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At 37 Spital Square

September 2, 2023
by the gentle author

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Drawing of 37 Spital Sq by Joanna Moore


What could be a better showcase for the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings than the fine eighteenth century house they restored in Spital Sq which serves as their headquarters?  This magnificent tottering pile is the last surviving Georgian mansion of the entire square once lined with such dwellings, which traced the outline of the former Priory of St Mary Spital that was established in 1187. Indeed, pieces of Medieval stonework from the old Priory buildings are still visible, tucked into the foundations of 37 Spital Sq.

Originally constructed in the seventeen-forties as the home of Peter Ogier, a wealthy Huguenot silk merchant, the house has been through many incarnations both as dwelling and workplace until the Society took it on in a rundown state in 1981 and brought it back to life. As a Society that counted William Morris, John Ruskin, Thomas Hardy, Beatrix Potter, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and John Betjeman among its members, the SPAB is irresistible to any writer with a passion for old buildings, and 37 Spital Sq certainly does not disappoint.

Neither museum or showhouse, the building has preserved its shabby charm as a working environment where people sit absorbed at their desks in elegantly proportioned rooms, surrounded by all the clutter of their activities and a few well-chosen paintings and pieces of old furniture. With staircases that seem to ascend forever, plenty of hidden corners and architectural idiosyncrasies, 37 Spital Sq is a house that invites you to ramble around – which is exactly what I did, matching up pictures in the Society’s archives of the building in 1981 with the same spaces as they are now.


Huguenot silk weaver Peter Ogier is believed to have built 37 Spital Square in the seventeen-forties.

You may also like to read about

Philip Venning, former Director of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings

Bill Crome, the Window Cleaner who sees Ghosts in Spital Sq

and these other renovations in Spitalfields

The Last Derelict House in Spitalfields

Before & After in Fournier St

A Renovation on Fournier St

All Change at 15 & 17 Fournier St

14 Responses leave one →
  1. September 2, 2023

    Lovely article. You can see once again how valuable it is to protect old, wonderful buildings. — A perfect example!

    Love & Peace

  2. Milo permalink
    September 2, 2023

    Scrubbed up rather nicely…

  3. Annie Green permalink
    September 2, 2023

    Delightful. Going to work must be joyful. And I love the discreet but totally in keeping simple announcement on the front door. 18th century rationalism in gold leaf.

  4. Michael Kutapan permalink
    September 2, 2023

    Unfortunately, something rather hideous is now looming over it, like a Psychopathic Giant.

  5. Christine permalink
    September 2, 2023

    What an absolute treat to see this building preserved and used

  6. September 2, 2023

    SO impressive! Congratulations to the person who selected these paint colors. This luminous, fresh color palette is a perfect reflection of the building’s renewal. Lovely.

    For me, color is endlessly fascinating. We once visited Thomas Jefferson’s historic home, Monticello, and were enthralled by the vivid wall colors. (think: bright yellow!) For years the home had been painted in muted dignified (“colonial”) shades, until a colorist did a deep dive to find out the ACTUAL paint colors. Then, the whole scheme was redone for historic accuracy — with a glorious outcome. It is one of the most warm, welcoming historic homes in America.
    COLOR !!!

  7. Eve permalink
    September 2, 2023

    The photographs of its original interiors were captivating, oozing characters with many imaginary tales to tell.. But love that this elegant old house has come to life in such a positive way & with very good purpose.

  8. September 2, 2023

    Utterly thrilling to see it restored to life! History is a little like spiritualism, I think. Not everyone feels it. But how glorious when you do!

  9. Bill permalink
    September 2, 2023

    Inspiring, comforting to see all this, but how evocative the before pictures!

    Are you familiar with the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi? Those black-and-whites, how wabi-sabi!

  10. Ann Vosper permalink
    September 2, 2023

    Perfect, how appropriate that SPAB have their headquarters in the glorious old house.

  11. Julian permalink
    September 2, 2023

    I would like local councils to save buildings like this as they are more ‘warm’ than new build boxes

  12. Sonia Murray permalink
    September 3, 2023

    What a beautiful restoration! The colors are gorgeous. People working there must be far happier than those in the sterile glass building that towers behind. Much more of Old London, the soul of the city, needs to be saved from slash and burn developers.

  13. September 3, 2023

    We are so lucky to have people who care about the history of Old London.

  14. Lesley Hudswell permalink
    September 3, 2023

    I wonder if SPAB is still known as Anti-scrape, its nickname in the early days.

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