Farewell to the 491 Gallery

491 Gallery Leytonstone

The 491 Gallery now lies in a pile of rubble between Grove Green Road and the M11 Link Road. It’s been sad to walk past and see it come down day-by-day – from the wooden hoardings going up a couple of months ago, watching the roof beams carried out and placed on a trailer, to the final bricks being knocked down on Tuesday.

491 Gallery Leytonstone

I did Life Drawing classes on a Monday night in that room that hangs from the edge of the building in this photo. I bought two hand-built bird boxes that hang in my garden for a fiver there as well. Where there is a pile of bricks below I went to an all day gig where people watched the bands slouched on bean bags and cushions. The 491 was a very chilled out place in my experience.

491 Gallery Leytonstone IMG_9236

For a ‘post-link road’ Leytonstoner such as myself, the 491 Gallery was a link to the spirit of former times. A vestige of the period when Leytonstone had the largest population of artists in Europe although it dates from after the road it is a legacy of it. The building had been used as a storage facility for the building of the Link Road. Previous to that it had been a factory that built safes. The demolition guys carrying out the heavy roof beams said to me there was still an enormous safe inside that they had to get out somehow.

491 Gallery Leytonstone IMG_9243

This kind of squatted social space links back to the London I knew when I first came to live here in 1989 and is slowly fading away. There are groups that still operate social spaces, sometimes in conjunction with the property owners using meanwhile leases, but they are necessarily temporary without time to grow roots into the community. The 491 Gallery was a real presence in the Leytonstone community and it’s very sad to see it go to be replaced with yet another uniform block of flats.

491 Gallery Leytonstone

Rest in Peace 491 Gallery may your spirit live on.


  1. Hilary   •  

    Absolutely lovely tribute John – I have been so sad to see the demise of this building. No places left for an alternative and cheap lifestyle. I refuse the to use the term affordable as that is a phrase that gets very ill used in this corporate greedy day and age! People don’t realise what they are losing with the breaking down of a tatty old building. it makes me think of old people and how they get disregarded when really they have had lives that people know nothing about!

    • JohnR   •     Author

      Thanks Hilary – and it speaks highly of the greed involved that they would build flats on one of the most polluted sites in the area

    • Ant Hatcher   •  

      An absolute Shame that the council sold our buildings off to yet another lunkhead greedy builder.. but in looking behind the Wrong crew took up residence and slept on the councils offer to buy the gallery for $180,000 grand… Im sure you can get Greg to throw you some of the videos of the legendary performances and events that took place, also ask Richard Madley for the rushes of his visit to our home… Original 491 Crew/ Ant Hatcher…

      • JohnR   •     Author

        Thanks for the info Ant, I’ll have to track down that footage

  2. neil goodwin   •  

    Very sad to see the Ash that I planted back in 2003 no more, too. And the award winning urban garden trashed, and just as it was when the 491 was originally taken – a bomb site. That safe incidently contains loads of tools and stuff.. it was used as a storage rack, until someone shut the door for good.. i wish the builders lovely spongy hernias shifting it. x

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