The Erith Mural

Monarchs, murder and a rioting mob in Kent

The Erith MuralCreated by esteemed artist William Mitchell, whose work includes the Egyptian Room at Harrods, doors and frontices at Liverpool Cathedral, and the Stations of the Cross at Clifton Cathedral in Bristol, this mural was originally completed in the late 1960s and located on the side of the now-demolished Riverside Baths.

Using the cloisonné technique (distinctive 'compartments' of different colour as used to create stained glass windows), Mitchell depicts events and individuals from mediæval and Tudor history that have a connection to the local area: Richard de Luci, Lord of the Manor of Lesnes (the old name for Erith), implicated in the death of Thomas Becket whose bloody murder at the swords of two knights is shown in graphic detail on the mural; the Arms of William de Warenne and Geoffrey de Mandeville, both of whom were present at the signing of Magna Carta; the 'Great Harry', King Henry VIII's warship built at Woolwich and finished at Erith, two of the royal dockyards (along with Deptford) founded by Henry; an East Indiaman merchant ship, which would have docked at Erith to unload goods from China and India; the 'Men of Kent', the rebels led by Wat Tyler who rose up in protest against heavy taxes in the Peasant's Revolt of 1381, but were defeated by King Richard II, also depicted in the mural; the arms of Geoffrey Chaucerwhose 'Canterbury Tales' pilgrims would probably have passed through Erith on their way to visit Thomas Becket's shrine.

Mitchell used a raised sand and epoxy border to define the different compartments (or 'cloisons' in French) which were then painted in bright colours. Tile mosaics were used to provide greater detail to the faces of some of the characters depicted.

The mural was originally located on the west gable wall of Riverside Baths, opened in 1968 and designed by architect Richard Seifert, also responsible for Centre Point and Tolworth Tower. The Baths closed in the mid 2000s and lay derelict and subject to vandalism for a number of years. When the decision was made to redevelop the site, Bexley Council recognised the value of the mural, its report stating that 'the mural on the side wall of the baths is held in affection by local residents. A preliminary survey has been undertaken to establish its condition and every effort will be made to transfer it to another suitable location.'

Eventually, restoration of the mural was completed and it was re-erected in the regenerated Erith town centre in March 2010, complete with interpretation plaque explaining its content. The restored mural was formally unveiled on 10th June that year by William Mitchell, then aged 86, and by Leader of Bexley Council, Cllr Teresa O'Neill. Speaking 45 years after he had last seen the mural, Mitchell said: "I am delighted that the town values this mural so highly and I would like to compliment everyone involved in refurbishing and moving it to its new position. Well done! It looks fabulous. This sort of art is an important part of the town's identity and I am proud to have made a contribution."

Condition

In good condition - recently restored and installed in its current location

Have we missed something?

If you know something about this mural that we have missed the please get in touch.

This mural is in good condition

Where to find it

Colebrook Street, Erith, DA8 1RF

The mural can be found in Erith town centre, on Colebrook Street, just to the east of the Riverside shopping centre. Exiting the shopping centre, with Morrisons supermarket ahead of you, turn right; the mural can be found at the rear of the paved seating area where Colebrook Street turns right.
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Colours

#664444 #998877 #99AA88 #667755 #99BBAA #668877 #114444 #66AADD #8899AA #BBCCDD #556677 #001122 #224488 #333355 #776688 #AA88AA #664455 #996677

Dimensions

14.5 m x 2.5 m Person for scale
Full width not shown

Timeline

1968
Started
1970
Completed
2009
Riverside Baths demolished
2010 2010
Mural re-erected Mural unveiled

Materials

  • Other: Cloisonné Tile: Mosaic Other: Sand and epoxy

Funding

How to get there

Bus
99, 229, 428, 469, 602, 669, B12
Train
Erith

© London Mural Preservation Society 2017