Developers want to move the Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree, which survived the Great Fire of London and bombed it in lightning, to make way for a block of flats.
Edmund Bonner, who was Bishop of London during the reign of Henry VIII, is said to have planted the black mulberry tree in his gardens next to today’s Victoria Park.
The tree was later incorporated into the grounds of the London Chest Hospital, where it was almost bombed to a stump in 1941.
After Tower Hamlets Council approved nearly 300 homes on the site of the former hospital, developer Crest Nicholson said the tree would be picked up from the root base and “completely replanted” elsewhere. Activists believe this will kill the split and scarred tree.
Nurses dance around the Bethnal Green Mulberry to celebrate their regrowth after the bombing
/. Archives of the Royal London Hospital )
Dame Judi said, “I am horrified to think that the 400 year old Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree will be excavated to build a block of flats. This pandemic taught us that we should respect nature, not destroy it. ”
She urged people to support the campaign so that “this beautiful old tree in the East End can live and thrive” for generations to come “.
The East End Preservation Society and East London Garden Society chairman Geoffrey Juden have been fighting to save the tree for three years and have received a judicial review to challenge the council’s decision to grant a building permit.
Mr. Juden said, “We understand that there is an urgent need for truly affordable housing in Bethnal Green, but we also recognize a responsibility to future generations.”
He added: “We want development to be done in a sensitive and humane way – so that the historic mulberry tree is not damaged.”
The Gentle Author, who writes on East London’s culture, added: “National policy is that old trees should only be moved in exceptional circumstances. This is certainly not the case.”
Crest Nicholson has announced that it will actively use the “dilapidated site” again with “extensive tree planting”.
A Tower Hamlets Council spokesman said the tree will be placed on the lawn of the new settlement where it can be seen by the public.