Bevin Court’s Bust

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).

Bevin in Bevin

Copyright John McCann/RIBA Collections

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.

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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.

Bevin tooley

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).

iMakr unite.jpg

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.  

3D bust

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.

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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.

LBI Bevan Court 22.05.16-0302

 

 

 

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Ernest Bevin

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:

Andrew Murray and Bevin

Andrew Murray and the bust of Bevin at Unite the Union offices

“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.

3D printing Bevin

There are lots of stories about Bevin Court and its environs and as part of our Bevin Court Restoration Project we are reproducing a bust of Ernest Bevin. The Building used to house a bronze bust of Bevin housed in the aperture across from Yates’ mural.

John McCann / RIBA Library Photographs Collection

John McCann / RIBA Library Photographs Collection

Like most of the stories concerning Bevin Court and busts, the how, why and when of the disappearance of Bevin’s bust is not clear cut. Residents remember that the bust went some time in the 90s, but stories of Bevin’s bust become intertwined with the happenings of the bust of Lenin and the two tales often intertwine (if any one has any other info on Bevin’s bust then do get in contact).

Bevin in 3D lime green

Mini Bevin!

As part of the Bevin Court Community Restoration project we are reproducing a bust of Bevin to go into the space left by the old bust. iMakr, a 3D printing company in Clerkenwell, are working with us to create an exact replica of the bust owned by the Unite union. Why have we chosen this bust to copy? We will be publishing a blog on just this topic very soon!

This lime green version is a mini Bevin produced for us by iMakr to demonstrate the level of detail captured during the scan. We will be organising a visit to the studio at iMakr during the production of the full size bust, if you’d like to join us on this visit then drop alex.smith@islignton.gov.uk an email.

Once the bust is printed it will go on display in Islington museum before being installed in Bevin court.