New Hope For The Terrace In Dalston Lane
This spring, when Hackney Council granted itself permission to demolish this late Georgian terrace in Dalston Lane as part of a ‘Conservation-led’ scheme, it seemed all hope was lost of saving these much-loved buildings which tell the story of the last two centuries in this corner of East London. But now a Judicial Review of the Council’s action is being sought by the campaigners seeking to prevent destruction and Murphy, the Council’s Development Partner, may be having second thoughts about their participation in this small but highly-controversial project.
Meanwhile, the Spitalfields Historic Buildings Trust which was responsible for saving many of the important old buildings in Spitalfields, has put forward a proposal to take on the terrace and restore it. “The Trust has approached Hackney Council and Murphy to ask if they’d like to relinquish the project,” confirmed Tim Whittaker, Director of the Spitalfields Trust, when I met him in Dalston Lane recently to take a look at the current sad picture of decay.
Working with Circle 33 Housing Association, the Trust is offering to buy the entire property from Hackney Council, renovate the historic fabric of the terrace, rebuilding where necessary to restore the streetscape and constructing new housing in a sympathetic style upon the adjoining land. The restored Georgian houses would be sold for private ownership, but more than half of the development would be low-cost housing and the shops would be leased to independent businesses.
Already the Spitalfields Trust scheme has won support from members of the Council and it would offer a satisfactory resolution for all parties concerned, burying this recent sorry episode, and ensuring a future for the terrace that serves the needs of the community and retains an important landmark. Readers can assist in encouraging this outcome by writing letters of support to Jules Pipe, Mayor of Hackney email@example.com and Guy Nicholson, Hackney Cabinet Member for Regeneration firstname.lastname@example.org
Spitalfields Life Contributing Photographer Simon Mooney went inside the terrace in Dalston Lane to take these pictures, permitting us a glimpse of the historic interiors that could easily be lost forever.
In 1800, Dalston Lane was – as its name suggests – merely a country track through agricultural land, but the pace of development up the Kingsland Rd, served by the brickyards that opened to produce building material from the London clay, delivered three symmetrical pairs of dignified Italianate villas constructed by Richard Sheldrick in 1807.
By 1830, terraces on either side filled up the remaining plots to create a handsome row of dwellings with front gardens facing onto the lane. In this era, Dalston was still rural and it was not until the end of the century that the front gardens were replaced by the run of shopfronts divided by Corinthian capitals which we see today.
This modest yet good quality terrace represents the essential fabric of the East End and its evolution manifests two centuries of social history in Dalston. Consequently, the terrace is enfolded by a Conservation Area that embraces other contemporary buildings which define the distinctive quality of this corner of Hackney and thus, when the council sought to regenerate the area in 2012, it was with a ‘Conservation-led’ scheme.
Yet when the Council’s surveyors questioned the structural integrity of the terrace, if it were to stand up to being woven into the facade of a new development, nobody suggested reworking the development to suit the terrace – or simply repairing the buildings. Instead the Council decided, without any consultation, to demolish the terrace and replace it with a replica that would permit higher density housing within the development.
In January, this destruction was halted when the Council’s survey was called into question by the Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings and others, who called for an independent appraisal by a surveyor with experience of historic structures. But then, by a single vote, Hackney Council granted itself permission to proceed with this ‘Conservation-led ‘scheme that entails the demolition of all the buildings. As one wag so eloquently put it, “Is that like a picnic without the sandwiches?”
The shameful hole in the terrace
Paired villas of of 1807 to the left and terrace of 1830 to the right
Rear of 1830 terrace
Paired villas built by Richard Sheldrick in 1807
The villas built in symmetrical pairs, note detail of long stairwell window
The rendering is a late nineteenth century addition
Late Georgian shutters re-used as a partition
Original reeded arch in plaster
Late Georgian newel with stick banisters
One house is still inhabited
The presiding spirit of the terrace
Late nineteenth century shop interior panelled with tongue and groove, with original shelves and fittings
A century of use illustrates changing styles of fascia lettering
One of the paired villas of 1807 has been destroyed and another half-demolished
The terrace of 1830 on the right has an unusual single window detail on the first floor
The terrace with the graphic of its replica with which the developers hope to facade their structure
Run of nineteenth century shopfronts punctuated by Corinthian capitals
Dalston Lane 1900
Dalston Lane 1940
Kingsland Rd, c. 1800. Brickworks manufacture building materials for the rapid development that is spreading across the agricultural land. The buildings to the right still stand in the Kingsland Rd, just around the corner from Dalston Lane.
Photographs copyright © Simon Mooney
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