Tower Hamlets looking for safe place for ‘Old Flo’ after legal battle over who owns Moore’s sculpture

Old Flo 'resting' in Yorkshire Sculpture Park and [inset] Henry moore who created it

Old Flo 'resting' in Yorkshire Sculpture Park and [inset] Henry moore who created it - Credit: Archant

Henry Moore’s treasured ‘Old Flo’ sculpture has finally been given back her “East End citizenship” after a four-year legal battle over who owns it.

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs

Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs - Credit: Archant

Now the Mayor of Tower Hamlets is looking for a safe place to display the £20 million bronze Draped Seated Woman where it won’t get stolen and melted down.

The Appeal Court has ruled that ‘Old Flo’—as it has been affectionately known for half-a-century—really does belong to Tower Hamlets Council and the people of east London.

“I’m glad to see common sense has prevailed,” Mayor John Biggs said.

“We have been reasserted as the legal owners of ‘Old Flo’ and I’m keen to have the sculpture brought back to the East End and put on public display.”

Old Flo 'resting' in Yorkshire Sculpture Park and [inset] Henry moore who created it

Old Flo 'resting' in Yorkshire Sculpture Park and [inset] Henry moore who created it - Credit: Archant

The Mayor set up a special working group to search out a suitable location and get the one-and-a-half tonne work of art transported back from the Henry Moore Sculpture Park in Yorkshire where it has languished almost forgotten for 19 years.

He told the East London Advertiser at an earlier media briefing: “We need to find a location that’s safe where people can see it, where it’s not going to get nicked and melted down because its worth a lot of money.

Most Read

“It depends on getting the right insurance. We need to do it thoughtfully, rather than rapidly—because there’s a history of these things being spirited away in the dead of night and melted down.”

He added: “This sculpture belongs to the people of east London, so we have a duty to look after it somewhere that’s safe.”

‘Old Flo’ was originally erected on Stepney’s new Stifford housing estate in 1962 where it remained until the estate was demolished in 1997 and transported to Yorkshire for safe keeping.

But its ownership was challenged by Bromley Council, claiming it was the rightful keeper of the assets held by the London Residuary Body after the Greater London Council was abolished in 1986—despite records showing ‘Old Flo’ was a gift to east London by Moore in 1962.

The legal wrangle followed a campaign to save ‘Old Flo’ after ex-Mayor Lutfur Rahman tried to put it on the market in 2012, which led to protests from leading figures such as film producer Danny Boyle and Henry Moore’s own daughter Mary Moore, as well as the Henry Moore Foundation, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the Tate Gallery.

The issue was raised in Parliament, forcing Tower Hamlets to withdraw the “fire sale” while the ownership challenge went to court.

Offers to house the sculpture securely were made at the time by Canary Wharf Group, the Museum of London Docklands and Queen Mary University at Mile End.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter