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Here We Go Round The Mulberry Cuttings

March 4, 2024
by the gentle author

On Saturday, the East End Preservation Society sent this report to all those who contributed £100 or more to the legal fund for the successful campaign to Save the Bethnal Green Mulberry in 2021. I am publishing it today in case anyone who donated missed it and also so that readers may know how the work of the campaign has continued beyond the High Court verdict.

Nurses dancing around the Bethnal Green Mulberry


In 2021, the East End Preservation Society took Tower Hamlets Council to the High Court and saved the five-hundred-year-old Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree from being dug up by the developer Crest Nicholson. As a consequence, the developers sold the land to the Clarion Housing Group who have made two public pledges to ‘retaining the mulberry tree in its current location’ and ‘providing more genuinely affordable homes that meet local need.’ 

This splendid victory was largely due to the generosity of our supporters. To those who contributed £100 or more to the legal fund, we offered a cutting of a mulberry planted by David Garrick from a tree originally planted by William Shakespeare. This report is an account of our work over the last three years to fulfil this offer.

During this time, EEPS became subsumed into the ongoing campaign to Save Brick Lane, challenging the corporate development of the Truman Brewery. Members of the society are also central to the campaigns to Save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry and to stop the redevelopment of Liverpool Street Station. We saved a pair of 1764 weavers houses in Club Row by getting them listed by Historic England and we prevented the demolition of the terrace in Vallance Rd, Whitechapel, which is the last surviving fragment of the Pavilion Theatre.



First Attempt

In spring 2021, when David Garrick’s Mulberry was pruned, we obtained 150 cuttings which were cultivated for us by an experienced tree nurseryman. These were set in compost and by the summer of that year, the buds on these cuttings were swelling which confirmed they were alive and gave us reasonable expectation they had rooted. On further investigation, we discovered that none had rooted and they all died.

Subsequently, the owner of Garrick’s Mulberry confirmed that the tree was suffering from a fungal infection which afflicted many mulberries across the country that year. We concluded that this infection was the explanation for the failure of the cuttings, especially since plenty of cuttings from other varieties of tree succeeded in the same nursery that year. The arborculturalist who cares for the Garrick’s Mulberry advised that it needed to be given a chance to recover and not pruned again until spring 2023.

Second Attempt

In spring 2023, when Garrick’s Mulberry was pruned again, we obtained 600 cuttings which were cultivated for us by the same tree nurseryman, employing four different methods to maximise the chances of a successful outcome. These methods included, in compost, in water and using hormonal rooting powder. The cuttings were tended closely through the spring and summer of 2023 but we were faced with the same outcome. The buds swelled confirming they were alive, but then none rooted and they all died.

Going back to the owner of Garrick’s Mulberry, the arborculturalist confirmed that infection was still present and that it was a poorly tree, which cannot be pruned again until spring 2025.

Third Attempt

We are deeply disappointed by the failure of these cuttings and regretful that we have been unable to fulfil our offer to our supporters, but we are not going to give up.

The tree nurseryman is completely baffled by this outcome after all the work he has put in, which he has generously undertaken without any remuneration in support of the cause. He is willing to try again in 2025.

We are also grateful to the owner of Garrick’s Mulberry who has patiently stuck with us and to volunteer Jill Wilson who has tirelessly driven back and forth, delivering pruned mulberry branches from the tree to the nursery.

We are planning to spend the next year seeking further advice in advance of our third attempt to ensure that we can maximise the chance of delivering these cuttings successfully in 2025.

We are in dialogue with a handful of experts who have successfully taken cuttings from historic mulberries and trees afflicted with infection. Our guide is Peter Coles of , author of the standard work ‘Mulberry’ published by Reaktion Books in 2019.

Most of all we are grateful to you for your generous support in saving the Bethnal Green Tree Mulberry and your patience with our struggle to deliver the cuttings.

Be assured, we will keep you informed of our progress.

With every good wish to you from

The East End Preservation Society



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 Bethnal Green Mulberry Verdict

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

6 Responses leave one →
  1. March 4, 2024

    Well done on saving the Bethnal Green mulberry and what a pity about the Garrick mulberry cuttings. It is baffling that none survived.
    I have mentioned previously that I live near a mulberry tree planted by Sir Edward Elgar. I wonder if propagation from seed is an option? I know that it often isn’t due to hybridisation.

  2. Jill Wilson permalink
    March 4, 2024

    What a shame that none of the cuttings survived, especially as there were so many last year…

    I’m up for doing the transport run again in 2025.

    Let’s hope it is third time lucky!

  3. mary woodward permalink
    March 4, 2024

    Keep trying..third time lucky…..come on tree

  4. John Woodman permalink
    March 4, 2024

    Obbyr niartal – mighty work, in Manx. I hope the propagation is eventually successful.

  5. Eve permalink
    March 4, 2024

    Splendid that this magical grand old ‘tree of life’ was saved (hurrah..!) On reading that they need very little maintenance, are robust & slow growing, hopefully they will thrive adapting to our changing weather patterns & climate..

  6. March 4, 2024

    Such a great victory Gentle Author. A shame about the Garrick tree. Perhaps, you will find a healthy tree to substitute?

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