The East End Preservation Society
Paul Pindar’s House in Bishopsgate, demolished 1890
Old buildings have been going down like nine pins in the East End recently. They are the latest sad additions to a catalogue of loss that stretches back over more than a century, inducing sufficient grief among the populace to fill the Thames with tears. Yet it is not our nature to be defeated and, upon each occasion, there have been those who have stood up and objected. Many of the most-loved old buildings that survive today owe their existence to such brave souls.
Until now, small groups of people have come together to save a particular building – but the accelerating sequence of losses in recent years, combined with some monstrous developments looming in the immediate future and the failure of the public consultation process, calls for collective action.
Thus I write today to conjure into existence The East End Preservation Society as a means to bring together everyone that cares about the East End and is concerned about the future of its built environment. If we can work collectively in large numbers, we can have a stronger influence upon the culture of development that threatens old buildings and be more powerful in our individual campaigns to save them.
Less than a month ago, Mayor of London, Boris Johnson gave his approval to a plan that reduces the venerable structure of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for Children in Hackney, which represents a noble history of philanthropic service, to a mere facade upon an overblown commercial housing development of questionable quality. A year ago, the Mayor of London overruled a unanimous vote by the elected members of Tower Hamlets Council to save the Spitalfields Fruit & Wool Exchange, and gave developers licence to replace the building with an office block and shopping mall of generic design, upon which the stone facade of the current building will sit as a painful reminder of the distinctive edifice that once stood there.
In this climate, where democratic decision-making is being undermined and public consultation reduced to a cynical public relations exercise, the rescue of The Marquis of Lansdowne from intended demolition by the Geffrye Museum was a joyful exception to the rule, proving that strength of public feeling can still be successful in saving an old building.
So I ask you to come to the Main Hall at the Bishopsgate Institute on Wednesday 27th November at 6:30pm for the launch of The East End Preservation Society.
Spitalfields resident, writer and campaigner, Dan Cruickshank has been invited to address the assembly. We will be showing images of notable buildings that have been lost and buildings that have been saved in the past. Will Palin, ex-secretary of Save Britain’s Heritage, will be assessing the recent history of destruction and introduce reports upon current developments at the Bishopsgate Goodsyard and in Whitechapel that threaten the East End.
Most importantly, we shall be suggesting ways that you can get involved and proposing how we can become organised to make an effective response to the current crisis. If the future of the East End is important to you, you need to be there.
Spital Sq – Within living memory, this was one of London’s most beautiful squares but it was sacrificed to road widening and commercial developments at the end of the last century, and only one eighteenth century house survives today.
The Jewish Maternity Hospital in Underwood Rd was designed by John Myers in 1911. This Arts & Crafts style cottage with its elegant crow-stepped gables was reminiscent of a streetscape by Vermeer and, athough it had lost its diamond-paned leaded windows, it retained its original doors and ironwork.
In January 2012, this is what became of the nursing home where Alma Cogan, Lionel Bart, Arnold Wesker and many thousands of Jewish East Enders were born.
Next year, this stone facade is all that will remain of Sydney Perk’s 1927 Spitalfields Fruit & Wool Exchange when the new office block and shopping mall are constructed behind it.
Magnificent staircases at the Fruit & Wool Exchange will be trashed in the forthcoming demolition.
Only the facade of the Queen Elizabeth Children’s Hospital on the Hackney Rd will survive if the current plan goes ahead.
The oldest part of the Queen Elizabeth Children’s Hospital in Goldsmith’s Row is slated for demolition.
After Hackney Council refused permission for demolition in response to a public campaign, The Marquis of Lansdowne is to be restored as an integral part of the Geffrye Museum’s proposed new extension.
Launch of The East End Preservation Society in the Main Hall at the Bishopsgate Institute, Wednesday 27th November 6:30pm
Follow The East End Preservation Society on twitter @EastEndPSociety
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