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Peter Bellerby, Globemaker

July 5, 2018
by the gentle author

Once upon a time, Peter Bellerby of Bellerby & Co was unable find a proper globe to buy his father for an eightieth birthday present. Now Peter is to be found in his very own globe factory in Stoke Newington and hatching plans to set up another in New York – to meet the growing international demand for globes which he expects to exceed ten times his current outputs. A man with global ambitions, you might say.

Yet Peter is quietly spoken with deferential good manners and obviously commands great respect from his handful of employees, who also share his enthusiasm and delight in these strange metaphysical baubles which serve as pertinent reminders of our true insignificance in the grand scheme of things.

A concentrated hush prevailed as Contributing Photographer Sarah Ainslie & I ascended the old staircase in the former warehouse where we discovered the globemakers at work on the top floor, painstakingly glueing the long strips of paper in the shape of slices of orange peel (or gores as they are properly known) onto the the spheres and tinting them with fine paintbrushes to achieve an immaculate result.

“I get bored easily,” Peter confessed to me, revealing the true source of his compulsion, “But making globes is really the best job you can have, because you have to get into the zone and slow your mind down.”

“Back in the old days, they were incredibly good at making globes but that had been lost,” he continued, “I had nothing to go by.” Disappointed by the degradation of his chosen art over the last century, Peter revealed that, as globes became decorative features rather than functional objects, accuracy was lost – citing an example in which overlapping gores wiped out half of Iceland. “What’s the point of that?,” he queried rhetorically, rolling his eyes in weary disdain.

“People want something that will be with them for life,” he assured me, reaching out his arms around a huge globe as if he were going to embrace it but setting it spinning instead with a beautiful motion, that turned and turned seemingly of its own volition, thanks to the advanced technology of modern bearings.

Even more remarkable are his table-top globes which sit upon a ring with bearings set into it, these spin with a satisfying whirr that evokes the music of the spheres. Through successfully pursuing his unlikely inspiration, Peter Bellerby has established himself as the world leader in the manufacture of globes and brought a new industry to the East End serving a growing export market.

To demonstrate the strength of his plaster of paris casting – yet to my great alarm – Peter placed one on the floor and leapt upon it. Once I had peeled my fingers from my eyes and observed him, balancing there playfully, I thought, “This is a man that bestrides the globe.”

Isis Linguanotto, Globepainter

John Wright, Globemaker

Chloe Dalrymple, Globemaker

Peter Bellerby, on top of the globe

Photographs copyright © Sarah Ainslie

14 Responses leave one →
  1. Saba Shabazz permalink
    July 5, 2018

    Beautiful, as always. Would love an article about a terrific crumpet baker.

  2. Robin permalink
    July 5, 2018

    I’ve always loved antiqued globes. I can’t afford one though . Everywhere I have ever looked carries high prices. Oh well. Next life maybe lol

  3. July 5, 2018

    Such beautiful objects! Especially love the celestial globe!

  4. Carolyn Badcock permalink
    July 5, 2018

    Well done, Peter Bellerby!

    For those of us who love maps, this story brings real joy. Peter’s passion has brought something wonderful to our world.

    From the Land Down Under

  5. John Barrett permalink
    July 5, 2018

    Skills and art which has been lost in time. Peter has regained these skills by his own input not forgetting his incredible staff. Globes are useful, when countries change so do globes or modified to cope. They make wonderful ornaments for the home and big office situations such as the Ford building entrance New York. For us humble people buy a small one and travel the world by globe yes show children the world – nice. What next Peter go electric and invent the ever spinning/shining globe. Yes you are the ‘Thinking Man’ who gets on with it and delivers the goodies stay with it. John – Poetry Soc, Bus Pass Poets, Bristol

  6. July 5, 2018

    Gentle Author, I couldn’t resist leaving a comment today. I love this post! Witty text, beautiful photos and what an interesting story. Peter Bellerby and his team deserve world-wide success!

  7. Judi Jones permalink
    July 5, 2018

    Oh what a wonderful craft Peter has resurrected . . . would love to work there. Your writing is wonderful too Gentle Author . . . thanks as always.

  8. Laura Syers permalink
    July 5, 2018

    Brilliant. For some years (about three really) I have been wanting to fully understand how Earth is arranged and have been searching for a certain type of globe. A globe a bit like a 3D puzzle where one can remove the land layers, the seas and oceans layers to see the tectonic plates underneath, which are also removable to whatever lays below.
    Does such a globe exist?
    Perhaps Peter Bellerby can advise me?

  9. July 5, 2018

    Fantastic profession, great article, thanks.

  10. July 5, 2018

    What a magnificent studio and enterprise. The work that goes into each globe is incredible. Love the photographs. My partner loves globes. Now I think I know why.

  11. Mr James Buchanan permalink
    July 5, 2018

    There is a similar image of a globe at Bunhill Fields – February 2011!!

  12. July 5, 2018

    I’m totally sphericalised! I’d love one!
    PC

  13. July 5, 2018

    Many thanks to GA and Sarah for yet-another revealing exploration of this specialized world.
    As we say in New York: “Who KNEW?”. My husband is a collector of globes, and I look forward to sharing this post with him this evening, glasses of wine in hand.
    Here’s to Spitalfields Life, and all the continual discoveries.

  14. James permalink
    July 5, 2018

    I wonder if there will be a move/expansion to Globe Road at some point? :-)

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