutting of Shakespeare’s Mulberry tree, which was planted in Stratford Upon Avon by the poet in 1610, the campaigners said. 

A spokeswoman for Crest Nicholson said: ‘We are committed to delivering a high quality development, including affordable housing, public amenities and environmental improvements for the local community and strongly support the Council’s approach to deliver much needed housing in London.’

Tower Hamlets Council said it plans to challenge the judicial review when it comes to court and that if the tree is moved it will be more accessible to the public.

A spokesman said: ‘The council will be defending its decision in the High Court.

‘Under the planning consent, the tree would be retained on site in the centre of the main front lawn in front of the façade of the listed former hospital building.

‘This secures full public access to the front lawn 365 days a year between dawn and dusk.

‘The Mulberry Tree in its existing location is not visible from the public realm nor readily accessible to the public.’ 

‘The tree will either fall apart or die, or possibly both.’

It is thought to have been planted in Bishop Bonner’s residence in the 16th century, while the Bishop was helping Henry VIII separate from Rome. 

Nurses examine the new growth of the Bethnal Green Mulberry in 1944. The tree was left as a stump following the German bombing campaign during the Blitz, but has regrown significantly

Nurses examine the new growth of the Bethnal Green Mulberry in 1944. The tree was left as a stump following the German bombing campaign during the Blitz, but has regrown significantly

Bonner’s Hall, the old Bishop’s residence, is thought to been used as tenements in 1612 before being ‘torn to pieces’ with only the walls still standing by 1652.

In 1655 the mansion house was taken down and the materials were used to build four new houses as a single structure with two wings, three storeys, and attics.

Rebuilding may have taken place between 1671 when Thomas Walton, who taught at Bishop’s Hall in 1673, was assessed for 10 hearths at an empty house, and 1674 when his assessment was for 30 hearths

The building was pulled down in 1845 to make way for Victoria Park. And the tree remained in position when the London Chest Hospital was build three years later.

In the early 20th century, an iconic inkwell was made from the Mulberry’s timber.

After the Grade II listed hospital was built, nurses would traditionally dance around the Mulberry tree at Easter.

A Tower Hamlets Council spokesman said there are 91 trees on the site of various species, ages and quality.

A total of 27 are due to be removed, including 11 subject to tree preservation orders (TPO).



Source link

Spread the love

Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

Elon Musk tweeted. Dogecoin surged more than 50%

Premarket stocks: After a tough end to 2020, the US economy is quietly improving