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The biggest ever jigsaw

ImageFriday April 10th 1992 should have been a quiet night in the City of London. Nothing unusual would happen on a boring old Friday night, would it?  

But suddenly....    
There had been loads of excitement the day before because there was a General Election. The London Marathon was coming up, and Easter was just around the corner.   All of a sudden at 9.20 something huge did happen.

There was the loudest bang you‘ve ever heard in your life. A massive bomb had exploded outside the Baltic Exchange building. The air was soon filled with dust and the sounds of sirens and people screaming. For miles around papers from the City floated down over Hackney.   Three people had been killed and hundreds more were hurt.

The elegant Baltic Exchange building was blown to pieces. Where there had been marble halls and sweeping staircases there was rubble. And what had happened to the famous gigantic stained glass dome, built to remember the people who died in World War One? And had the five windows showing the Virtues - Justice, Fortitude, Truth, Faith and Hope survived?

After the bomb it was all a sad sight. But as soon as the owners of the Baltic Exchange saw what had happned, and looked at the wrecked pictures of the Virtues, they made a decision. They would not call the bulldozers in to finish the job: somehow, they were going to put it all together again! The first thing to do was to collect up all the dusty, broken pieces.

Every single scrap of the glass was carefully picked up and stored away. They were determined to get every shard of the shattered stained glass from the scene of the disaster. For a moment, nobody was sure what to do with it - until somebody had a brainwave.   The world experts at putting together stained glass, Goddard & Gibbs, were just round the corner in Kingsland Road!
ImageEvery one of the pieces was taken round to their studios, where gradually the experts Phillida Shaw and David Whyman began the biggest jigsaw puzzle in the world. They used every history detective trick in the book to get the pieces sorted out.

By now, people had decided to build The Gherkin, and to have the Baltic Exchange rebuilt next door. After a long time and lots of boring meetings, the plan was to put the restored window in the National Maritime Museum so everyone could see it. Piece by fragile piece, Laura Pes and her team of people at Goddard & Gibbs finished the job. It took years to complete it - but now if you go along to the Museum,  you will see that the job was really worth it!

If you would like to read more about The Baltic Exchange,  the history of its world-famous stained glass window, and the coffee houses that once stood at the end of Hackney's road into the City of London  -  please have a look at Issue 6.

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