As we said goodbye to 2021, The Glass-House also bid our previous office farewell. Our space at Wardrobe Place, built as a wardrobe for the King after the original tower which housed the collection of outfits was destroyed in the Fire of London, had served us well for several years, but it was time to find pastures new. And so we have recently moved out east to a collaborative space alongside a diverse group of creatives in the historic Bow area.
The Glass-House’s new home, now called Mainyard Studios, is a 1930’s building located between Mile End and Bow tube stations. Formerly used by the Council, the terracotta-beige brick building spent the first 90 years of its life blending with the area’s distinctive Victorian character before its new inhabitation, which has seen it reimagined as a co-working space. But it is not just the inside which has undergone a transformation. Alongside a renovation of the three storey building, artist and designer Jake Attewell (also known as Itaewon) was invited as part of London Mural Festival 2020 to give the front face of the building a fresh coat of paint in the form of a large, eclectic mural.
Designed to reflect the rich and diverse social history and architectural history of Bow, the mural features a depiction of Clara Grant (1867 – 1949), an educator and pioneer from the late 19th and early 20th Century. She worked to improve the education and wellbeing of children within the area, and became known as the ‘Farthing Bundle Woman of Bow’ due to her practice of selling bundles to needy children for just a farthing (the lowest value coin at the time). Splintering and radiating from behind Clara, the mural also features the interior of St. Mary-le-Bow Church (which actually sits closer to our old office), a famous church which houses the Bow bells. There is an old saying in London that to be a true Cockney you must be born within hearing distance of the Bow bells!
The mural, which sits somewhere between realism and imagination, pulls 35 Bow Road out from the background noise of brick buildings and into the forefront of the street, planting it firmly as a local landmark. The mural reimagines the front of the building as a tapestry for the area’s social and cultural history. By unconventionally reflecting local heritage, the building has become a celebration of a historic female figure beloved by many in the area and a source of pride for locals.
Clara Grant was awarded an OBE posthumously for her work in the Bow area, and amongst other local celebrations of her life (including the renaming of the local primary school she worked at to Clara Grant Primary), her grave lies just a five minute walk from Mainyard Studio in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. One of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ (seven great cemeteries established in the Victoria era to combat overcrowded gravesites which caused disease and contamination), the graveyard fell into a state of disrepair before the end of the 19th Century, and was then bombed fives times during WW2. It has now been reimagined as a unique woodland cemetery and nature park, where scores of tombstones and family vaults in various states of disrepair and decay line dirt paths alongside thriving local plant life. Stepping into the grounds, it is a perfect oasis from the busy area (and a perfect location for our lunch-time walks!). The park is well cared for and loved by a group of dedicated volunteers, you can find out more about the cemetery here.
Another new neighbour, our friends at Bow Church are located just a 10 minute walk down the road. The 700 year old church is the oldest building in Bow and sits on an island in Bow Road. Home to a passionate group of community members, Bow Church was part of the six year research project, Empowering Design Practices. Part of this project included ‘Prototyping Utopias’, a series of events and activities in 2016 in collaboration with The Open University and other local partners Bromley by Bow Centre and Bow Arts, which aimed to test a number of approaches to engaging a cross section of the community in thinking about the future of places, and to use design to prototype local ideas and solutions. Make sure you check out the beautiful building and community if you are ever out east. You can keep up to date with their activities and events here.
If you’re interested in finding out more about architectural gems in the area, our Bow Study Tour: Reinvesting Places of Workshop, also part of the Empowering Design Practices project, highlights several other fantastic places in Bow.
We are excited to continue settling into our new office, exploring the local area and having an opportunity to unpick more of the stories and places which weave together to form Bow and the East End.