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Mychael Barratt’s Whitechapel Mural

April 25, 2018
by the gentle author

Every time I walk down Mile End Rd, my attention always wanders to Mychael Barratt‘s mural high on the wall beyond Trinity Green Almshouses, conjuring the presiding spirits of this corner of Whitechapel.

“No artist can refuse a mural,” Mychael admitted to me with a grin and a shrug, introducing the unlikely story of the origin of his vast painting, executed over six weeks in the summer of 2011. When lawyers, TV Edwards, who have been established in the East End in the vicinity of the docks since 1929, were refused permission for a large advert on the side of their building, senior partner Anthony Edwards, saw the possibility for a creative solution to the bare wall in Mile End Rd. So, after noticing Mychael Barrett’s work on a hoarding while going over Blackfriars Bridge in a taxi, he gave the artist a call.

Mychael came to London from Canada in the eighties. “I was travelling around Europe and I was only supposed to stay in London for a week, but I never left,” he confessed to me. Yet Mychael’s Huguenot ancestors first came here three hundred years ago as refugees and the history of the capital has proved an enduring source of inspiration for his work.

Mychael at work on the mural in the summer of 2011

The mural was painted by Mychael Barratt, James Glover & Nicholas Middleton

1 George Bernard Shaw was an early member of the Fabian Society
who regularly met on the Whitechapel Rd
2 William Booth started The Christian Mission and  The Salvation
Army on the Mile End Rd
3 Captain James Cook lived at 88 Mile End Rd when not at sea
4 Prince Monolulu was a gambling tipster who frequented Petticoat Lane and
Mile End Market with his famous call “I gotta horse!”
5 Frederick Charrington turned his back on his family’s brewery to start a
temperance mission. He is here depicted taking a dray horse out of service
6 Dockers – This is loosely based on the statue of dockers at Victoria Dock
7 Vladimir Lenin planned the Russian Revolution in Whitechapel
8 Joseph Merrick also known as The Elephant Man was first publicly
exhibited in London in a shop on the Whitechapel Rd across the street
from the London Hospital
9 T V Edwards started the law firm T V Edwards in 1929
10 Anthony Edwards is the senior partner of T V Edwards. As a young boy he
would accompany his uncle on his rounds, carrying his briefcase
11 Bushra Nasir studied at Queen Mary University and became the first Muslim
headteacher of a state school
12 Mahatma Gandhi stayed at Kingsley Hall in 1931 when he came to London
to discuss Indian independence
13 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in 2009
14 Samuel Pepys frequented the Mile End Rd, as his diary attests
and his mother was the daughter of a Whitechapel butcher
15 Isaac Rosenberg was a First World War poet and a painter who was one of
a group of artists known as The Whitechapel Boys
16 Mark Gertler was another of The Whitechapel Boys
17 Edith Cavell trained as a nurse at London Hospital before working in
German-occupied Belgium during World War I
18 Reggie & Ronnie Kray frequented The Blind Beggar.
19 David Hockney had his first exhibition at The Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1970
20 Scout This is my dog
21 Eric Gill’s sculptures grace the New People’s Palace on the Mile End Rd
22 Gilbert & George live nearby in Spitalfields
23 Market stalls that line the Mile End Rd
24 A reference to London’s docks
25 30 St Mary Axe also known as the Gherkin
26 Christ Church, Spitalfields, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor
27 House by Rachel Whiteread was a cast of the inside of a house on Grove Rd
28 The East London Mosque
29 Clock tower from in front of The People’s Palace
30 The Royal London Hospital
31 Guernica by Pablo Picasso was displayed at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1939
32 The Whitechapel Art Gallery
33 Blooms, famous kosher restaurant on Whitechapel Rd
34 The Whitechapel Church Bell Foundry
35 Trinity Almshouses, Mile End Rd
36 The first V1 flying bomb or Doodlebug fell in Whitechapel in 1944

Mychael Barratt at his studio in Bermondsey

Arnold Circus and the Breathless Brass Band, oil painting

Images copyright © Mychael Barratt

10 Responses leave one →
  1. Melvyn Brooks permalink
    April 25, 2018

    Great Mural. Does anyone know if there are postcards of it? Details please how I can obtain a copy for my collection.

    Melvyn Brooks Karkur Israel

  2. April 25, 2018

    The mural is wonderful! Valerie

  3. John Barrett permalink
    April 25, 2018

    A remarkable collection of local history here thank you Mychael I hope its durable and lasts its so valuable historically. John Barrett the Poets Soc, Bristol

  4. permalink
    April 25, 2018

    Lovely! Didn’t know about that – will seek it out.
    If you ever do prints Michael/ TV Edwards, I will buy one!

  5. Ken Perkins permalink
    April 25, 2018

    A wonderful mural but incorrect about the first flying bomb.
    That hit the railway bridge in Grove Road, Bow E3—not Whitechapel E1

  6. stuart goodman permalink
    April 25, 2018

    fascinating!! an amazing work. my parents knew prince monalulu but in the west end when i was a toddler. i remember being terrified when i met him.
    and i worked in a play centre in rochelle school in arnold circus in around 1966. memories!!! thanks for this.

  7. Edward permalink
    April 25, 2018

    Love Mychael Barratt’s work and he’s such a nice man, too!

  8. Marie Nicholson permalink
    April 25, 2018

    A great post and great illustrations. I love these murals, in fact I love all of those that spring up in the East End. I have a friend who haunts the area and photographs the walls as the lose one mural and gain another.

    Thanks for all the great posts. If I don’t comment on each one its because of time constraints. I read each one assiduously and gain a lot from them. Oh, I too, remember Prince Monolulu.

  9. Marcia Howard permalink
    May 6, 2018

    Wonderful piece of work, and says so much more I’m sure, than the original planned advert. I love seeing old adverts or shop names on end walls of buildings. Real social history of trader or companies long gone.

  10. Cherub permalink
    May 7, 2018

    An interesting piece. Back in the 90s I worked at Bankside Gallery and bought 2 of Mychael’s prints from an RE show (Oscar Wilde and Van Gogh) . They have been to 3 different houses with me, one in London and 2 in Scotland.

    I’ve now moved to Switzerland and Mychael’s prints are being shipped here with some furniture and other personal belongings. We just love them!

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