Thousands sign petition to save ancient mulberry tree in Bethnal Green

Nurses dance round the Mulberry Tree in the grounds of London Chest Hospital in 1944 Pic: Courtesy of the Royal London Hospital Archives

More than five thousand people have signed a petition to preserve an historic mulberry tree, that has been growing in the grounds of the former London Chest Hospital in Bethnal Green for hundreds of years.

Property developers Crest Nicholson are planning to redevelop the site of the hospital which closed in April 2015 and build luxury flats in the area in which the tree is rooted. This is despite the tree being subject to a protection order, and campaigners suggesting there are other areas developers could propose building in the grounds of the hospital in order to save the tree.

Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree Pic: Spitalfields Life

The development plans not only to dig up the ancient mulberry tree, but demolish the south wing of the hospital, which is a designated heritage asset, and also damage the Victoria Park Conservation area.

A link to the proposals can be found here: http://www.londonchesthospital.co.uk

The tree is believed to have been planted by Bishop Bonner of London in the 16th Century, who lived in a palace where the hospital grounds are now.

It also survived the World War Two Blitz on the East End when a bomb was dropped nearby and destroyed the Chest Hospital Chapel.

This engraving of the completed London Chest Hospital published by the Illustrated London News in 1851 shows the fully-grown Mulberry tree to the left of the main building Pic: Courtesy of Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives

Local resident Peter Higginson, from Bethnal Green, said: ‘I’m outraged they (Crest Nicholson) want to up route the mulberry tree. I’ve heard it’s the oldest tree in the East End and I see no just reason for it to be removed. The council need to make sure it doesn’t happen.’

Although the petition closes today, Tower Hamlets Council will still accept letters and emails up until the time of application’s hearing, most likely to take place in March.

The council will have to choose between allowing the mulberry to remain, or approving the application that will allow the new block of flats to begin being built.

At the moment, the council will not comment on the status of the application, and only will once a decision has been made.

The East End Preservation Society, who are campaigning to save the tree, described the planning as ‘overblown’ and said: ‘The development includes hideous ‘heritage-style’ additions to the listed hospital building and a disappointingly small amount of ‘affordable’ housing.’

 

 

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