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The Bethnal Green Mulberry Verdict

May 22, 2021
by the gentle author

Nurses dancing around the Bethnal Green Mulberry

After campaigning to Save the Bethnal Green Mulberry since 2017, I am overjoyed to report yesterday’s decision of the High Court to refuse Crest Nicholson’s redevelopment of the former London Chest Hospital and stop the developer digging up the 400 hundred year old tree.

I would like to thank the hundreds of people who funded our legal action, the 17,000 who signed our petition and especially Dame Judi Dench for being patron of our campaign.

Crest Nicholson’s overblown development would have blighted the Victoria Park Conservation Area for generations to come. It demolished a listed building, removed a large number of mature trees and delivered far too few affordable homes.

At the Tower Hamlets Planning meeting in September 2018, Gareth Gwynne, Head of Planning confirmed that it would be possible for Crest Nicholson to avoid disturbing the tree without any loss to their development by simply reconfiguring the design. Yet rather than do this, they made the decision to pursue digging up the historic mulberry and moving it, even though there is no successful precedent for moving such an old mulberry and this would be likely to kill it. I hope Crest Nicholson learn a lesson from this judgement and go back to the drawing board.

In the light of the recent decision to approve the redevelopment of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, I am dismayed by the shameful way Tower Hamlets Council have repeatedly advocated bad developments, without regard for the community or heritage. But I am delighted that in this case justice has prevailed and the Bethnal Green Mulberry is saved.

At this time of Climate Emergency and, as we move to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, it is obvious that London should not be building such densely-crowded housing and that we need planning decisions which are environmentally responsible.

The Bethnal Mulberry is the oldest tree in the East End, surviving plague, fire and blitz. I hope it will flourish for centuries more to inspire us all.


We will contact all those supporters who opted to receive a cutting of Shakespeare’s Mulberry this summer once the cuttings have rooted and are ready for collection. When summer arrives, we will also write to those who chose to receive a tub of mulberry sorbet to arrange collection.



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

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

Read more here about the Bethnal Green Mulberry

The Fate of the Bethnal Green Mulberry

The Bethnal Green Mulberry

A Letter to Crest Nicholson

A Reply From Crest Nicholson

The Reckoning With Crest Nicholson

A Brief History of London Mulberries

79 Responses leave one →
  1. paul loften permalink
    May 22, 2021

    I know this old Mulberry tree from way back . First as a schoolboy from across the road then for a short time as a temp worker at the Chest Hospital X ray dept in the 70’s. I would have my sandwiches on the bench in the grounds nearby the tree. Up close and personal to this gnarled old survivor every day that the weather and an empty space would allow. The tree must have been an inspiration to countless seriously ill patients that would sit in the hospital grounds, It deserves much more and the nurses that danced around it knew it. Thanks to the GA for the huge effort and to all those involved in the campaign to save it

  2. mlaiuppa permalink
    May 22, 2021

    After the tragedy of hearing that the White Chapel Bell Foundry will be destroyed I am overjoyed to read that after a long, hard and righteous fight you have saved the Mulberry. But it will take continued diligence to make sure such irresponsible developers don’t just do an end run and “accidentally” damage the tree to the extent it must be dug up, removed, cut down, destroyed or whatever. I’ve found that when developers want something, they’ll usually get it. They find it cheaper to just do what they want and pay the fine later than to change their plans.

    Shame on Tower Hamlets. What happened to that corruption investigation into several violations they have committed?

  3. May 22, 2021

    I, too, am glad of this decision. From 10,000 miles away, I thank you all.

  4. Carolyn Cartwright permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Delighted to learn of this result.

  5. Poppy permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Been a subscriber since 2016…? I think. Anyway, the mulberry tree has been on my mind since I first read about it. I was thinking about it today- as I walked under a mulberry tree, here in California.

    So happy some people on this planet still value trees.

    Thanks for always sharing wonderful stories from your little corner of the world.❤️

  6. Cherub permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Excellent news, the right decision was made.

  7. Pippa Hyde permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Wonderful news about the Bethnal Green Mulberry. Well done, has made my weekend.

  8. Neil Aves permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Excellent news to wake up to. Congratulations and thank you for all the hard work and efforts by all. This may only be a battle and not the war but it is still a notable achievement

  9. Sid permalink
    May 22, 2021

    This was brilliant news. So pleased to hear it

  10. Philip Hughes MBE permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Wonderful news, more so after such disappointing decisions that disregarded the East End community and its long term wellbeing. Congratulations.

  11. May 22, 2021

    well done!
    I agree with everything you have said in this post – you have summed up the situation well.
    I wonder now what will become of the old chest hospital?

  12. Carolyn Hooper permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Absolutely magnificent news!!

    Well done, gentle author, and your superb followers all over the world.

    Carolyn…. Queensland Australia ??????

  13. May 22, 2021

    Wonderful news! I was fearful after the Whitechapel Bell Foundry verdict but thank goodness sense has prevailed here.

  14. Karin Barth permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Warmest thanks and congratulations from Berlin!

  15. May 22, 2021

    Excellent news!

  16. May 22, 2021

    Thank you for working so hard to make this happen.

  17. Matilda permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Well done GA you are truly a force for good. Let’s hope this will be a lesson for developer. I am
    so pleased for you that all your hard work has borne fruit and I hope the venerable mulberry will too.

  18. May 22, 2021

    Dear Gentle Author,
    Bravo! Well done for your valiant efforts and thank you to everyone who contributed to the campaign.
    You deserve this result after the appalling decision to airbrush the Whitechapel Bell Foundry
    out of the East End.
    The ‘London Chest’ as it was affectionately known by many East Enders whose families were treated there is very dear to my own heart, to know that it and the Mulberry tree will not be completely airbrushed out of history is great news. Thank you.

  19. May 22, 2021

    Congratulations to you and all those that kept their eyes and souls behind this. A glean of hope for other future campaigns.

    The conversion of the Whitechapel Foundry to a glass fish bowl for hand bells is a forever leaking wound to the East End. Again, much respect to all those that actively campaigned against this outrage. Tower Hamlets sold their soul by approving this and then with the support of the Gov put us all through through the charade of a public inquiry. Massive respect to the legal team that tried to save this beautiful building.

  20. VIvien thompson permalink
    May 22, 2021

    What a triumph congratulations to the Gentle Author and all who supported this campaign . After the tragedy of the Bell Foundry this restores a bit of faith in the processes around planning

  21. Gary Horton permalink
    May 22, 2021

    This excellent news fantastic and very encouraging indeed! Well done to you for persevering with this case to save the tree! In saving ancient tree, the spirit of old London has also been saved and preserved for future generations to enjoy, which is definitely a cause for celebration!

  22. May 22, 2021

    I am filled with jubilation at this news. I sent what I could to help the fight because I believe in justice and because history is what made us. Very well done

  23. Herry Lawford permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Congratulations and thanks for all you do.

  24. Amanda permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Very well done GA in publicising how we should effectively make a kerfuffle to save the mulberry tree.
    l had strong intuition that my donation and my letters were not in vain. l even got replies.
    Hurrah !

  25. Philip Marriage permalink
    May 22, 2021


  26. May 22, 2021

    What great news.well done to everyone involved in saving this historical beautiful ?

  27. Deborah Aitken permalink
    May 22, 2021

    What wonderful news and although you graciously thank those who supported this endeavour the lion’s share of gratitude should be directed towards you for all your hard work and tireless campaigning to save this extraordinary tree. Thank you. Deborah

  28. May 22, 2021

    A WONDERFUL outcome! Congratulations on the success of your campaign.

  29. Annie Green permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Hip huzzah and thricely! Hats in the air! The best of results.

  30. Judith Standing permalink
    May 22, 2021

    I am overjoyed to read the news. Thank you so much for all you did to bring this about, also to all those who helped in any way. What a wonderful outcome. Joyous news.

  31. May 22, 2021

    Wonderful news. Well done to you all.

  32. Jill Wilson permalink
    May 22, 2021

    This is such great news, especially after the disappointment about the Bell Foundry.

    With my designer’s hat on I could never understand why, oh why Crest Nicholson didn’t design their whole development around the veteran mulberry tree in the first place?

    As the verdict says “Development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland or veteran trees) should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons…”

    Crest Nicholson’s desire to cram as many luxury flats into their development, and their lack of imagination in the design process were certainly not “wholly exceptional reasons”, and I trust that they will now go back to the drawing board and come up with something more acceptable.

    Long live the Bethnal Green Mulberry!

  33. Peter Smith permalink
    May 22, 2021

    A triumph!

    Thank you Gentle Author and all those who worked on and supported this campaign. It is good to know that there are so many who are committed to protecting the built and natural environment.

  34. May 22, 2021

    When I heard via Crowd Justice last night, I literally cheered. Wonderful, wonderful news. Thanks to you GA, and all.


  35. May 22, 2021

    Great News!

  36. Agnes GOUTON permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Excellent news ! Congratulations.

  37. Jude permalink
    May 22, 2021

    The little man won for a change! Am soooo pleased. Great news.

  38. Annie S permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Some good news at last ?
    So glad to hear that the tree has been saved!!

  39. Sally permalink
    May 22, 2021

    So delighted to hear that this tree has been spared from the bulldozers. Too many people and companies seem prepared to destroy wonderful plants, animals and environments for pure profit and councils and governments let them do it. On their website, Crest Nicholson talk about “Minimising environmental risks from our construction activities” and “Protecting and enhancing biodiversity and ecology within the local environments we are building” – perhaps they need to remind themselves of their own sustainability policies.

  40. Anne-Marie Marriott permalink
    May 22, 2021

    This is wonderful, wonderful news!
    We were so happy to be given the opportunity to support the fight to save the tree last year, and are so delighted to hear the result, especially after the sad disappointment of the Bell Foundry hearing.
    Congratulations and respect to all of you who campaigned so hard to save this beautiful and important tree.

  41. Kelly Holman permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Very good news. Your closing comments are spot on.

  42. May 22, 2021

    Congratulations! Great news! I am so gladgood sense prevailed for once.

  43. May 22, 2021

    A small bit of good news in a wicked world

  44. Pauline Taylor permalink
    May 22, 2021

    As one who has an ancient mulberry in the garden attached to our shop premises I am so pleased to hear this good news. Well done to everyone who fought so hard and to Judi Dench for her support. I know that you will now be keeping a close eye on the developers and making sure that they take care of this venerable tree.

  45. Sue Mayer permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Some good news at last. After the shocking and depressing news about the bell foundry I feared the wrong decision would be made for this tree. Well done to everybody who played their part in saving this special tree.

  46. Giuseppe Marini permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Dall’Italia infinita ammirazione per il Gentile Autore e per tutto il popolo inglese. Da decisioni come questa si giudica grande una nazione.

  47. Damien Thomas permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Congratulations on saving the Bethnal Green Mulberry. And a poke in the eye of the, so called, ‘developers’!

  48. Helen permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Marvellous news. Well done everyone!

  49. Sally permalink
    May 22, 2021

    I am so pleased! Thank you everybody and especially Gentle Author for all the hard work and skilful campaigning.
    If there is any of that ice cream left over for sale ….

  50. May 22, 2021

    Brilliant! So glad the tree has been saved. Thank you for all your campaigning over the past years and for drawing our attention to the importance of urban environments.

  51. Vanda Human permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Congratulations and thanks to everyone who participated in this cause. WELL DONE!

  52. Ann V permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Well done! Good news at last.

  53. Linda Granfield permalink
    May 22, 2021

    There was a moment of fear when I read your blog title today. Gulp.

    And then…joy!!

    Sense, good judgment, and the Voice of the People prevailed. Thank you to you, GA, and all those voices from around the world.
    Vigilance will still have to be maintained, however. How many times have we seen ‘fires of unknown cause” happen to destroy saved buildings? Developers have deep enough pockets to pay any huge fines and can just factor those fines into their costs.

    Bless that mulberry tree! And special thanks to that Queen of Trees, Dame Judi Dench!

  54. May 22, 2021

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, Kudos on a great achievement. Echoing all of the above sentiments from your legions of followers. You are an inspiration to environmentalists and preservationists around the world.

  55. Sophie Grove permalink
    May 22, 2021

    This is much needed good news!

  56. Kate permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Really good news

  57. Margaret Shea permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Here we go round the Mulberry Tree…I grew up with this little song and always think of it affectionately. I hope the Judges rule is not overturned and the little Tree survives. If possible I have a garden and a Mulberry Tree cutting would be a delight or failing that some sorbet please.
    Well done with all the efforts to preserve this our Mulberry Tree.

  58. Sonia Murray permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Read your headline with the sick feeling that we had another Bell Foundry disaster – then was delighted to learn that we won! Thank you, GA, and every one of you who worked to save this venerable tree! If it’s safe to come back to England this summer I’ll visit the Mulberry. Please keep a close eye on it and see there’s a very large space fenced off around it when construction takes place – it’s too easy for a crane to “accidentally” back into something the bosses want gone. Crest Nicholson should incorporate the Mulberry into a courtyard, making a beautiful view to increase the rent for their luxury apartments.

  59. May 22, 2021

    Brilliant news – thank you so much for your persistence. As others have said, this is a much-needed victory, heartening after the loss of the Bell Foundry.

  60. May 22, 2021

    Hooray !! One for common sense and humanity !

  61. Adele Lester permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Wonderful news. Thanks for all you do GA!

  62. Diane permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Fantastic news! Congratulations and very well done to all those that I’m sure worked and compaigned very hard for this great outcome.
    Queensland Australia

  63. Jennifer Newbold permalink
    May 22, 2021

    HUZZAH! That is no small victory!! Congratulations to everyone who fought so hard for the survival of this venerable tree. Indeed, as G.A. suggests, let’s hope that Crest Nicholson and Tower Hamlets have learnt something. (Although I am such a dreadful cynic… I’m still seething about the Whitechapel Bell Foundry decision…)

  64. May 22, 2021

    I am joining hands with those joyous nurses in the top photo, circling the intrepid tree and saluting ALL the supporters. It really does “take a village” — and it takes a gentle author to mobilize and motivate. And props to Dame Judi also, ‘course.

    How great to have GOOD news!? I needed that.

  65. Lynn MacKay permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Wonderful! Well done to all who stopped this project.

  66. May 22, 2021

    Gentle Author: Congratulations! Bippy and Mammon may revel in the destruction and monetization of the White Chapel Bell Foundry, but on occasion—as with the Bethnal Green Mulberry—and led by such selfless individuals as yourself, decency, awareness of the ineffable preciousness of heritage, the core value of what matters in this fragile world conquers the barbarian agenda and results in the preservation of a vital element—a symbol, an essential representation—of our brief lives.
    Thank you!

  67. May 22, 2021

    Absolutely fantastic news. Thank you to you GA and all the other campaigners. As someone who grew up in the shade of an equally ancient mulberry tree this has been close to my heart. Let’s hope that this sets a precedent for future protection and planning.

  68. stanley rondeau permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Great well done G A

  69. Rod permalink
    May 22, 2021

    Wonderful news.

  70. May 22, 2021

    Congratulations from Waterloo! We know from experience how difficult it is to win such cases, how steadfast you need to be, and how so much is down to luck of disclosure or getting the right QC (Richard Harwood is excellent)

    Just catching up with the whole case, reading the judgement now. Despite the Judge’s ruling, Harwood was right on Ground 1 – the Conservation Officer was clearly squashed and had her advice changed – but winning on Ground 5 has proved sufficient. Why did it take so long (two years – your report is wring above, it went to committee in Sept 18) from Committee to Decision Notice? Does that mean that TH are likely to come back and re-take the decision, or will Crest Nicholson give up, or amend?

  71. Denise permalink
    May 22, 2021

    BRAVO! From Australia.

  72. Patricia lewis permalink
    May 23, 2021

    Such wonderful news. thanks to all involved in this long battle to save this magnificent tree.

  73. Su C. permalink
    May 23, 2021

    Oh! Huzzah, huzzah, huzzah!!!!!!! Good news is needed! So very glad for this decision!!

  74. May 23, 2021


    Love & Peace

  75. May 23, 2021

    Only just seen this today. All I can say is: bloody marvellous and well done you and all your friends and allies, who have worked so hard to achieve this victory. Plus, a heartfelt toast to this most ancient of trees and to mulberry trees, old and young, throughout the land.

  76. Mark permalink
    May 24, 2021

    As a Tree Officer myself I am so pleased about this.
    I have been following this closely and have done a little my end to spread the word.

    Well done all,,, that’s fantastic!


  77. Garrick permalink
    May 24, 2021

    This news has lifted my spirits. Well done for sustaining a tenacious, informed and inspiring campaign.

  78. Dianne permalink
    May 26, 2021

    Absolutely wonderful news GA and well done for all your hard work in campaigning and for keeping your supporters updated. Thank you

  79. June 2, 2021

    Common sense prevails. A successful and wonderful outcome. Well done.

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