THE ‘munching’ has finished and Bernard Morgan House has gone. It hasn’t been a painless journey for those closest to the clanking machinery, the noise, the dust and the endless queues of dumper-trucks.
There have been some touching memorial tributes at the site of the former police section house – flowers taped to lamp posts – but the best of them appeared on social media from the Save Golden Lane protest group, who displayed the single image of one of the building’s classy decorative tiles that were dispatched during demolition.
— Save Golden Lane (@SaveBmh) February 17, 2018
At the start of the project there was a half-hearted pledge to save the tiles for recycling, but as time went on this looked less and less likely. They are now presumed to have been trashed along with all the other rubble.
Yes, the passing of Bernard Morgan House has left a nasty taste, but it might not be entirely in vain. The site hoardings that picture its proposed replacement, The Denizen, show luxury apartments designed to look like a bad-taste version of the baddy’s lair in a Bond movie.
The images have garnered residents in opposition and a plan is afoot to discourage any similar developments by making the estate a conservation area. We are joined in this by residents from the Barbican, and the City Corporation has now provisionally awarded the two estates ‘Conservation Area’ status.
Hopefully this will usher in a fresh approach to the preservation of the built environment and a sense of duty towards its maintenance and care.
There’s already a hitch. A small area between the neighbouring estates did not pass the Corporation’s conservation test and has been excluded from any special protection.
This zone includes the Jewin Welsh Church in Fann Street and the handsome red-brick block on Golden Lane, formerly occupied by the Cripplegate Institute but now home to global financial behemoth UBS. The zone also covers the Barbican Wildlife Garden, a magical place and good friend and partner to our own Golden Baggers food-growing project.
If you’re swotty enough to study the reasons for the exclusion of this contentious area (lots of coffee required), you can agree that, strictly speaking, it might not tick all the boxes. What is certain is that the City Corporation’s decision is a miserly one.
The zone is part of the neighbourhood’s history. A Welsh church and a wildlife garden are the kind of things that make a community special. So, in a rare show of unity, Golden Lane and Barbican residents have formed a dream team to lobby for the inclusion of this disputed territory in the conservation plan.
On a lighter note many of us were happy to join veteran resident Joan Flannery recently in the Ralph Perring Centre to celebrate her 90th birthday.
Joan has lived on Golden Lane for 48 years, most recently in Great Arthur House, and is known for her quick wit and gentle sarcasm. She grew up in my hometown Liverpool and sometimes slips into a classic Scouse accent. With family and friends serving tea and cake, the room rang out with bawdy laughter and good cheer.
Joan even took time to pass on a top tip for seniors: keep a list of your medication and healthcare details in the fridge door, because that’s where emergency-service workers look first.
I don’t often get emails that were meant for someone else, but it was nevertheless refreshing to get one from Mary Durcan, one of our nine elected members on the Common Council.
It told us what she has been up to recently on behalf of the ward of Cripplegate. She began by stating, ominously, that water has been a theme of her activities, starting late last year with an 8.30am shift on the Lord Mayor’s flotilla (in the rain).
Other aquatic engagements included a thrilling visit to the Thames Fishery Research Experiment in Tilbury (more rain), where she saw some big fish. Emerging from the moody waters of the Thames estuary, Mary then went to a “stunning” Grade I-listed cemetery at Manor Park, where City residents can get cut-price burials (note to self: get on the waiting list). It all made being a councillor sound quite exciting. Good charity shops are quite thin on the ground around here, so it’s nice to see our local,
Widows & Widowers on Whitecross Street, newly made over and transformed from a no-go chaos corner full of tat into a streamlined, go-with-the-flow shopping experience. A pink linen shirt for £5, thank you very much.
Billy Mann (far left) has lived in Basterfield House on the Golden Lane Estate for more than 20 years. He is membership secretary of the Golden Baggers allotment group, and last year was made a Housing Hero by the City of London Corporation. He writes a blog about neighbourhood events at basterfieldbilly.blogspot.com
Lead image: Chris Dorley Brown