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New Hope For The Terrace In Dalston Lane

July 13, 2014
by the gentle author

Tim Whittaker’s sketch of his proposal for the terrace restored

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 and Guy Nicholson, Hackney Cabinet Member for Regeneration

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

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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10 Responses leave one →
  1. ROBERT GREEN permalink
    July 13, 2014

    For as long as I can remember this row of building’s have been in a continual state of decline, as a boy over 40 year’s ago I use to walk this area with my late father and even then many of the building’s were in a dilapidated state, whatever excuses, legal or otherwise that could be put forward to justify this situation, in my opinion are totally spurious given the extraordinary length of time this situation has been allowed to prevail, for I am convinced that the blame for this disgraceful situation lay squarely at the table of the totally INCOMPETENT local authority, their refusal to act throughout literally decade’s of woeful neglect of these historic building’s in my opinion has been a shameful neglect of public duty.

  2. July 13, 2014

    I hope that the council will agree to the takeover – it would be wonderful to see these houses saved. Valerie

  3. Jake permalink
    July 13, 2014

    Does anyone remember the Saturday market in kings land rd named the Waste?uThere was a stall selling sasperilla drinks on the corner.

  4. July 13, 2014

    Emails sent to Jules Pipe and Guy Nicholson as detailed above
    Hope you’re doing the same fellow Spitalifields Life readers!

  5. July 13, 2014

    In every case: the struggle is always worth it!

    Love & Peace

  6. Ms Mischief permalink
    July 13, 2014

    I hope and pray that this terrace may be saved.
    I am full of admiration for those involved in this fight, and their imagination/determination to save these buildings. If they can be brought back to their original beauty, it will be an inspiration for so many other places. The council can still row back on their shameful neglect by recognising these houses have a future. The current state of the housing just shows how neglect breeds neglect: how bad landlords can encourage/allow the destruction of lovely buildings, just by neglect. I hope the Spitalfields Trust and those involved with the plan succeed! What a project to take on!

  7. Jane B permalink
    July 13, 2014

    Not forgetting that as well as Hackney Council the developer, Murphy, might need to hear from us too – as they are ultimately going to be the ones to allow Hackney to re-write the development partner contract or not, on the basis of Spitalfield Trust’s “compelling alternative” and Murphy’s own stated commitment to corporate social responsibility, as follows…

    “…our roots remain at a local level and one of our core values is being conscious of the impact of our projects from a social, economic and environmental view. …Essentially, we always endeavour to maintain positive relationships built on good communication.”

    How about we find out what that means in practice!

    Although there is a external PR agency – Suzanne Murphy (coincidently) at Golley Slater – Justin Fitzgerald is the internal ‘communications and marketing’ lead, 9 years into the job so I’m sure he knows the brief well enough to deal with a few extra emails 🙂

  8. Jane B permalink
    July 13, 2014

    And let’s not forget – or be ignorant of the fact! – that with his eye on a seat in central government as of the 2015 elections, Hackney’s Cabinet member for Regeneration, Guy Nicholson, after 12 years in post and 16 in Jules Pipe’s council, is currently PPC (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate) for Sittingbourne and Sheppey. So we really do need him to unpick this contract before his likely departure, not least knowing that the practicalities can then be dealt with by someone else! And to help him on his way we could even give him a ‘pro-community win’ to discuss with and impress the voters in Kent 🙂 …not that I’d really want to be suggesting that this is how it works!


    Fortunately the prevailing economics and ego’s have just about kept pace with Hackney Council’s expenditure as regards owning, dis-owning, re-owning this site — our local council having had the ‘good fortune’ (even if they haven’t always seemed to see it that way) of acquiring 48-78 Dalston Lane ‘for free’ exactly 30 years ago…

    “[London Borough of] Hackney inherited the sixteen houses in 1984 when the GLC [Greater London Council] was abolished. In 2002 it ignored the shopkeepers’ offers and sold them all, as one lot at auction, for £1.8million to an off-shore developer. Hackney refused planning permission for demolition and redevelopment in 2004 but, whilst awaiting the developer’s appeal, two of the houses suffered an arson attack. The Council subsequently demolished No.s 60, 62 and 64, at public expense, in September 2007. Then, in 2010, it bought back all the remaining houses and the three demolished sites for £3.8million – double what it had originally sold them for at auction…”

    I’d really want to believe that the move in 2010 to retake control of what was no doubt recognised as an important street-scape in a key regeneration area had some genuine ‘conservation-mindedness’ to it – just four years earlier, in 2005, English Heritage had declared the houses to be “remarkable survivors of Georgian architecture”…

    In 2002, the year of an auction and an election, the ‘Regeneration Portfolio’ that councillor Guy Nicholson still holds today was newly acquired. However, by the time of the 2004 ‘demolition refusal’ and not fully explained fire that gutted a fifth of the terrace (did someone feel betrayed, having paid their money and then not having been allowed to have their way?) GN was more established and ‘exercised’.

    Two years in, GN was perhaps more confident as to how he might apply the experience gained from three years ‘on the ground’ in late 1990’s Shoreditch, during a period of accelerated ‘evolution’ of the skyline and street frontage, with much conservation work to do and indeed done to keep the 19th century street-scape still standing – at a time when, thankfully and rather remarkably, planning decisions had been decentralised and were being put before open meetings of Neighbourhood Committees, far from Mare Street ‘central command’…until the Labour majority put a stop to such nonsense! (Hard work but happy memories — I still keep the agenda in the hope that one day… )

    Guy Nicholson had appeared on the scene in Shoreditch, as a councillor, having studied Theatre Design at the Central School of Art & Design and “worked with a broad range of UK and international companies staging many productions, including opera, musicals, drama and dance; assisting the creative and production teams realise productions in a broad range of venues in the UK, across Europe, the United States and the Far East.” So not a bad man to be dealing with then or now 🙂

    And as well as the ‘big briefs’ that have followed – including the Directorship for Gateway to London, the inward investment agency for East London – GN is/has been in the ensuing years London Regional Council Member for the Arts Council; on the board at the Barbican; a member of the advisory board for Art in the Open, a pan-London public art initiative; Chair now trustee of CREATE; and observer to the board of the much ‘fought for’ and imaginatively funded Hackney Empire theatre, while also ‘doing his duty’ at Shoreditch Trust.

    And so it is that my albeit limited experience of Guy Nicholson is certainly that at heart he is – wants to be 🙂 – a ‘community’, ‘arts’, ‘heritage’ and socially responsibility investment’ man. So if we can help him deliver on ‘the personal mission’ as well as the political remit – as the Ian Whittaker/Spitalfields Trust/Circle 33 proposal surely does — then maybe L.B.H and Murphy can somehow find the will and finance to re-write the existing contract, effectively writing off the deal as is 🙂

    The regeneration boss and L.B. Hackney generally will certainly have an easier job in this respect if there are apprenticeships to be had (16-25 year-olds, under the tutorship of Society For the Protection of Ancient Buildings/Spitalfields Trust, learning to mix lime plaster?!) as well as a ‘workable business framework’ by which independent businesses can be secured, lined up in support and in principle even if not yet or ever signed up as actual tenants (a supporting statement from the East End Trades Guild perhaps?).

    The ‘helpful precedents’ are there, literally there; behind its period shop-front ‘FARM:shop at no.20 has been voted one of Time Out’s Top 100 shops // “no.20 once a derelict shop, is the world’s first urban farming hub – a workspace, cafe and events venue packed to the rafters with living and breathing food – literally a farm in a shop.” Obviously there are more everyday businesses in need of space and profile but this happens to be a much-loved and valued local enterprise that L.B. Hackney has found the ways to actively support and indeed ensures wears its badge as project ‘sponsor’.

    And yes, up the road, with a 1868, Hackney-owned warehouse to ‘make good’ Ben Todd at Arcola Theatre actually had his ‘big corporates’ paying to ‘volunteer’ and acquire then apply some painting and decorating skills. So possibly there are not insignificant in-kind contributions that can and should be factored in to make the numbers and scheme work re Dalston Lane. [more details on request!]

    And with ‘Marquis’ now ‘laid to rest’ – for the time being at least – might the project also be able to gift the Geffrye Museum some positive PR? …not least as the basis for a more constructive and co-operative artisan–academic working relationship, into the future, between the museum and local trusts, societies and communities — ‘period interiors’ being their thing and Dalston Lane have many in need of resources and perhaps a photo exhibition at the end of it all, framed of course by the curatorial force that is Spitalfields Life!

    But yes, first and foremost, let’s be confident that we can tick plenty of boxes for Hackney’s ‘sustainable regeneration’ man, and in so doing help Guy Nicholson make the right ‘socio-economic and cultural development’ decision, within the terms of his current office. Know thy enemy… as a friend 🙂

    “Regeneration Councillor Guy Nicholson

Lead responsibility for promoting investment into the Borough and bringing about the sustainable regeneration of Hackney’s neighbourhoods and town centres. Responsible for the socio-economic and cultural development of the borough, increasing employment opportunities for residents, maximising the legacy from the 2012 Games, and the forming of planning and land use policies for the borough.”

    Otherwise we could always ‘threaten’ to get Prince Charles’ widely respected ‘Prince’s Foundation for Building Communities’ involved – pro-refurbishment of the historic fabric to say the least!

  9. Vicky permalink
    July 13, 2014

    Golly, I mis-read this as ‘No hope for The Terrace …..’ Thank God I was wrong. And yes, Prince Charles could be useful ..

  10. July 14, 2014

    Thanks for the detailed update Jane B. I’ve also emailed Justin and Suzanne as recommended.
    If any other readers see this and support the proposal, do write.
    I’m involved in a similar campaign (Save Kensal Rise Library) and I know writing emails/letters DOES make a difference. And it doesn’t take too long.

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