Bishops Wood Almshouses under threat

The 17 Century grade II listed building is under consideration of demolition the Almshouses are under threat, as they have been put up for sale to developers, by Dr Spurstowe and Bishop Wood Almshouses Charity.

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The Almshouses in Bishops Wood have fallen into disrepair and while the charity has looked for planning permission to renovate the grade II listed buildings, but have announced that the costs associated with renovation would be too high, as Fr. Rob Wickham, Rector, St. John at Hackney church, elaborates;

“Unfortunately refurbishing a listed building and bringing it up to modern standards is extremely expensive. Doing the necessary work on Bishop Wood House would cost around getting on for three-quarters of a million pounds”
Local residents are less concerned with the sale and more that the building be at least used, as Marcus Solak, local shopworker at ‘Palm 2’ voiced;

“Better it be used for something than lying empty. Anything is better than empty buildings”.

The chairman of the trust, David Horder, explained that;

“31 new flats that the Trustees have built at Dr. Spurstowe House in Navarino Rd at the cost of £4m.”

Like the Almshouses, the flats were created to be used by the elderly and needy. Dr Spurstowe and Bishop Wood Almshouses Charity said it intends to build “another brand new, large almshouse on a new site in Hackney” using the proceeds from any sale.

The buildings began construction by 1653 as Thomas Wood, bought land at Clapton where he built almshouses for 10 widows aged 60 or more. These were homes, intended as a refuge for the poor and elderly. The Almshouses also contain a chapel that is reputedly England’s smallest, and Ian Rathbone a Leabridge ward councillor– who criticised the impending sell-off – says this place of worship is still used for some services.

The previous occupancies of Almshouses have been found new accommodation; the sale of the buildings could pave the way for redevelopment of new buildings on the land.

This could mean the demolition of the grade II listed building. And this was summed up by John Doyle, Hackney resident and worker for Volker Highways repairing the street outside Bishops Wood Almshouses:

“That’s Hackney for you. They’re all after making money and they don’t care about the history or the heritage”

He goes on to mention, any buyer would have to conform to strict building conservation rules, by the Grade II listing from English Heritage of the Almshouses. And Councillor Ian Rathbone, chair of Clapton Pond Neighbourhood Action Group said that they would not anticipate demolition of the Almshouses.

Ian Aitken

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