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New Hope For Trinity Green Almshouses

March 20, 2018
by the gentle author

Three years ago, I reported upon the sorry neglect that has occurred in recent years – under the stewardship of Tower Hamlets Council – of the Grade 1 listed Trinity Green Almshouses in Whitechapel designed by Sir Christopher Wren. The outcome of my article was the formation of the Friends of Trinity Green which has been instrumental in challenging Sainsbury’s plan to build a tower of luxury flats overshadowing the almshouses.

Yet no improvement to the maintenance of Trinity Green has resulted. Buildings that were decaying then are decaying still and the vacant Council-owned flat remains empty after all this time.

At the Cabinet Meeting today, Tower Hamlets Council members are discussing selling off the empty cottage at auction. In response, The Spitalfields Trust is offering to buy it and the entire site from the Council, taking on complete responsibility for the maintenance of Trinity Green and giving it a sustainable future. They propose creating an independent buildings preservation trust that would use income from rents and grants available to such heritage trusts to maintain the property and manage it in perpetuity.

Below you can read The Spitalfields Trust letter and, if you wish to support this initiative, please write today to John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets:  john.biggs@towerhamlets.gov.uk

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THE SPITALFIELDS TRUST

18 Folgate Street,

London E1 6BX


Cabinet Meeting – 20th March 2018

Regarding the disposal of 2 Trinity Green, Mile End Rd

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Dear Mayor Biggs & Cabinet Members,

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I am writing to you in relation to Trinity Green, one of the most important groups of Grade I listed buildings in London; buildings which are critical in the architectural history of London and which played an important role in the development of the conservation movement in Britain.

I attach our previous letter dated the 13th April 2016 in which we outlined our concerns surrounding the condition of the buildings and the lack of a comprehensive plan for their future management – a concern which is also shared by a number of other conservation and heritage groups.

Subsequent to this letter, we met onsite with Council officers and encouraged them to produce condition reports which we saw as an important first step to finding a comprehensive solution.

We are surprised that paragraph 3.17 of the report issued last Thursday 15th makes no mention of The Spitalfields Trust, nor of our initial approach which has led to this outcome.  Indeed we would not have been aware of the report’s existence but for the intervention of The Friends of Trinity Green.

The Spitalfields Trust are still ready, willing and able – for the reasons set out in our previous letter – to engage with the Council.  But we feel that there is a lack of understanding on the part of officers of the complexity of the situation and a lack of willingness to work with us to find a potential solution.  It seems that this will now require direction and leadership from Councillors and the Mayor.

We feel that the proposed sale will impact adversely on finding a strategy for the site as a whole. It is obvious that only one comprehensive strategy can produce a durable solution, thus relieving the council of its significant obligations.

We estimate the restoration of the Chapel will cost £500,000, while the street frontage and green will cost £100,000. The notion that the Council will be able to cover this cost or be able to carry out the specialist work required is not realistic.

Consequently, The Spitalfields Trust would like to propose a comprehensive plan for the restoration and protection of Trinity Green which will be cost effective to the Council and will relieve it of its current and long-term obligations.

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  • We are prepared to purchase the site as a whole from Tower Hamlets Homes, to restore it fully.
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  • We are prepared to take on responsibility for the common parts of Trinity Green and to develop and carry out a comprehensive restoration plan for the common parts (e.g. the gates) of the buildings.
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  • We would transfer the common parts to a newly created buildings preservation trust, including the current owners of the buildings, which would be responsible for their long-term maintenance.
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The Council is obliged as a best value authority under section 3 of the Local Government Act 1999 to “make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way in which its functions are exercised having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness.”

Selling No.2 at auction, with no provision to mitigate the short-term repairs or future expense of maintaining Trinity Green would be a short-sighted move. The Trust would not be prepared to purchase No 2 in isolation and instead proposes an overall strategy which takes into account the considerable cost of restoring the chapel and common areas which have been badly neglected.

We would like the opportunity to continue the dialogue begun in 2016, to meet and find an effective and durable solution.

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Yours faithfully

Patrick Streeter

Chairman, The Spitalfields Trust

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While this council owned cottage sits empty, the water tank has leaked for years damaging brick work

Council owned cottage to the left and privately owned cottage to the right reveal comparative levels of maintenance

Unappreciated interior of the chapel, where seventeenth century chandeliers have been removed leaving just the chains

This stone ball was removed from the roof of a council owned cottage and never replaced, meanwhile a vent punctures the cornice of this grade 1 listed building

After three hundred years, the hands have been removed from the clock face

Trinity Almshouses, Mile End Rd, 1695

Click here to learn more about the FRIENDS OF TRINITY GREEN

You may also like to read about

Trinity Green is Saved

At Trinity Green

CR Ashbee in the East End

15 Responses leave one →
  1. March 20, 2018

    How disgraceful that nothing has been done to stop the decay.It almost looks as though the powers that be want it to decay and tumble down so that they can replace it with modern, capital generating monstrosities. I hope Spitalfields Trust will be allowed to help to preserve this wonderful place. Valerie

  2. Greg Tingey permalink
    March 20, 2018

    Is this another legacy of the appalling crook L Rahman, that hasn’t been caught up with yet?

  3. chris & anu long permalink
    March 20, 2018

    the fact that your previous letter to the council outlining negligence has been ignored is quite shocking. such a historical site, if looked after properly & possibly brought more in to the public domain, would be of an immense asset to tower hamlets.
    the thought just occurred to me that the chapel could serve as a focal point for the rich local history – just look at the mural nearby to imagine the stories that could be re told there in some form or other.
    i think your plan seems to be the only way to give this site the respect it deserves & save it from falling apart. i hope you are successful.
    my wife & i will write to john biggs today in support of your action plan.
    thank you spitalfields trust.

  4. Caroline Bottomley permalink
    March 20, 2018

    Thanks GA
    Email sent – best of luck Spitalfields Trust

  5. March 20, 2018

    Here’s hoping that sanity prevails for once. The Trinity Almshouses are a treasure, and their loss would be a national scandal, not just one more to lay at Tower Hamlets’ door.

  6. March 20, 2018

    One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry – is it stupidity, incompetence, venality or downright criminality that has brought about this shocking situation? I have written to the Mayor, and I hope his email collapses under the weight of expressions of outrage!

  7. Richard Smith permalink
    March 20, 2018

    The treatment of these wonderful historic buildings amounts to nothing less than vandalism of the worst kind.

  8. Joanne Scott permalink
    March 20, 2018

    email duly sent – fingers crossed for Spitalfields Trust and thanks to Friends of Trinity Green.

  9. March 20, 2018

    Deeply shocking neglect of an architectural gem of East London.
    Shame on the council for allowing this degeneration!

  10. Allison permalink
    March 20, 2018

    Yes shame on you Tower Hamlets council. That convicted crook Rahman had his priorities and preserving these beautiful remainders of London’s heritage wasn’t one of them. However, there’s a new broom in the council now, so why haven’t things improved? That plastic vent above the door of the cottage says it all.

    I live in South London so my letter will probably be discounted as not being local, but I shall write anyway and wish you the very best of luck.

  11. March 20, 2018

    Thanks for highlighting this neglect, which seems worse each time I visit.
    I’ve emailed Mayor Biggs and I hope many will follow your suggestion.

  12. Mem Isaacs permalink
    March 21, 2018

    Well I have sent him an email , I wish I was there in London to do more . Keep us posted dear Gentle Author

  13. March 21, 2018

    Dismayed that the offer was rejected. What happens now?

  14. P.Kehoe permalink
    March 21, 2018

    Best of luck with the campaign,would be awful to lose such lovely historical buildings,too many have already gone in the pursuit of financial gain ☹️

  15. stephanie permalink
    March 22, 2018

    Will do even though not a local resident. The fact that the Foundry (oldest manufacturing site in UK) , just down the road was quietly sold off to a developer ..throws a long shadow over any historical battle – nothing is out of bounds from heritage neglect now…

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