Cartoon of the bull!

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

60 years at Bevin Court

Joan and Carol have both lived in Bevin Court since it opened in 1954. They were relocated from other houses in Finsbury, Joan as a newlywed from her mothers house and Carol, with her Mum and Dad.

A very big thanks to Joan and Carol for sharing their memories.



Day an Night: Grafitti

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.

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Breaking news: a Bull with two wings!

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!

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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.

Copyright Ribapix McCann

Copyright Ribapix McCann

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.

Utopia London

Bevin Court resident, Tom Cordell, has a passion for London’s architecture. In 2012 he directed Utopia London, a feature length documentary that explores London’s recent architectural history.

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

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.

The restoration has started!

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!

Bull brightScreen Shot 2016-05-27 at 14.39.04

Watch this space to find out more.


Birds of Bevin Court

We have a very popular bird feeding station at the rear of Bevin Court,  in the woodland area below the ramp entrance of the building.   There are a variety of feeders providing hulled sunflower hearts, niger ( or nyjer) seed & suet pellets.

The ring-necked parakeets and great spotted woodpeckers enjoy the suet pellets.   Finches & siskins love niger seed.  Everyone loves the hulled sunflower hearts – even our marauding squirrels!

All of the feeders and feed that we provide to our bird population are paid for by Bevin Community Gardens.

Some of the birds you may see on our feeders or around Bevin Court are listed below

Images courtesy of
Public Domain Pictures
** Pixabay

Cyril and Renske Mann: remembering Bevin Court

Bevin Court has been home to many remarkable people. One of its most famous past residents was the artist Cyril Mann. In 2013 an Islington People’s Plaque was erected to commemorate Cyril’s time at Bevin Court. His Widow Renske Mann has been kind enough to share some of her memories about the time they lived at Bevin Court.

Cyril Mann self portrait

Cyril Mann – Self portrait

In his  biography, Times art critic John Russell Taylor describes how Bevin Court led Cyril Mann to paint some of his finest works during the 1960s and beyond, in very difficult circumstances.

75 St Pauls by Cyril Mann

Cyril Mann – 75 St Pauls

When Cyril moved to Bevin Court in 1956, he could barely believe his luck, says his widow, Renske Mann “Cyril had previously lived in a gloomy flat in Paul Street, near the present-day Barbican,” Renske explains. “As it had all its windows barred, there was almost no daylight, forcing him to paint in electric light for several years,”  


In contrast, flat 108 on the seventh floor was flooded in daylight. It had uninterrupted views of the city. For the first time, Cyril – by then in his mid-forties – enjoyed a bathroom with hot and cold water on tap. In the kitchen was a BabyBelling cooker and a formica-topped table, but no fridge or washing machine.  

Cyrill Mann Interior with red chair

Cyrill Mann – Interior with red chair

At around 475sq ft, the flat was  small. Half the space – the  bedroom – stored unsold pictures and the tools of the trade: brushes, paints, easels, art books and a large Victorian mahogany chest, which Cyril had kept since attending the Royal Academy before the War.

Renske moved into the flat with Cyril in 1960 when he was 48 and she had just turned 20, arriving from Holland a year earlier. Renske remembers how she and her husband lived, worked and slept on a single bed in the living room.  Often they didn’t leave the flat for days. “We were totally immersed in his art,” she says. “There was no TV or radio.”

“Cyril never had the luxury of a model before and and took full advantage. He painted in a frenzy, day and night, often driving me to despair with exhaustion. Our flat was like a factory. Smells of oils, varnish and animal size (a glue used for sealing canvases) melting on the cooker, permeated everything.”

Cyril Mann Studio Corner

Cyril Mann – Studio Corner

“Our bathroom was often out of bounds, too. Cyril brought back buckets of London earth for use in pottery, which he taught at evening classes. This soil had to be  ‘washed’, which he did in the bath over several days. This meant using the communal baths in Ironmonger’s Row.”

Cyril was in poor health, mentally and physically, suffering from stomach ulcers and depression. Renske persuaded him to give up teaching and concentrate full time on painting. She earned a fair wage as a bi-lingual English/Dutch secretary, but Bevin Court’s rent took almost half. “Like most people those days, we smoked, but sacrificed eating for cigarettes if we ran out of money.”

“We scoured Chapel Street market for cheap veg and foods, like bacon offcuts, misshapen eggs, broken biscuits and mushroom stalks.  Yet, we never felt deprived or insecure. ‘If God looks after the sparrows, He’ll look after me,’ Cyril assured me. I hoped God would look after me, too”

Cyril Mann View from Bevin Court (North), 1960

Cyril Mann – North View from Bevin Court


They were friendly with their neighbours next door at Bevin Court, Mr and Mrs Neville, and their little daughter, who must be in her sixties by now.  Mrs Neville worked for the local  ‘fleapit’ in Upper Street and sneaked them free cinema tickets.

This was all long before Islington became fashionable. Camden Passage had no antique shops or galleries. A framer, called Mr Peyton, then started a bric-a-brac market, which was the start of the present antique shops and galleries.

Cyril Mann View from Bevin Court (South), 1961

Cyril Mann – South View from Bevin Court


While it had not been built long, Bevin Court was starting to look shabby. There were no trees or landscaping around the building. The entrance was open, without a front door and windswept. “You walked from one side to the other, right through the building. None of the floors had security doors,” Renske recalls.

Inside the entrance hall was a bronze bust of Ernest Bevin, the politician. On the other side was the typically 1950s mural by Peter Yates, softening the ‘brutalist’ interior and providing a splash of colour.

Cyril  admired the Lubetkin architecture and famous staircase. “He made me look upwards, exclaiming how beautiful it was. He regretted the flats were not named for Lenin, as originally intended.”

Cyril and Renske moved out of Bevin Court in 1964. They bought a small house in Walthamstow, a poor and unfashionable part of East London. A gift from his art patron, Erica Marx, helped them to pay the deposit. Their daughter, Amanda, was born there in 1968.

Cyril died on January 7, 1980, aged 68, after years of ill health and spells in mental hospitals and following an art career that had spanned over half a century.

His work  is represented in major private and public collections, including the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, the Guildhall Museum and Art Gallery and the William Morris Museum in Walthamstow.   

For more information on Cyril Mann please visit Piano Noblle website where you can also buy  “The Sun is God, The Life and Work of Cyril Mann” by John Russell Taylor.