Skip to content

Hope For The Bethnal Green Mulberry

March 21, 2019
by the gentle author

In the week of the anniversary of a bomb hitting the London Chest Hospital on 19th March 1941 and narrowly missing the historic Bethnal Green Mulberry which flourishes to this day, we launch our funding campaign for a legal challenge to save it from the developers who want to dig it up.


This tree survived a bomb in 1941, but will it survive developers in 2019?


Readers will recall the callous decision of Tower Hamlets Development Committee last September when they gave permission for developers Crest Nicholson to dig up the historic Bethnal Green Mulberry in the grounds of the former London Chest Hospital. A Mulberry believed to have been planted by Bishop Bonner in 1540 and understood to be the oldest tree in the East End.

The developer’s hubris was such that they refused to move their proposed block of luxury flats to avoid the tree and the council’s decision was taken in spite of the Mulberry’s status as a Protected Tree, its classification as a Veteran Tree, and the additional protection extended to such trees in the Planning Guidelines revised by the government last July.

Over the winter, the planning application has been with the Greater London Authority while they tried to persuade Crest Nicholson to increase the pitifully low level of social housing in the development, but now the application has been returned to Tower Hamlets Council, we are able to make a legal challenge.

We cannot stand by and permit the destruction of the Bethnal Green Mulberry and, WITH YOUR SUPPORT, we are launching action to prevent this. We have taken specialist legal advice and are confident that there are grounds for a successful legal challenge.

Crest Nicholson’s redevelopment of the former London Chest Hospital is an exploitative development that destroys too much of the listed Victorian Chest Hospital building, damages the Victoria Park Conservation Area and sacrifices too many mature trees while offering too little social housing in return. We understand the social accommodation and luxury flats will have separate entrances and there will be no public access to walk through the site if Crest Nicholson get their way.

Please spread the word to your friends and family and contribute what you can to help us fight to save the Bethnal Green Mulberry.




Nurses examine the new growth of the Bethnal Green Mulberry in 1944 (Courtesy of the Royal London Hospital Archives)

Nurses dance round the Bethnal Green Mulberry in celebration of its regrowth after the bomb (Courtesy of the Royal London Hospital Archives)

The survival of the Bethnal Green Mulberry tree serves as a living memorial to those who died in the bombing of the Chest Hospital (Courtesy of the Royal London Hospital Archives)

The Bethnal Green Mulberry today (Photograph by Bob Philpots)


Graphic by Paul Bommer


Click here to read my feature in The Daily Telegraph about the scandal of the Bethnal Green Mulberry

Click here to read my feature in The Evening Standard about the scandal of the Bethnal Green Mulberry

Read more here about the Bethnal Green Mulberry

The Fate of the Bethnal Green Mulberry

How Old is the Bethnal Green Mulberry?

Here We Go Round The Bethnal Green Mulberry

A Plea For The Bethnal Green Mulberry

The Bethnal Green Mulberry

A Letter to Crest Nicholson

A Reply From Crest Nicholson

The Reckoning With Crest Nicholson

The Haggerston Mulberry

The Dalston Mulberry

The Whitechapel Mulberry

The Mile End Mulberry

The Stoke Newington Mulberry

The Spitalfields Mulberry

The Oldest Mulberry in Britain

Three Ancient Mulberry Trees

A Brief History of London Mulberries

72 Responses leave one →
  1. March 21, 2019


  2. Dianne permalink
    March 21, 2019

    Wonderful news that there may be a chance for the survival of the tree but is there another way for overseas supporters to donate without using a credit card? Paypal is a lot safer.

  3. the gentle author permalink*
    March 21, 2019

    Crowd Justice is a safe site, Dianne

  4. Jill Wilson permalink
    March 21, 2019

    Seeing the photo of the bombed tree before regrowth makes it’s survival even more poignant…

    Pledged with hope.

  5. Lesley Snow permalink
    March 21, 2019

    Only a generation off from my parents’ East End upbringing, I can remember my Dad telling me how he (as a little boy) used to creep through the fence into next door’s back garden to steal mulberries off their tree. OK – it wasn’t the actual Bethnal Green Mulberry, but I wholeheartedly support your campaign to save this one. When you see the ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos, what better metaphor do you need for these dark days we’re living through? I share your outrage at the arrogance of the developer, who wants to sweep everything aside in return for very few of the desperately-needed social units. The weakness of the local authority is both palpable and contemptible. What hold does the developer have over it? And I wonder how much profit (loss of) would be represented by a decision to let the tree remain. And finally, how many more homeless people must suffer before local authorities start building social homes again, instead of leaving it to the begrudging hit and miss process represented by this wrangle?

  6. Pauline permalink
    March 21, 2019

    So important to keep the beautiful mulberry tree.
    I was opposite the hospital as a baby in the 40s and growing up there.
    Fondest memories of the tree.
    Keep our tree.

  7. Carla Rankin permalink
    March 21, 2019

    This is one of the original mulberry trees made famous in the nursery rhyme Save the tree !!!!! Stupid developers can work round it

  8. Wendy Mitchell permalink
    March 21, 2019

    Sacrilege , please please don’t let this happen.

  9. Doug Lane permalink
    March 21, 2019


  10. Susan Powell permalink
    March 21, 2019

    I live on the Isle of Wight and there have been many trees cut down here because of new buildings, which is very depressing. I will support any petition to save trees, especially one as venerable as this one. I would think it could be incorporated into the landscape quite nicely. It would be a terrible shame if it was destroyed.

  11. Jane Thomas permalink
    March 21, 2019

    Reminding me of my childhood much loved mulbery trees in Dulwich Art Gallery gardens pre WW2 also bomb survivors. Probably did see the Bethnal Green one too that must be saved.

  12. Eric Forward permalink
    March 22, 2019


  13. mlaiuppa permalink
    March 22, 2019

    I truly don’t understand how the tree can have so many protections and they are still ignored and not enforced.

    I don’t understand how the buildings and grounds can also have protected status and that, too, is ignored and not enforced.

    Is there no high profile entity that can make this an issue on the media, to show the callous disregard, hubris and abject greed of the developers? How what they are proposing is more of a blight than what is presently there? There isn’t a rock star or soccer player willing to help save the Mulberry?

    I am so glad the tree has been reprieved but the fight is far from over. These developers will try over and over until they get their way. It will take constant vigilance because this fight will never be over.

  14. Jane Bonney permalink
    March 22, 2019

    Surprised there is no mention in the other articles of the Mulberry Tree in the grounds of Mulberry School, previously Tower Hamlets School for Girls, in Richard Street off Commercial Road. I’m not sure of its age but always thought it was quite ancient.

  15. Julie Jordan Brown permalink
    March 22, 2019

    Save this beautiful tree!

  16. Mrs Penny Herbert permalink
    March 22, 2019

    Unjustified vandalism – pure and simple! Stop the b******s!!!

  17. March 22, 2019

    More disgusting vandalism by greedy bastard developers! Save the Mulberry tree!

  18. Maria Ibrahim permalink
    March 22, 2019

    This tree should be listed and preserved. It’s a monument to London and how it survived the Blitz!

  19. March 22, 2019

    Absolutely appalling . So making massive profits once again for greedy developers at the cost of killing an historical and much lived tree. And what is the useless council doing- sweet fa . Local democracy is well and truly dead isn’t it ? Exactly like our so called national ‘democracy’. What a joke

  20. Laura Williamson permalink
    March 22, 2019

    Glad to offer a bit of financial support and hoping with all my heart that it pays off and we can save this special tree.

  21. Maureen Ahearne permalink
    March 23, 2019

    Shame if this tree is to be cut down for greed

  22. Sandra Reynolds-Butler permalink
    March 23, 2019

    Please save this tree. We need all the trees in the world to clean our atmosphere and this tree in particular has history…which gives it the right of LIFE!!!!!

  23. March 23, 2019

    To remove this historic mulberry would be extreme vandalism in pursuit of greed on the part of those proposing it.

  24. Davena Hooson permalink
    March 24, 2019

    This tree must NOT be harmed in any way. To do so would be an act of extreme vandalism. PLEASE PLACE A PROTECTION ORDER ON IT NOW!!!

  25. Helena Maria permalink
    March 25, 2019

    Pease save this Tree. We nead each tree to SAVE us.
    To destroy it woul be to deny the right to live.

  26. Julia Dean permalink
    March 25, 2019

    These venerable trees are as much of our heritage as any other whether a palace or a place of outstanding natural beauty.

  27. Wendy permalink
    March 25, 2019

    Please save this tree., it’s been there since 1500’s……

  28. March 26, 2019

    This is a disgrace, wanton destruction.

  29. Dorene Nicol permalink
    March 26, 2019

    So very sad

  30. Harrison permalink
    March 26, 2019

    How could anyone think of getting rid of this most famous
    And beautiful tree..I’ve read about this tree in history
    If you can’t incorporate it in with plans at planning stage
    Please leave well alone..

  31. March 26, 2019

    I did see lots of photographs of Royal Family visiting bombed aereas during World War II
    Did they visit this hospital and tree ? Would they , remebring this visit and protect this remembrance tree now ? Prince Charles ?

  32. Grant McCormick permalink
    March 26, 2019

    Save this old fellow please. !!

  33. Linda Teasdale Pluchard permalink
    March 26, 2019

    This ancient tree is a part of our heritage and history . This should be protected ..Incorporate it with some seats and little garden for people to enjoy for hundreds of years to come …don’t just exterminate it out of oblivion to be lost forever …

  34. AMANDA DAVIS permalink
    March 26, 2019

    We NEED trees not a concrete jungle!

  35. Annette Aubrey-Bradshaw permalink
    March 26, 2019

    Please save this historic tree-it seems the heart is going out of our nation-people have loved this tree for hundreds of years-please don’t be the generation to destroy this

  36. Rebecca Shepherd permalink
    March 26, 2019

    You cannot destroy this special tree.

  37. Debbie Man permalink
    March 26, 2019

    Please save this beautiful tree from destruction

  38. Suzie Dodd permalink
    March 26, 2019

    Trees are vital for our health and the wellbeing of the planet. This mulberry tree is a much-loved and unique in it’s own right. It’s survived the second world war and made a spectacular recovery! Trees are like that; they’re clever. But now, you developers in your unethical wisdom want this wonderful specimen uprooted. How callous to even suggest such an action. We need more trees than ever. Old trees are especially revered because they absorb more CO2 the older they grow. They’re long-lived, wondrous living beings, they literally keep us alive. Trees are not objects; they are living beings. Do the right thing: leave this tree and all others, standing. TQ.

  39. Amanda Wilkes permalink
    March 26, 2019

    There is too much destruction in this world. This awesome tree has to stay.

  40. belinda permalink
    March 26, 2019

    Swampy. We need you.

  41. Lauren Allanach permalink
    March 26, 2019

    The tree should remain as part of our natural history

  42. Jocelyn Farrington permalink
    March 26, 2019

    We need to respect our trees & save them

  43. J Ford permalink
    March 26, 2019

    Sounds like you need a TPO – Tree Protection Order

  44. Jacqui Salmon permalink
    March 27, 2019

    Is there a petition for this? (I can’t afford to give money). Many thanks.

  45. Mary Pawlett permalink
    March 27, 2019

    If you have to build, try an intelligent approach and leave something beautiful and worthwhile some space.

  46. March 27, 2019

    I have thought for a long time that trees such as this one should be scheduled ancient monuments. It will be an act of supreme vandalism to destroy this tree, alas, repeated so often these days. Yet more luxury flats, when the East End must be crying out for ‘affordable’ housing?

  47. Rosemary Ashton permalink
    March 27, 2019

    Is there a petition to sign?

  48. Carly Gunn permalink
    March 27, 2019

    The last time I saw a Mullberry tree was 50 years ago!

    Have a conscience!

  49. Carol Davies permalink
    March 27, 2019

    This is absolute sacrilege, this tree has stood the test of time, NOW MAN IN HIS GREED FOR MONEY will cut it down……SHAME ON YOU…….

  50. Linda miller permalink
    March 27, 2019

    Please save this tree . There are too many trees and hedges being destroyed

  51. the gentle author permalink*
    March 27, 2019

    The Bethnal Green Mulberry has a TPO and has extra protection as a recognised Veteran Tree but this has not stopped Tower Hamlets Council granted permission to uproot it.

  52. Diane Brierley permalink
    March 27, 2019

    Absolutely disgusting. Why more bloody luxury flats that only foreign oligarchs can afford? Lining the pockets of already wealthy developers/shareholders. They are destroying OUR heritage! Tories ripped up the Planning Regs, which protected so many trees & other species. . They are scum!

  53. Carla Piscitelli permalink
    March 27, 2019

    I can’t believe that people still don’t understand how important trees are. Please stop cutting down trees we need more trees in ou city. Thanks

  54. Susan kingsford permalink
    March 27, 2019

    This must not be allowed.They must incorporate the tree into their design.Not that hard.

  55. sylvia Davies permalink
    March 27, 2019

    Was soo saddened to read this, all the developers think of is pound signs. please don’t give up there yet might be a turnaround

  56. Di Altoft permalink
    March 27, 2019

    This Tree is one of its kind and has stood proud for many hundreds of years it deserves the right to stand for many years to come , unlike the greedy profiteering developers

  57. Jacqueline Cornell permalink
    March 27, 2019

    WHY OH WHY are they so distructive when there are other options!

  58. Alison Sargent permalink
    March 28, 2019

    I really hope such a special tree can be saved. Sick of greedy developers who think they can ride roughshod over everything that gets in their way.

  59. Lee permalink
    March 29, 2019

    Save the Tree

  60. Sarah permalink
    March 29, 2019

    Is there a petition we can sign?

  61. March 30, 2019


  62. sue crockford permalink
    April 1, 2019

    In Islington we have a tree group – a mix or council employees and residents who care for our trees. Perhaps cooperate with other London Boroughs for support.

  63. Angelika Bradley-Zenz permalink
    April 8, 2019

    This tree has obviously historical significance and therefore should be saved . I am surprised it has not got a conservation order . It should have.

  64. Conchita permalink
    April 8, 2019

    Money is more important to these morons than history.
    Hope it can be saved. Silk worms love mulberry leaves.

  65. the gentle author permalink*
    April 8, 2019

    It does have a Tree Protection Order but this may not be enough to protect it!

  66. April 9, 2019

    I understand that the developers are at present opting for moving the mulberry tree as opposed to adjusting their architectural design in order to accommodate the tree in its existing situation.

    From the article ‘The Fate of the Bethnal Green Mulberry’ published by ‘Spitalfields Life’ last September: “Julian Forbes Laird, UK Expert Witness in Tree Conservation, was more explicit in his lecture on the subject at the Garden Museum last spring, he said ‘The Bethnal Green Mulberry is a veteran and the proposal to relocate it is unlikely to succeed. The tree will either fall apart or die, or possibly both.’”

    Under the law, should the tree be harmed during the development, or moved, and die as a result then the developer would be legally bound to replace it ‘like for like’. So, although people currently believe the tree is 400 years old, mulberry trees can live much longer and further historical research into this aspect would be most beneficial.

    Should the developer kill the tree and prove unable to replace it with another 400+ year-old mulberry tree then, as I understand things, the fine would be unlimited.

    It would seem the most satisfactory and economic solution to this question would be for the developer to make an adjustment in their architectural design in order to accommodate the Bethnal Green mulberry tree unharmed, in situ.

    CG, Limehouse Cut

  67. Edilia Emordi permalink
    April 10, 2019

    Typical nothing matters except making money. Really depressing

  68. Juliet permalink
    May 14, 2019

    The Woodland trust are seeking nominations for the tree of the year.
    I have nominated the Bethnal Green Mulberry.

  69. Lee permalink
    June 23, 2019

    Having trained and worked as a Nurse at the London Chest Hospital in the late 1980s and 90s I feel very sad to of its closure and equally sad to think that the Mulberry tree which is depicted on my London Chest Hospital badge will be lost forever unless we fight back. Surfice to say I very support the campaign to save the Mulberry Tree from the developers.

  70. Thomas Silverman permalink
    March 24, 2020

    Is there an update on the tree?

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS