Monday, 6 September 2010

Impressive groundswell of support for threatened Georgian workhouse

The unlisted Georgian workhouse in Cleveland Street, London W1, is currently threatened with demolition but there's been an impressive groundswell of grassroots support for keeping it. The Georgian Group has objected to demolition and has repeated its request for listing, which was refused under the last Government despite an English Heritage recommendation to list. Local residents, concerned to prevent a distinctive historic building being replaced with identikit development, have orchestrated an impressive conservation campaign that has found widespread support, including from Westminster Councillor Glenys Roberts and Emeritus Professor David Watkin.

In a letter to the local authority, the London Borough of Camden, Cllr Roberts says:

"This distinguished building abuts my constituency. Its rich history as part of the social fabric of an area, which unlike some parts of London is still in touch with its roots, offers the perfect opportunity to update it whilst keeping the original structure. Many people think there is merit in listing such an evocative building with which Charles Dickens was familiar and which have him the subject matter which made him a world class author. But even the fact that it is not at present protected, offers the imaginative conservationist developer free rein in designing a future for it which preserves the best, whilst modernising those aspects which bear updating . There is a successful precedent for this sort of development in the warehouses of Docklands which has turned from a rundown area unto a desirable one precisely because of this philosophy. The Strand Union workhouse with its solid design and generous proportions deserves the same treatment. With a new internal configuration the workhouse could provide either social or private sector housing plus commercial use and still testify to the social conscience of our forebears by retaining its landmark looks. I would be very much opposed to demolishing it as a whole and would urge the Council to explore ways of doing justice to this site, which will preserve the workhouse".

David Watkin, Emeritus Professor of the History of Architecture at Cambridge and Vice-Chairman of The Georgian Group, says: 

"The proposed demolition of this building has recently been brought to my attention and I am writing to object to this as it is a monument of architectural and historical importance, originally part of the parish of St Paul, Covent Garden. As a late-eighteenth-century workhouse, it has naturally been subject to some alteration, but is still worthy of a three-line description in Sir Nikolaus Pevsner’s Buildings of England,
London, vol. 3, North West (1991). The Work House is capable of being further adapted as residential accommodation without compromising its character, while the proposed replacement is totally out of scale with its setting which has preserved much of its Georgian character".

A petition in favour of saving and converting the building is now being organised by local residents. If you are interested in signing it please email us at     

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