In 1839 the Bishop of London called Bethnal Green ‘one of the most desolate parishes’. He undertook to build ten new churches, and in 1842 the acreage was bought and work on St Jude’s began. The church took four years to build and finally opened its doors in 1846. It was a grand church, big enough to hold one thousand worshipers, and performed an active social function with library, food kitchen, institute and school.
East London’s rural past is now invisible throughout most of the borough and the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve site is a rare example of a place where it is still possible to have a sense of continued history. Over four months in 2015 artist Tal Brosh has produced an illustrated history of the BGNR in four incarnations: a medieval meadow and market garden, a Victorian church, a war-time bomb site and now an apothecary garden called Phytology. The work imagines these slices of the space’s life that has seen nurture, worship, violence and then nurture again. Each new piece of work is layered upon the previous image to create a single art work.