The art of a tea towel



You probably know that we have a weakness for a tea towel – so we were delighted when this extra-special one arrived in the mail! Why is it extra-special? Well…

First of all it was sold to raise money for the Save Norton Folgate campaign. We’ve posted about Norton Folgate in the past here and here. (The latest is that the former Mayor of London’s decision to overrule Tower Hamlets council and allow the British Land development to go ahead has gone to a judicial review and a decision will be made very soon).

Secondly, the design is by Adam Dant – who is sometimes called ‘the 21st century’s Hogarth’. He creates large, intricate drawings that record and often satirize contemporary life. (He was the official artist of the 2015 General Election.) And as a Shoreditch  resident himself, he has keen interest in what happens in the area. The tea towel features a print of his work ‘The Curse of Norton Folgate’ (created especially for the Save Norton Folgate campaign), in which the animals that died in the fire at the East London Aquarium, Menagerie and Waxwork Museum in  1884 stalk the streets of Shoreditch delivering elaborate, theatrical curses to those who wish to despoil the Liberty of Norton Folgate.


They are surrounded by vignettes of the history of the area and portraits of famous residents:




And the third reason it’s special? These tea towels were sold as a limited edition of 100 and are numbered and signed! So it’s not so much a tea towel as a bona fide piece of art, which means that we couldn’t possibly use it for drying dishes… and anything that means we don’t have to dry dishes is A Good Thing!



PS Sorry – they are sold out!

Norton Folgate update

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You remember a little while ago we posted about the campaign to save Norton Folgate? It’s a historic area of London just to the north of Spitalfields where British Land, one of the largest property development and investment companies in the UK, wanted to demolish 72% of the buildings on the piece of land that they own, all of which is in a conservation area. In their place, they wanted to build a collection of office blocks 11 – 13 storeys high. It would have meant not only the loss of historically important buildings, but the destruction of the character of the area.

After an impressive campaign by The Spitalfields Trust, including a human chain around the threatened area, Tower hamlets Council has rejected the British Land proposals. Interestingly, it wasn’t just conservationists who opposed the plans, but also the local businesses – creative and technology businesses who feel that they gain not just from the location near the City, but the vibrant and mixed nature of it.

So a beautiful piece of Georgian London with an interesting history has been saved. Good news!

Save Norton Folgate

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What? Who? Where?

Norton Folgate is an area to the north of Spitalfields in London with a fascinating history. In 1547 it became a ‘liberty’, which means that it was governed by its residents. The Liberty of Norton Folgate was ruled by 10 ‘Ancient Inhabitants’ – actually elected officials who could be either men or women. Their powers let them organise street lighting,  their own watchmen and initiatives to help the poor. They could even perform marriages and burials independently of the church, all of which was very forward thinking for the time. The Constable of the Liberty had a staff to symbolise the authority he wielded on behalf of the people – it’s London’s oldest staff of office.


It’s thought that Shakespeare lived in the area briefly (the tax records indicate that he did) and Christopher Marlowe definitely lived there in the sixteenth century. In fact, he wrote at least part (if not all) of Doctor Faustus during that period. In the seventeenth century the area was settled by many Huguenot silk weavers and the industry first flourished and then declined.

Norton Folgate was also the site of the first stage production of Dicken’s work in 1837 (The Pickwick Club – actually produced before the author had finished writing it). The liberty continued until 1900 when the area became part of the Borough of Stepney under the LCC. It’s always been a mix of art and industry, residential and commercial occupancy.

So now to the problem. British Land, one of the largest property development and investment companies in the UK want to redevelop the area. Their plan is to demolish 72% of the buildings on the piece of land that they own, all of which is in a conservation area. In their place, they want to build a collection of office blocks 11 – 13 storeys high. If the plan goes ahead, not only will historically important buildings be lost, the character of the area will be destroyed. Forever.

The Spitalfields Trust (which has already saved the area once) is campaigning against British Land’s plan and has put forward an alternative redevelopment which would keep existing buildings and add new ones in a mix of traditional and contemporary styles.

Can we ask you a favour? Please visit The Spitalfields Trust website and then please consider writing to Tower Hamlets Council to object to British Land’s application (details of how to do this are on the site). The deadline for objections was in February, but letters and emails will be accepted right up until the Hearing of Application  which is likely to be in April. Please? Go on…