William Russell, Barker Bridge, The City of London, Cronyism & Self-Aggrandisement

Cripplegate councillor David Graves once again showed himself to be out-of-step with local residents in his support for renaming a small part of St Alphage Highwalk as Barker Bridge. Another councillor Vivienne Littlechild joined Graves in approving the suggestion the City memorialise their Cripplegate colleague John Barker, who died last year, by naming a part of the highwalk after him. Perhaps Graves and Littlechild were hoping that once they kick the bucket an underground car park in the Barbican might be named after them or maybe one of the City’s new gender-neutral toilets! The fight back against Barker Bridge was captained by Sir Nicholas Kenyon on behalf of the Barbican Centre, with the Barbican Association and the Ben Jonson House Group on either flank, and seventeen individual residents acting as foot soldiers. The City of London summarises the objections as follows:

The proposal conflicts with the City Corporation’s published Advice Note regarding naming after individuals, and thereby sets a dangerous precedent for future applications.

Re-naming just the footbridge section risks confusion for visitors trying to locate the newly re-opened and realigned St Alphage Highwalk.

The original process of street and building naming around the Barbican Estate was made with reference to historical figures associated with the area. Mr Barker does not have sufficient profile or local connection to be recognised within the Barbican in this way. Many other historic figures would be better suited were a new name required.

A name with a strong cultural resonance consistent with aspirations for the Culture Mile would be more appropriate were a new name required.

Naming a bridge after a former Member leaves the City Corporation open to accusations of ‘cronyism’.

Planning and Transportation Committee Supplemental Report. Renaming of Part of Pedestrian Route as Barker Bridge: Consultation Response by Paul Beckett dated 26 July 2018.

The antis won the day on this very minor issue and we were particularly amused by the contribution of former Financial Times journalist and Barbican resident Richard Tomkins, whose sixth and final point was: “It would obviously be undesirable for councillors to start naming streets after each other. It would reflect badly on the reputation of the City by attracting accusations of cronyism and self-aggrandisement.”

Given the amount of money wasted on the Lord Mayor’s show and other swanky self-promotional events, the City already more than deserves a major reputation for self-aggrandisement. Likewise the fact that the majority of Lord Mayors over the past hundred or so years have belonged to the Guildhall Lodge of freemasons, and the handing of major repairs contracts to councillor James Thomson’s company Keepmoat etc., is already perceived by some as cronyism.

Keep Keepmoat Out Of The City – Say No To Walbrook Councillor & Keepmoat CEO James Thomson!

Many see the City of London as an old boys network shot through with nepotism. The fact that councillor William Russell has already occupied the position of aldermanic sheriff and looks set to become a Lord Mayor is indicative of this. Russell’s great grandfather Frank Bowater was Lord Mayor of London 1938-1939. Frank Bowater’s older brother Thomas Vansittart Bowater was Lord Mayor of London 1913-1914 and also a conservative MP for the City from 1924 to 1938. Frank Bowater’s oldest son Noel Vansittart Bowater was Lord Mayor of London 1953-1954. Frank Bowater’s youngest son Ian Frank Bowater – William Russell’s grandfather – was Lord Mayor of London 1969-1970. If William Russell becomes the fifth member of his family to be Lord Mayor of London in just over 100 years, this can justly be perceived as dynastic and will serve to underscore that a local authority elected on business votes can never be meritocratic let alone democratic. Even the ultra-reactionary City A.M. rag has used the old boy phrase when covering Russell’s rise through this local authority’s hierarchy.

William Anthony Bowater Russell. If he is elected as the next Lord Mayor, the cops have already rained on his parade. Based on police advice the City Policy and Resources Committee cancelled the planned firework display for the Lord Mayor’s Show in November.

The Bowater family already has a building named in its honour – Bowater House on the Golden Lane Estate. As far as we know Russell didn’t do anything to try and protect the council tenants living in it from losing up to seventy percent of the sunlight from their living rooms when the City gave planning permission for Taylor Wimpey’s The Denizen ghost flats development. Russell was probably too busy partying with his ‘celebrity’ circle – the television personality Damian Lewis is his half-brother – to care about what was happening to a block of council flats bearing the maternal family name.

Pippa Henslowe.



The header shows William Russell with the notorious anti-democrat and former leader of City of London council Mark Boleat presenting Finnish ambassador Päivi Luostarinen with the Freedom of the City of London. June 2017.

City residents force rethink on councillor memorial by Tim Burke, Financial News London, 27 July 2018, provides the only news coverage we’ve seen of the Barker Bridge story and is inaccurate when it states: “the corporation received 20 emailed objections from local residents in the Barbican, where Barker had lived and to which the walkway leads.” The objections were from three organisations and 17 individual residents. The Barbican Centre objections probably carried the greatest individual weight. The story is online here: https://www.fnlondon.com/articles/city-residents-force-rethink-on-councillor-memorial-20180727

Planning and Transportation Committee Supplemental Report: Renaming of Part of Pedestrian Route as Barker Bridge: Consultation Response by Paul Beckett: http://democracy.cityoflondon.gov.uk/documents/s99945/SXALHW1000%20_PT%2026072018%20Supplemental%20Report%20pb19072018.pdf.

William Russell on The Fame Chain ‘explore how the celebrity world connects’. This shows his siblings, parents, grandparents, great grandparents and others: http://www.famechain.com/family-tree/23468/william-russell

City cancels Thames fireworks over terrorism and crowd fears by James Hatts, London SE1, 11 July 2018: There will be no fireworks display over the River Thames on the day of the Lord Mayor’s Show after the City of London Police raised strong concerns over public safety… after a lively and at times ill-tempered debate at last week’s meeting – the display has now been definitively dropped… Chief Inspector Rob Wright of the City of London Police came to Guildhall last Thursday to tell members of the Square Mile authority that his superior officer Chief Superintendent David Lawes had “very serious concerns and reservations” about the fireworks display on the grounds of crowd safety. He explained that the threat level from terrorism is severe – meaning that an attack is highly likely – and that the barriers necessary to protect a large crowd from an attack by a lorry or car would themselves pose a hazard to the safe dispersal of crowds. “Should there be an attack, it would cause panic,” he said, noting that hostile vehicle mitigation (HVM) barriers would “hinder the egress of the people”. Chief Inspector Wright warned members of the City Corporation that Chief Superintendent Lawes had formally logged his advice to the Square Mile’s local authority so that it was a matter of record in the case of an incident… Several members took exception to the pressure being applied on them. “This is terrorism stopping us living our normal way of life,” said Graham Packman… Other members took a stronger line: “I do not like being threatened by police officers,” said Edward Lord, who complained that Chief Inspector Wright’s contribution to the meeting was “entirely inappropriate”. “It’s really not appropriate to be told that we are at risk of prosecution for corporate manslaughter, which effectively is what the chief inspector said.” He also criticised Guildhall officials: “We expect officers to go away and come back with solutions, not simply further problems,” he said. Other members took the view that on the basis of the police advice they were left with no alternative than to abandon this year’s display… See the full article here: http://www.london-se1.co.uk/news/view/9670

5 thoughts on “William Russell, Barker Bridge, The City of London, Cronyism & Self-Aggrandisement

  1. Bowater House isn’t the only building named after a member of the over-privileged Bowater family in or very near to the City of London. On East Street just off Old Street and just outside the City there’s also Ian Bowater Court on the Haberdasher Estate – it has an N1 postcode but is just inside Hackney rather than being in Islington. And being in Hoxton it ain’t far from City boundaries either…. According to Check My Postcode, N1 6DG is ‘a primarily residential postcode in a rural area of Hackney’. It stopped being rural a few hundred years ago – and presumably Check My Postcode will update its info in due course….. Hopefully those buildings named after over-privileged and undeserving Bowater family members will have their names changed in due course. Social housing tenants shouldn’t have the names of reactionary Lord Mayors foisted upon the places where they live!


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