31 Fournier Street.
31 Fournier Street.
On a cold grey day on April 4 2018, we stood outside No 31 Fournier Street. I could see Bobby was deep in thought. Almost mesmerised by how we had come to be standing outside this front door in Spitalfields, East London.
Not so long ago he knew virtually nothing about East London. Nothing, that is, except the media driven negative impression of a down trodden, criminal element, dodgy area to be avoided. Liverpool Street, trainspotting in the fifties, and Petticoat Lane with his mum and dad shopping were probably the limit of his knowledge. Oh, and a brief foray in the mid fifties to bus spotting… that took him to all the east end bus garages at just ten years old. On a bike from North Cheam.
That all changed in 2012. As usual, he had booked to volunteer on Skomer Island. A new blog on that is due shortly. And, as usual, he was seeking some nice books to take. A week in paradise, with no distraction, is great for reading. In 2012 he settled for a large book recommended in all the papers. Spitalfields Life.
You have seen it before and probably will do regularly in the future. For he was so transfixed by that book of 448 pages that he forgot all about the puffins. When he wasn’t doing his volunteering duties, he was engrossed in the book. The book led him to the blog:
The daily blog came at a time of upheaval in his life. A yawning gap appeared with the departure of Diddley. What to do? The Gentle Author was advertising a blog course. Maybe, maybe, well? Just go for it Bobby. And he did. Meeting the GA in a 17th century townhouse with twelve other creative souls. Including Tim and Tracey, future stalwarts of Mindfully Bertie. And, as you know, Mindfully Bertie was born.
Now in his seventies, a total new interest had taken over. Enhanced by the knowledge that his step daughter Amber had moved to an attic flat in… 31 Fournier Street.
It would be inappropriate of Bobby to fill this blog with more information on what is the GA’s supreme triumph. So what follows is a personal insight. Just read Spitalfields Life and you will get a wealth of information.
His new interest in London had led him to join the British Film Institute (BFI). They were showing a season of London based films. One evening, the iconic documentary “The London Nobody Knows”. Presented and narrated by James Mason. A long sequence in the East End of London saw him briefly in Spitalfields. Including Fournier Street. A short YouTube follows from the film where, you will notice, one of the houses is… 31 Fournier Street.
Video courtesy “YouTube Technician – Sonny”
Sadly, the first time Bobby ever entered this building was to meet Amber and arrange her mother’s funeral. Opening the front door, she led him through the house to her attic flat. Passing room after room of amazing collections of yesteryear. Including, he discovered, Oscar Wilde’s fireplace.
Totally overwhelmed, he vowed to come back. Amber had told him the house was owned by Rodney Archer. What a lovely chap Rodney was and she would love them to meet. The following summer he did go back, but too late to meet Rodney. Tragically he had died before his time in November 2015. The Gentle Author’s story of 31 Fournier Street includes numerous links to Rodney Archer.
He hadn’t made a will. Amber was allowed to stay for a while, but eventually moved on. Now ill herself, she succumbed in October last year and we wrote a tribute.
So, standing outside 31 Fournier Street has mixed emotions. But don’t forget our motto:
Yesterday is history. Tomorrow a mystery, so live for today.
Today we discover that once again the National Garden Scheme has a day of open gardens in Spitalfields. No 31 Fournier Street is on the list. In 2016, Anne came with us and we went in No 31 (but only the ground floor) to access the garden.
This year we have asked Anne and friends to join us in Spitalfields on 16 June to see the hidden gardens. Why don’t you join in?
Last Christmas we gave you a slide show of Christmas Day in Spitalfields. This Easter, 4 April 2018, we took a five minute walk down Fournier Street, which we share with you now.
And note. No 31 was sold for £2.5 million in 2016 (Click here for a virtual view). We wonder what happened to Rodney Archer’s incredible collection?
Behind the front door.
I Don’t Believe It!
Well, poor old Bobby has the frozen peas wrapped round “Gordon” when suddenly he hears on BBC London news that a programme about the Huguenot refugees in Spitalfields is on at 7.30. (Monday 30/4). You must watch the programme on iPlayer. Another “Amber” – this time a fashion historian. Amber Butchart is in Fournier Street, standing outside No 31. Here’s some stills from the programme.
The mosque in Fournier Street. Originally a Huguenot church. Then a Jewish Synagogue. The word “refugee” is French derived from refuge.
Lighting a Candle to Diddley in Christ Church Spitalfields, Fournier Street.
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