Harriet’s House

Last word from Miss Silvester: “I’m going back to my cup of tea”
by Summer Dean & Claudia Spelman

Number 9 Waterloo place was the home of Miss Harriet Beatrice Silvester for more than 50 years. The image that depicts her regency home sandwiched between a new development (Wellesley House now Phoenix Art Space) in 1970 serves us a reminder that with strong will and desire, one does not need to give up what they hold dear.

On the surface, this looks solely like the actions of a stubborn individual possibly out to make difficult the lives of the developers. But delve deeper, and it becomes apparent that there is more to the story.

Through the presentation of research and interviews, we aim to broaden the narrative from ‘Defiant old lady stays put’ to look at some of the reasons Miss Silvester refused to leave when developers started demolishing her neighbourhood.

This exhibit seeks to take the viewer on a similar journey of investigation that we engaged with on this project. Every document, interview and article brings us closer to Harriet’s world.

“I’m going back to my cup of tea” is about belonging, about memory and our relationship with our surroundings. It’s also about that sense of community, realising that people’s lives are complex, and that everyone needs and a safe place to feel like they belong. Who gets to decide when you have that ‘thing’ taken away? In Harriet’s case it was the developer, but this was her home, her security, where she lost her mother…