Tuesday 7 September 2010

A Brick Lane Coalhole... OR IS IT???

Or is it indeed....! I was visiting the Brick Lane area a couple of weeks ago and of course had half an eye out for anything of interest that might take its fancy. As it happened, just by the mosque, something did - a very unusual coal-hole which when viewed from one side didn't seem to make much sense, but if you took the trouble to walk around it - voila! a perfect little planet Earth in miniature
 All the World's a Coalhole! - Brick Lane
I couldn't help but be more than a little suspicious though. It was the right size for a coal-hole, it was the right shape for a coal-hole, it was even in the right place for a coal-hole but to be honest it looked a bit too arty to be a coal-hole. Certainly none of that symmetrical 'design made on a wheel' look about it that's typical of the true ironmongers coal-hole.

There was nothing else around to give any clues as to what else it might be though, so I had to wait until I was home to find out what it was I'd actually stumbled over.

What I found after a bit of searching was that it wasn't a coal-hole but something called a 'Spitalfields Roundel', one of a series of 25 individual images by local artist Keith Bowler that were created and placed as the result of the Bethnal Green City Challenge in 1995. This was a five year regeneration project for the Bethnal Green area and the roundels were one aspect of much of the work that took place in the area. The roundels were cast in iron locally and depicted scenes and images of importance locally. The globe outside the mosque was there to signify the historic  importance of immigration to the area

The 'Know Your London' website has lots more information on them including some nice sepia photographs. One thing that I did wonder and which wasn't clear on the website, was whether these roundels were sited in existing coal-holes or were they in effect plaques embedded in concrete? What I also find quite surprising and a little sad is that of the 25 roundels put in place in 1995, only 12 are still known to be in existence. Presumably the others have fallen victim to pavement repairs or rebuilding and their fate is not known. With 13 gone within 15 years you'd better get looking quick if you want to see any of the rest!


Trevor said...

What a strange story - amazing that in only 15 years these have been almost forgotten and are disappearing so fast. Many thanks for spotting this!

Jane said...

Thanks for that link. I have a pic of the one outside Christ Church School (top left in the link below). A few of the others can be seen further down, taken by other people.

Jane said...

better set here c/o Jasper M on Flickr:

Thud said...

I'm not much of a lover of street art,I much prefer your examples of past trade etc.