Skip to content

Impending Disaster At 3 Club Row

May 19, 2019
by the gentle author

A pair of weavers’ houses at 3-5 Club Row dating from 1764/66

Ever since Boris Johnson used his executive power as Mayor of London to permit British Land to demolish more than 80% of the fabric of their Norton Folgate development site which sits entirely in a Conservation Area in Spitalfields, there has been an unruly climate of laissez-faire in the East End for the destruction of historic buildings.

Just last month, we saw the destruction of local landmark, Tadmans, a distinguished Regency corner building which had stood on the corner of Jubilee St in Whitechapel for two centuries. The fact that it was neither listed nor in a Conservation Area allowed a Planning Officer simply to grant permission for demolition without even the necessity of consulting councillors.

This week, an application was submitted to demolish this seventeen-sixties weavers’ house, one of a pair at 3-5 Club Row in the Redchurch St Conservation Area. The significance of this unique surviving pair of houses is outlined by Peter Guillery, Senior Historian at the Survey of London, in his definitive book The Small House in Eighteenth Century London. “In few, if any, other London districts would the provision of new housing have been so clearly and directly associated with the needs of a single industry,” he writes. They were “a local solution to a local problem,” built specifically for journeymen silk weavers of Bethnal Green – not the wealthy silk merchants of Spitalfields. These were the first buildings in Britain constructed specifically to fulfil the requirements of both living and working.

In January 2017, the Huguenots of Spitalfields responded to Tower Hamlets Council’s request for suggestions of buildings that merit Local Listing, by submitting applications for this pair in Club Row and nine other surviving weavers’ houses in the vicinity. Twenty-eight months later, no response was forthcoming until this week, when an enquiry was made regarding the threat of demolition of 3 Club Row, drawing this reply from the Planning Department.

“The application was considered along with a number a number of other nominations, however, a decision was made to not locally list these buildings as they were all located within Conservation Areas.  This is because buildings in Conservation Areas already benefit from a degree of protection under the planning system, including a protection against demolition without permission. We have therefore decided to focus the designation on buildings that currently don’t have any protection or recognition in the planning process… It does not appear that your colleague was notified of this decision, and I am very sorry for this oversight.”

Yet Conservation Area status did not protect the buildings in Norton Folgate and the Planning Department’s focus on buildings that “currently don’t have any protection or recognition in the planning process” did not extend to Tadman’s in Whitechapel.

So now we are faced with the threat of the demolition of a rare survival of an eighteenth century weavers’ house in Shoreditch. The jaw-droppingly appalling Philistinism of the developer is such that they claim destroying this old building – which they have let it slip into decay – and replacing it with generic new spreadsheet architecture will be an improvement to the Conservation Area.

“Regards the demolition of the building, the assessment shows that No’s 3-5 do not make a positive contribution to the area’s special character … The proposed replacement scheme will be of a suitably high quality that will enhance the Redchurch St Conservation Area.” This is an extract from the developer’s Heritage Statement, the only part of their eighty page application in which they mention the historic building.

We need your help if we are to save this building. Below you will find instructions for how you can object effectively to stop the impending disaster at 3 Club Row.


Note the drawing of the developer’s Porsche in this rendering of the replacement



Use your own words and add your own personal reasons for opposing the development. Any letters which simply duplicate the same wording will count only as one objection.

1. Quote the application reference: PA/19/00932/A1

2. Give your full name and postal address. You do not need to be a resident of Tower Hamlets or of the United Kingdom to register a comment but unless you give your postal address your objection will be discounted.

3. Be sure to state clearly that you are OBJECTING to the demolition of 3 Club Row.

4. The building is exceptionally rare and significant and should be listed.

5. It is an historic building in a Conservation Area and part of the historic and architectural interest of the area.

6. The replacement scheme is not worthy a replacement.



You can register and object by clicking here if you have a UK postcode


you can write an email to


you can send a letter to

Town Planning, Town Hall, Mulberry Place, 5 Clove Crescent, London, E14 2BG


3-5 Club Row, 1953

These houses were built between 1764 and 1766, specifically for the journeymen silk weavers of Bethnal Green and the related trades of silk throwsters, winders and dyers.

These are single depth, one-room-plan houses with a rear window, so light could permeate from front and back. The wide top-floor windows, built into the main body of the house rather than into the attics, were for maximum light, essential for colour-matching fine silk threads. The brick frontages allowed the construction of the staircases while the rear walls were often of wood.

They were constructed as multi-occupant, single-room, workshop-homes, with one family per floor and silk weaving at the top. A journeyman family could only afford one room and work dominated their lives, so no space was provided for much else, with the size of looms dictating the size of the rooms.


You may also like to read about

What Happened To Tadmans

Save Our East End Heritage

33 Responses leave one →
  1. Caroline Bottomley permalink
    May 19, 2019

    Let’s hope there are interests other than greed that win out.

  2. May 19, 2019

    Another hideous and dull box of flats, or to give them their proper name ‘stunning development ‘.

  3. Jill Wilson permalink
    May 19, 2019

    Yet another historically interesting building threatened with needless destruction…grrrr!! Have the planners got no understanding of the significance of the local weaving heritage?

    And as usual the proposed replacement looks both bland and ugly, and would swamp poor number 5, Club Row. I wonder how long it would be before that house was under threat as well??

  4. mlaiuppa permalink
    May 19, 2019

    Tower Hamlets is useless. They are obviously in the pockets of the developers. It would be wonderful if an investigative reporter could follow the money and prove that.

    There must be an entity higher up than this “council.” They are the ones that must be contacted.

    I’m not sure I can survive continuing to read about the demolition of the precious history that has survived. I live in a town with a very short history and no respect for it. How can you teach someone to cherish this history you have? How can you implore philistines not to destroy your heritage?

    I have no answer. We have been unable to convince our local developers to honor local community plans, protected areas, historically designated and protected buildings.

    I only know two things. It never stops and you have to continually monitor and be diligent because they don’t stop until they win.

  5. May 19, 2019

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention GA.
    Clearly, Tower Hamlets Council do not recognise the importance of these ‘jewels’ in their crown that they allow to be airbrushed out of existence by the stroke of a pen.
    What is the point of a Conservation area there and do some councils take conservation more seriously that Tower Hamlets?

  6. May 19, 2019


    As an aside, it seems quite ironic that the Tower Hamlets Planning Office is on Mulberry Place, given their attitude to the tree you are working so hard to protect.

  7. Richard Smith permalink
    May 19, 2019

    Boris Johnson? Haystack Philistine.

  8. Keith Wilson permalink
    May 19, 2019

    If one is an overseas resident, it’s not actually possible to register and object at the Tower Hamlets direct link you kindly provided (, since this requests inclusion of a UK postal code, without which the registration process can’t be completed. So people objecting from abroad should send an email to, quoting the application number (PA/19/00932/A1).

  9. May 19, 2019

    I have sent an objection. One begins to wonder whether the officers and councillors of Tower Hamlets are completely blind to their duties and obligations …

    On another matter, what is happening to the Passmore Edwards Library in Limehouse? I was dismayed to walk past the other day and see apparent development hoardings?

  10. the gentle author permalink*
    May 19, 2019

    It is being redeveloped into students flats…

  11. Adele permalink
    May 19, 2019

    Distressing to see what’s going on in my former hometown. No respect for the past. Shameful.

  12. Liam Sims permalink
    May 19, 2019


  13. Jen permalink
    May 19, 2019

    My Boniface Claisse, weaver, lived at #7 and #8 Club Row in the 1790s, first as a tenant, and then as landlord.

    I’m in the US, and it’s hard to look away from the American government in crisis, even for a moment, but this development situation on Club Row is soon going to be irreversible.

    As Keith Wilson notes ^^, one cannot register at the Tower Hamlets development site without a *UK* postal code. I just spent several minutes in a futile attempt to do so, setting up a password, etc, before the final (I think) registration page requiring a postal code popped up.

    I did not see Keith Wilson’s comment until after.

    May I respectfully suggest that the Gentle Author amend the instructions very slightly, to note that a *UK* postal address is required for site registration, so overseas persons must email? I wouldn’t want to lose a single objector due to this minor hiccup.

    I’ll email now. Thank you.

  14. Mary permalink
    May 19, 2019

    I have looked at the planning application on the Tower Hamlet Council website, and as I always believe individuals and companies should be “named and shamed” I am happy to share here.
    The application has been made by ppmPlanning “on behalf of client Stephen Morris”.

    The following statement in the application beggars belief, “3 Club Row has little architectural merit and partly due to the emergence of ever larger buildings surrounding it, doesn’t contribute to the appearance of the area”

    Yes, why let an historic building spoil the plans of venal developers and their political toadies to eradicate the cultural and architectural history of the East End?

    Objection sent!

  15. Jen permalink
    May 19, 2019

    I’ve just forwarded this post to 13 fellow Club Row descendants, with info re personal relevance, and encouragement to register their objections. Thank you so very much for tracking this and keeping us informed.

  16. Lucy permalink
    May 19, 2019

    Truly amazing how ubiquitous these elevations are, the same in every corner of London and beyond. Like every plan went through a sausage machine and was squeezed out through a rectangular grid.

  17. May 19, 2019

    Objection submitted via Tower Hamlets website. Let us hope enough people object and we can stop these greedy people stealing more of our heritage.

  18. Margaret Blackwood permalink
    May 20, 2019

    Why are they ripping London apart.Cannot understand why these buildings were not listed.
    Even if you object seems planners Don’t care
    Leave London Alone

  19. Vicki permalink
    May 20, 2019

    I just emailed my objection, from the U.S.

  20. VANDA HUMAN permalink
    May 20, 2019

    What is it with so many government, municipal and so called upper class (Boris Johnson) Brits who are hell bent on destroying their heritage. Am I just an old fart who thinks that the British heritage needs to be preserved.

    My forefathers are from the UK, I am not a Brit but I feel more loyal towards the UK than a lot of the British people.

  21. May 20, 2019

    Objection submitted just now.

    I feel like making a huge banner that screams “LEAVE MY EAST END ALONE!” and go and march up and down in front of the planners/construction people who think that erasing an area’s history is a spiffing wheeze.

  22. Anne permalink
    May 20, 2019

    Get a Article 4 direction from the local planning authority.
    If it’s not to late .
    Good luck
    I’ve objected

  23. Dominic permalink
    May 20, 2019

    Presumably Cloth Fair will be next – Oh, why not get rid of that ugly row in Downing street…

  24. Marcia Howard permalink
    May 20, 2019

    Oh it’s all so disheartening. They’re either all philistines, or having their palms greased – or both. Have just written and sent an email. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

  25. Chris Ashby permalink
    May 20, 2019

    Objected. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.
    Chris Ashby.

  26. Neil permalink
    May 20, 2019

    May the ghosts of the former occupants haunt all those conspiring to destroy these architectural gems.

  27. Colin Thomas permalink
    May 21, 2019

    Objection lodged!

    Good old Boris, eh? Gawd help us if he should become Prime Minister…

  28. Sean Thomas permalink
    May 21, 2019

    Genuinely shocking. You kind of presume all these buildings are protected and listed. Little nooks like this are what make London so fascinating. I’ve tweeted it out there. Thanks for writing this.

  29. Jane thompson permalink
    May 21, 2019

    I have sent them an email.

  30. Sue Mayer permalink
    May 22, 2019

    I have objected. Why do planners want to destroy our historical buildings? Money, bah.

    I find this very depressing. I no longer recognise the area I lived in as a child as it has been destroyed.

  31. Kenneth permalink
    May 22, 2019

    Objection submitted. Particularly concerned that (once again) the decision will be made by a planning officer and not referred to a council planning committee, open to scrutiny. Your story and objection links Tweeted too. Thanks for being the eyes and ears here. . .

  32. May 26, 2019

    I’ve written an objective. Though I think they made their mind up already, similar to the building opposite spitalfields and the trees they removed

  33. May 29, 2019

    As an American who spent a week exploring London in general (and Shoreditch in particular), and having the best vacation of my life, I can honestly say I am shattered to hear that such an historically significant building would just be knocked over only to be replaced by so much ugliness. When stuff like that happens here, it’s a shame. When it happens in a city so rich in history, heritage and culture, it is a tragedy.

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS