William Say, the last independent canmaker in central London, manufactures bespoke tin discs for iconic Bermondsey clock tower
Earlier this year, a new clock tower was unveiled as part of a regeneration programme for the Blue Market area in Bermondsey after architects were appointed for a £2.3million revamp of the historic town centre, the Blue.
The clock tower is the centrepiece for Market Place within a newly developed village green, echoing the design of the former tower on the nearby Peek Frean’s factory. The new oak clock tower has been covered with 3,000 tin discs, a gesture to the tin cans first made in locally in the early nineteenth century at William Say & Co factory, also located in Bermondsey.
As part of a community spirited design process, residents and traders were invited to be part of history by contributing their own designs to the clock tower ‘canned tiling’. Locals were invited to etch their own design on the tin discs that form the roof of the iconic clock tower in The Blue. The finished effect is an eye-catching ‘tiled’ roof with a collection of unique etchings displayed on all four sides.
Bermondsey-based architects firm Hayatsu lead the regeneration project, alongside Turner-prize winning artists’ collective, Assemble. As part of the redevelopment, the market sheds were fully renovated, with improved facilities for traders, including canopies and toilets, alongside a new cinema and multi-arts space, ‘village green’ space and the centrepiece ‘tin can’ clock tower.
The redevelopment, supported by a grant from a Mayoral fund, planned to “turn Bermondsey’s historic town centre and street market into a thriving area, building on The Blue’s identity as the ‘Larder of London.’”
“The market wasn’t doing great for a while,” said Russell Dryden, a fishmonger and director of the Bermondsey Blue business improvement district (BID). “None of the facilities worked that well, and it was difficult to get the traders in without them.
“It’s important for these new developments not to forget the past,” he said, in reference to the clock tower, “You don’t want to be stuck in the past, but a nod is important.”
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “I am thrilled to support the regeneration of the Blue Market, all made possible by local people and organisations working together to design a new market space that will support community activities, events and local businesses.
“Markets like the Blue have a long history in the capital and throughout the pandemic have played a crucial role in providing local people with access to goods and services.
“The transformation of the Blue market will restore the heart of Bermondsey, provide a space that the community can feel proud of and put the Blue Market on the map as a new destination for Londoners to visit”.
Takeshi Hayatsu, Director of Hayatsu Architects said: “A true regeneration project cannot be delivered without the strong will and commitment from local community partners. “The positivity and creativity of The Blue BID, Community Opportunity, Big Local Works and other locals really pushed the project forward.
“We hope our built interventions add a new exciting chapter to the long history of the market, represent the community vision and pride, and leave a lasting legacy for the brighter future of Bermondsey.”