We are so please that after an epic journey to restore Peter Yates’ mural Day and Night,Winged Bulls, we can announce that the process is finally complete. Here is a sneak preview of the mural as it is today. For a more detailed understanding of how the mural has changed and how the fantastic team of conservators completed this project then take a look at the talk from Tom Organ who will talk you through the whole process.
Everyone involved in the restoration process has been astounded at the results. The feel and the look of the original 1954 mural is shining through this work. You can see a gallery of more detailed images of the mural which we will be adding to as we take images.
We are putting the glazing in place to protect the mural and then we will be celebrating the results with the residents and project team. Well done everyone.
The naming of Bevin Court took place in 1953 once most of the work had been completed on the building. Lubetkin had wanted to call the site at Holford Square “Lenin Court” after the Russian leaders strong links with the area. However, by the 1950s relations with Russia had cooled and another name was sought.
Although the original minutes of the Finsbury Housing Committee are not available for study, the committees discussions on the naming of the site are recorded in the general minute books of Finsbury Council.
On 14 April 1953, item 6e, ii of the minutes noted that the ‘Architects sought the instructions of the Committee as to the naming and numbering of the flats at this scheme. Resolved: that consideration of the question of naming the Blocks be adjourned to the next ordinary meeting of the Committee.’
The decision was pushed back to the Housing Committee meeting of 5 October 1953, where at item 5c: ‘Resolved that subject to the concurrence of the family of the late Ernest Bevin, the London County Council be asked to approve the name of “Bevin Court” for Block A of the Holford Square Estate. ‘
Dame Florence Bevin sent the committee a letter stating that she feels very proud and delighted that the Council propose to name an estate “Bevin Court.” So the proposal was accordingly submitted to the London County Council and no objection was made.
On 8 March 1954 the Finsbury Housing Committee Chairman suggested that it would be fitting for a bust of the late Mr. Ernest Bevin to be placed in the main entrance of Bevin Court at a cost of approximately £80 (although the actual cost ended up being £85 along with the costs of transport of the bust £1 10s. 0d., bronze tablet £13 10s. 0d., and stone base £4).
At the Housing Committee meeting 10 May 1954 the Town Clerk reported upon the Completion Ceremony held at Bevin Court on Saturday, 24th April, 1954, ‘which was attended by approximately 200 persons, Dame Florence Bevin, D.B.E., performing the ceremony by unveiling a plaque and a bust of the late Mr. Ernest Bevin.’
Dame Florence Bevin later wrote to the committee expressing her ‘warmest thanks for the courtesies and kindnesses extended to her in connection with the formal opening of Bevin Court on 24th April, and also for the gift which was made to her, which she will always treasure not only on account of its association with her late husband but because it will serve to remind her of the happy afternoon spent at Finsbury.’
Many residents at Bevin Court remember Ernest Bevin sitting in the foyer of the block looking over Peter Yates’ mural. By the 1990s the bust of Ernest Bevin had been removed and all that remained were the metal footings that held his base. As part of the HLF funded Bevin Court Restoration Project, the bust was researched and a 3D copy of the bust was created.
In order for us to create a 3D copy of a bust, we had to find a bust of Ernest Bevin to scan. The first point of call was to research the surviving busts of Ernest Bevin available to us today.
As Andrew Murray of Unite the Union’s blog on Ernest Bevin laid out, Bevin was the co-founder and Secretary General of the Trade and General Workers Union (TGWU) from 1922-1940 (which became Unite the Union in 2007). A portrait bust was sculpted in 1929 for the union. The bust still sits in the board room at its head offices in Holborn.
Bevin held many political positions, he was Foreign Secretary from 1945 – 1950. In 1953 the TGWU donated a similar bust of Ernest Bevin to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
A third bust of Bevin can be seen in Tooley Street. It has many similarities to the other two. Unveiled on 9 May 1955 by Cllr P.J. Geoghegan, Mayor of Southwark. It was funded by an appeal to local dockworkers.
All of these bust are extremely similar. One of the key features that links all of these busts is the TGWU badge that Bevin wears on his left lapel. Residents at Bevin Court who remember the bust being in situ say that the badge was so polished that it was a bright bronze colour instead of the darker oxidised bronze of the rest of the bust.
It is likely that the bust from the TGWU is the original from which the other two, and Bevin Court’s bust were copied. Unlike the later copy in Tooley Street, the hairstyle of the bust at Bevin Court is the same as the TGUW bust, with a strand of hair over the right brow.
This has led us to ask Unite the Union if we could scan their bust in order to print and replace the bust in Bevin Court. The union agreed and in February 2015 we were able to visit Unite the Union with the iMakr 3D printing team and capture the bust using photogrammetry (the process of 3D scanning by taking pictures).
The team then took the photos and reconstructed Bevin using CAD (computer aided design) software. This model was tested by iMakr, they made two mini Bevin’s to make sure the community at Bevin Court were happy with the outcome.
Once the testing was over, it was time to print the real thing. As the bust of Bevin was going to be over 60cm tall, he was printed in a number of different pieces. As you can see in the image below, the printer lays down plastics to build up the form leaving a hollow plastic mesh in the core.
Each part of the puzzle of Bevin was printed separately and then a studio artist glued him together, finished the edges and then coated him in real Bronze! Watch this great little video of Bevin getting his head glued on.
The final bust was glazed into his aperture in Bevin court in May 2016 and unveiled by Sue and Julia at our unveiling ceremony on 23 May 2016.
The Peter Yates’ mural at Bevin court has had a very exciting life, it’s been painted over twice and is now in the process of being restored. Along with the hunt to find the detail of the original scheme, there is also a tremendous amount of work being done to find out what the original colour scheme was for the mural.
The conservation team sent samples of paint layers from the mural off to a lab to be tested. Through this the team discovered that the paints had a significantly different tone in the origional scheme.
Tom and his team then match up all the colours and have produced swatches of the colours that will be used to reinstate the original look and fee of the mural.
Take a look at the below image to see the difference between the colour painted pre 1989 and the original colour scheme. To the left of the image is the modern brighter colour blue. to the right is the more subtle, dusky 1950s blue. We think the finished produce is going to look amazing.
We are pleased to have sneak peak at the cartoon that Tom and his team have put together to restore the bull in Day and Night, Winged Bulls back to its original feel and look.
After countless hours scrutinising old photos of the mural, looking at Yates’ sketches and other works. Tom has put together this majestic beast on paper and will transfer him onto the mural. We think he looks great and can’t wait to see him restored to his rightful place.
To find out a little bit more about how Tom and his team restored Day and Night, Winged Bulls listen to his talk from May 2016
As we delve deeper into the history of the Peter Yates mural Day and Night,Winged Bulls we are finding some of the likely reasons why the mural was overpainted. Graffiti uncovered by Tom and his team gives us a much greater understanding of the life of the mural. Although none of the residents remember the mural being in such a bad state or repair, it clearly has had some significant vandalism. This gives us a motive for the overpaint that took place sometime before the 1980s.
Another surprising aspect of the mural’s past is uncovered in this image. The top line of the bull’s wing has been drawn 3 times. This means there are three phases to this mural i.e. it has been overpainted twice! You can see on the below images that the conservation team have labeled the three phases 1, 2 and 3.
Tom and his team have found that the first phase of the mural was completely whitewashed out although there is no evidence for the illusive missing wing on the bull. The second phase of the mural was abraded before the third was painted. This could support the theory that Peter Yates could have painted the first phase of the mural with a two winged bull, painted the second phase of the mural with a one winged bull and then after a period of significant damage and vandalism, the mural was copied, abraded and then completely overpainted with the third phase some time before the 1980s.
More graffiti was uncovered as the restoration process continued and the reasons for the overpainting of the scheme became more and more evident. You can listen to Tom Organ’s talk to find out how the team dealt with all this damage to the original mural.
The Yates family have had a dig through their Archive of Peter Yates’ works and have uncovered some remarkable colour glass sides of the mural taken by Peter Yates. They are thought to be from before the building was officially opened in 1954. Indeed one of the photos is taken through the aperture where the bust of Ernest Bevin was placed for the opening in 1954. These amazing colour slides lead the project to two realisations.
1) the mural that we have today has been completely overpainted at some point before 1989
2) when Peter Yates first painted this scheme, he gave the bull two wings!
So far, the best photo that we had of the mural in the past was the photo that one of the original residents, Carol, gave us. She took the photo on 20 January 1989 and it shows the mural we know today in a good state of repair and not vandalised. The Yates’ Family Archive photos clearly show that there has been a wholesale over paint of Winged Bull Day and Night at some point between the opening of the building and the 1980s.
The team have done some digging at RIBA archive too and found some photos of the mural taken by John McCann in 1954, the year that the mural opened. These photos are in black and white, but they clearly show that the same differences in the finish of the mural as shown in the Yates Family Archive slides.
The main points of difference are in the detail of the Well, the Bull and a loss of detail in the buildings and the dolphins. Although surprisingly, the bull only has one wing as today – a mystery indeed!
At this point in the project we had to discuss what route we could take with the restoration of the mural as we were clearly working with a later rendition of the work. Tom and his team walked us through the different options open to us, the residents and the family. In unison our team decided to try and restore as much detail of the original as we could.
To this end the Yates family, very kindly, had the colour slides they hold professional scanned to retrieve as much detail from them as possible. RIBA too provided us with high resolution images of the images of the mural they hold. Tom and his team started studying the photos, cross sectioning the images to create a map of the original. They started to take some of the over painted top layers off the mural and we found some amazing evidence of the past life of the mural.
The Yates family also scoured their achieve for studies and sketches of the mural and we compared these to the scheme. In many of his sketches for this theme, he uses a bull with one wing, but sometimes, the bull has two!
The John MaCann photos of the mural are dated to 1954 at the time of the buildings opening. In these images the bull only has one wing. Therefore we can hypotifsise that Peter Yates may have painted the bull with two wings, photographed the mural and then changed his mind and painted the second wing out before the opening of the building.
You can find out more about the process of restoring this mural by listening to Tom Organ’s talk on Restoring Yates.
The film observes the method and practise of the Modernist architects who rebuilt London after World War Two. It shows how they revolutionised life in the city in the wake of destruction from war and the poor living conditions inherited from the Industrial Revolution.
Watch this section of Utopia London and learn even more out about brilliant Bevin Court.
You can find out more about the film and when screenings of the movie will be taking place by visiting www.utopialondon.com
The namesake of Bevin Court was a 20th century political giant. Many books have been written on him but we wanted to find out why Bevin is so important to people today. So we visited Unite, the Union, with our film making team to interview Andrew Murray, Chief of Staff to Unite. Bevin was one of the founding members of this Union so we knew they’d be able to help. Andrew did such a great job contextualising Ernie that we asked him if he’d write a small blog for our website. So here it is:
“Ernie Bevin was one of the most eminent trade union leaders of the 20th century. Born into a very poor family in 1881, he had only elementary schooling. He started work in Bristol at the age of 13, pushing barrows full of pies around the docks, which were then a major employer in that city. He became an official of the Dock Workers Union in Bristol before the First World War.
At that time there were several different trade unions for dockers and transport workers. Bevin worked to bring them all together into one bigger union, able to negotiate with employers at a time of great poverty and exploitation from a position of strength. That new union was the Transport and General Workers’ Union. It united dockers, bus drivers, lorry drivers, workers in food and other industries in one union. By the time of the Second World War, under Bevin’s leadership it became the biggest trade union in the country, also including car workers and employees in other new industries. Bevin was known as the “dockers QC” for his advocacy of their case for better living standards. He became the best-known trade union figure in Britain.
Bevin became the T&G’s first General Secretary. He held the post from 1922 to 1945. He took leave to serve as Minister of Labour in the coalition government during the Second World War. In that role he helped mobilise the country’s manpower to win the war against the Nazis. After Churchill he was arguably the key member of government, since keeping industry working efficiently and at full capacity, at a time when very many workers were in the armed forces, was key to victory.
In 1945 Britain elected the first-ever majority Labour government by a landslide. Bevin was named Foreign Secretary in the new government, the first working-class person to serve in that prestigious post. He was part of the government which introduced the National Health Service and other important reforms. He finally died in 1951, but is remembered as one of the most towering figures of 20th century British history, above all as a representative of the advance of working-class people to positions of influence in our democracy.”
A big thanks to Andrew Murray for putting together this blog. Watch this space for more interesting articles on Ernest Bevin.
We’ve finally started the restoration of Winged Bull Day and Night, Peter Yates’ mural at Bevin Court. Tom and his team from Arte Conservation are working on cleaning the work up. The varnish that has discoloured the mural is coming off nicely and revealing a very bright coloured mural indeed!
Watch this space to find out more.