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Gloucester gets a Duke’s eye view of church restoration

PUBLISHED: 21:44 24 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:39 05 October 2010

What the Duke saw... architect Bolton points to restoration work

What the Duke saw... architect Bolton points to restoration work

THE East End of London had a Royal visitor today (Wednesday) when the Duke of Gloucester came to see restoration work at a 200-year-old church as part of a 2012 heritage campaign. He looked in at St John-on-Bethnal Green on his whistle-stop tour to get the public aware of the capital’s rich history in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics

Else Kvist

THE East End of London had a Royal visitor today (Wednesday) when the Duke of Gloucester came to see restoration work at a church nearly 200 years old, as part of a 2012 heritage campaign.

The Duke was on a whistle-stop tour which began in north London then Bethnal Green before heading across the Thames to Kent looking at historic sites.

It was part of a campaign by the Heritage of London Trust to get the public aware of the capital’s rich history in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics.

His second stop was at St John-on-Bethnal Green to see the restoration work going on there.

The Royal VIP was met by The Rev Alan Green, vicar at St John’s, and restoration architect Jon Bolter before stepping inside the Grade I-listed 1826 church to meet the Mayor of Tower Hamlets and congregation members.

The Duke is an architect himself and took great interest in the work on the clock tower being pointed out to him by Bolton.

The four dials in the tower were taken down two years ago and are waiting for the tower to be renovated before being hoisted back.

The gaps left, meanwhile, have been filled with images of saintly figures created by artists working in the church crypt with members of the public.

It’s not the first time St John’s gets a new lease of life in its long history, the Duke learned.

It was badly destroyed by fire in 1870. But Like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, the roof and interior woodwork were restored by a local builder William Mundy.

Now a local architect was doing the same with the distinctive clock tower that looks down almost the whole length of Bethnal Green Road.

The Duke stopped off on his way to Bethnal Green at a Grade II-listed brick house in Tottenham High Road in north London, dated 1715, which has been on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk register for years—and has only just escaped the bulldozers’ handy-work. The house is now being restored by a local heritage trust.

The Duke later visited St George’s Chapel at Woolwich, in south-east London, which was bombed in 1944 and remains as the Royal Artillery Victoria Cross and George Cross memorial.

His whistle-stop tour ended at Camden Place in Chislehurst, Kent, which was home to the exiled Emperor Napoleon III and the Empress Eugenie and their son, the Prince Imperial, who was killed in the Zulu Wars in 1879.

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