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At Dalston Lane

February 24, 2014
by the gentle author

Can you believe that this partly-demolished late Georgian terrace is the outcome of a “conservation-led’ scheme? So it is in Hackney, where the bulldozers moved in last month only to be hastily withdrawn when it was pointed out to the council that their action was illegal, forcing Murphy (their developer partners) to seek permission at a planning meeting which takes place next week, on March 3rd.

However, this pitiful sequence of events does permit members of the public to submit objections in the hope that the rest of the terrace may be spared the wreckers’ ball. And, in the meantime, Spitalfields Life Contributing Photographer Simon Mooney went inside to take the pictures you see below, permitting us a glimpse of the historic interiors.

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. So now we have until next week to object to 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?”

Click here before March 3rd to object to the demolition of the terrace in Dalston Lane

In your objection, please point out the substantial harm this demolition will do to the Dalston Lane (West) Conservation Area and emphasise that it does not comply with national, regional or local heritage planning policies and guidance.

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

Reeded panelling

Late Georgian newel with stick banisters

Original panelling

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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36 Responses leave one →
  1. February 24, 2014

    Disgusting vandalism! Valerie

  2. February 24, 2014

    Done. I hope there will be a deluge of comments and that the appeal will be successful.

  3. Fiz O permalink
    February 24, 2014

    How disgraceful that the council committed this act of vandalism! Shame on them!

  4. Vicky permalink
    February 24, 2014

    This is appalling!

  5. Greg Tingey permalink
    February 24, 2014

    I wonder who stood to make a quick buck-in-a-brown-enevelope if the demolition had gone ahead?

  6. February 24, 2014

    Barbarians at the city gates alright! Will sign and all the best.

  7. Sue Redmond permalink
    February 24, 2014

    This is criminal shame on them.

  8. Steve permalink
    February 24, 2014

    It’s not just the wanton destruction of lovely old properties that I find so upsetting, it’s the poorly designed rubbish that they replace it with that I find equally distressing. You’d have thought by now that local authorities and developers would have learnt a lesson from the past, and be a little more sympathetic to their surroundings.

  9. Juliet permalink
    February 24, 2014

    Thank you so much for showing the interior of these houses, I lived here for years and always wanted to know what was behind those walls.
    If they could demolish the gorgeous cinema that used to be next to the bus stop just meters from the demolished shops, I guess they can turn everything into flats regardless of its architectural and historical importance. How sad!

  10. February 24, 2014

    How dreadful for an elected body to behave like this. And how sadly unsuprising. Roll on more accountable local government.

  11. February 24, 2014

    Rescue these buildings from demolition and let them not irreversible disappear!

    Love & Peace

  12. Peter Holford permalink
    February 24, 2014

    This government changed planning law to take the default position that development should be favoured in order to generate growth. It seems as though it now means that the default position on planning permission is to ignore it. Until the planning process is properly re-established this will continue to happen.

  13. gary permalink
    February 24, 2014

    the thing that everyone overlooks is that hackney council is totally corrupt and its overlooked because of the high amount of ethnics in it , people do not want to accused of racism but any real police study of whats happening would see people in jail

  14. Brian permalink
    February 24, 2014

    Sadly a Labour authority colludes with Tory legislators to deliver housing in a prime location close to the new overground line. I wonder whether there will be any social housing or if it will be the customary investment opportunity. This is not just about conservation, but about the shameful remaking of London as an international city for the newly rich. And in consequence we lose our history and the local councillors wring their hands

  15. Mary Dvais permalink
    February 24, 2014

    Please count me in for support if the save the building’s gang need me to sign up to anything.
    I live in Somerset, so physical support is slightly more difficult but please add me to objecting numbers.
    Your Sincerely,
    Mary Davis.

  16. February 24, 2014

    This is absolutely disgraceful. I thought that this kind of wilful destruction had stopped after the old Covent Garden was saved. Where is the local authority’s Conservation Dept when they’re needed? Perhaps there isn’t one.

  17. Walter Blackstock permalink
    February 24, 2014

    My first thought was ‘not again’ but it is worth following the link through to the professional surveys that have been carried out for the Council. Grim reading. I think the ‘hole’ and steel framework comprised numbers 64-60, demolished after a fire in 1977. The conclusions in the reports may be arguable but I’m not a structural engineer and objections I suspect will need a factual and financial analysis if they are to be heard. Years of neglect have taken their toll. Perhaps the short term objective must be a stay of execution, arguing as you suggest, while an independent report is sought. It’s clear from the interiors you show that many fine features remain.
    Many thanks for the efforts of the Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings and related organisations (including Spitalfields Life): without your efforts it would be hopeless.

  18. the gentle author permalink*
    February 24, 2014

    There is no “affordable housing” included in the new development

  19. February 24, 2014

    The “replica” replacement looks hideous – a fake facade stuck onto a modern building. How dare they insult our intelligence with this misbegotten chimera?

  20. Bruce Eadie permalink
    February 24, 2014

    I cannot believe that the Council will be responsible for the destruction of more Georgian buildings on Dalston Lane. I have watched with dismay the philistine destruction of a unique roadscape since the old (blue) CLR James Library was put up over a decade ago.

    If aesthetics is an alien concept to the planning department perhaps its statutory duties might be more easily comprehended. The Dalston Lane (West) Conservation Area is supposed to conserve not to demolish. The Council’s plans obviously fail to comply with national, regional or local planning policies and guidance.

    What saddens me most about the action of the Council is that it is willing to destroy something unique and beautiful and then has the temerity to plan to replace it with a ‘replica’. Beyond the sensitive reconstruction of places like Dresden, ‘replica’ means a cheap, modern building, put together using the wrong bricks, with the wrong window proportions. It is a ‘replica’ of nothing that actually existed: it replicates only the self-deceiving, self-serving fantasies of council planners.

    If the Council is going to destroy a Georgian terrace, it might at least refrain from insulting the intelligence of Hackney residents and replace the irreplaceable with a properly modern building, designed by a decent architect (Hackney is full of them) working in a modern idiom. Pastiche Georgian is the worst of all possible options as a replacement for a grand, old terrace.

  21. Victoria permalink
    February 24, 2014

    Thanks for bringing this devastating act to wider attention, and your advice on how to make a sensible objection. My great grandfather had a shop in this land when he first came to England. Victoria

  22. February 24, 2014

    it is so important to make a case again and again, however long it takes, and never to stop hope for finding a way. they call us against progress, against development. well, of development means money alone, then yes, i am not for it. ever. what are we without the evidence of the past, the architecture is part of that, people living in places, not just during the week, and so much more…

  23. Robin Clark permalink
    February 24, 2014

    What happened to conservation ?, preserve the history and community of this area don’t destroy it.

  24. Vicky A permalink
    February 24, 2014

    This may be regrettable but councils do have professional officers not vandals as staff. They don’t have secret stashes of cash to do expensive repairs where the structure is not sound. Local govt is being strangled financially so if you voted Tory or Lib Dem at the last general election, these properties are now reaping what you sowed.

  25. Pete permalink
    February 24, 2014

    These old buildings are a national treasure, destroying them IS VANDALISM ( professional or otherwise )

  26. aubrey permalink
    February 24, 2014

    From what I can see from the photographs, these buildings have been quite severely vandalised long before the LBH got to them. Neglecting terraces such as these over decades by the owner(s) will inevitably turn them into dangerous structures, and thereby make it fairly challenging to refurbish. I don’t blame the local council for the depredations of a private landlord.

  27. James permalink
    February 24, 2014

    The vandalism in Dalston lane started long ago under the guise of regeneration/conservation when we lost the historic 4 Aces club, Bob Marley, Desmond Decker, Ben E King, The Ronetts, Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Cliff and many more all played small packed gigs there…….. Not to mention numerous club nights over several decades that drew people from hundreds of miles around right up until The Labyrinth residency in the 90’s. What a tragic lose of heritage.

  28. Bruce Eadie permalink
    February 24, 2014

    Vicky A,

    There is a very long history of the council’s failure of care for this terrace. I don’t blame any single council officer, but over the years a mixture of incompetence, neglect and some very dodgey deals with private landowners has brought this terrace to its knees. The structure is not sound because of the council’s pathetic inability to fulfil its duties.

    I suggest you and look at Mile End Road between the Whitechapel Gallery and Brick Lane to see what a council can do with a street scape if it has a will or any residue of talent.


  29. Chris Ashby permalink
    February 24, 2014

    Objected to the objectionable online. Thanks for the alert.
    Chris A.

  30. Grace permalink
    February 25, 2014

    My letter to Hackney Council regarding Dalston Lane:

    “As a resident in nearby **** Road, I oppose the demolition of the buildings on this site. The proposed development should include affordable housing as a necessity. It should not be pricing locals out of the market: those people who can no longer be with their extended families as a result of the inequality in housing value. In terms of the aesthetic value of the proposed design of this site – there is none. This is, I understand, an emotive subject and one that does not always allow room for an expression of feeling towards the built environment in such cases. However, it is an important consideration when thinking about the relationship the community have with Hackney’s rich heritage. Where possible, elements of the Georgian buildings should be retained. Of course everyone’s idea of what is aesthetically pleasing differs, and I am far from suggesting that the site should remain the way it is. But the proposal for the site does not have a sense of longevity about it. In the fight for this development many will argue nostalgically and perhaps even romanticise the past. Please look kindly on such arguments as there is heritage-value in this site. Character is important to the people of Hackney and far too many buildings have gone that should have been saved. Don’t make the same mistake again. In order to move forward, sometimes we must look back. In this case, a connection with elements of the past in the midst of a society that is being dwarfed by high-rise development would help to ground and revive a sense of community on Dalston Lane. I want to love the Lane again and be proud to live in a Borough that takes its conservation commitments seriously. I urge you to bring back the character and soul to this area.”

  31. Greg Tingey permalink
    February 25, 2014

    It you think Hackney are bad, try … Waltham Forest
    Or (whisper it) even worse … Tower Hamlets

  32. Greg Tingey permalink
    February 25, 2014

    And …
    Vicky A
    Sorry, but Labour are just as bad.
    The so-called “Loakes tour of destruction” in Waltham Forest (named after a councillor) saw the attempted permanent closures of both the Vestry Hoose Museum & the “Water House”, a.k.a. William Morris Gallery

  33. February 27, 2014

    I do object strongly to the east end’s rampant destruction by developers and planners of late. I also object to the seemingly underhand and cavalier nature of the Dalston Lane development.

    I can’t, however, see that this particular development is a huge loss. If you look at other property that has been converted on the same street, it is inevitable that money is going to take over, at least until it gets down to the Graham Rd crossroads. You can’t park in front of these shops and the whole run has been in serious decline for years.

  34. Gina permalink
    February 28, 2014

    This is madness. To know these buildings are worth giving a conservation area designation and then allow them to be ripped down is crazy.

  35. Marcus Salisbury permalink
    February 28, 2014

    I currently think this campaign is the equivalent of breaking into a battery farm to save one chicken, one half dead chicken. Faced with the cost of saving these features I think 99% of the population would baulk. Its fine to point the finger and say its a disgrace but if you owned these properties would you take a deep breath and say “ok..heres the cheque” to have it done right if it was coming from your pocket? The features that are still in evidence I would wager have survived simply because tennants couldnt afford to rip them out, if you want to talk about “vandalism” look at the god awful business signage thats been slapped up over the years, yes the earlier stuff is great but the qualities declined as times gone on at a steady pace. Someone should have intervened long ago these are just to far gone now. shop owners dont spend the money on commercial properties because its not “theirs” it wouldnt occur to them just to do it to keep the area looking good or to improve their own working environment..However you restore or dont these premises as soon as theyre done the occupants will go right back to cutting corners.

  36. Frankie permalink
    March 2, 2014

    Well said, Marcus. Have any of the other posters read the survey reports in the planning application before making kneejerk responses? The planners have actually looked at all of the options for propping up the fronts etc but it is all too late – not possible to prop the facade (not even straight any more so can’t fit joists to support it) or even reuse the bricks which have become porous. But they are going to remove columns, reveals, architraves and anything else that can be stored and reused, and are going to preserve 2 of the shops before rebuilding. How much of our money should councils spend to preserve a few ruined Georgian shops (which may have been lovely once upon a time)? The outraged comments should have been made 30 years ago or even earlier when it might have been possible to salvage something.

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