Tag Archives: Clapton

Historic Clapton Building Faces Demolition

Picture: Ian Aitken: Bishops Wood Almhouses on Lower Clapton Road

Picture: Ian Aitken: Bishops Wood Almhouses on Lower Clapton Road

 

By Samuel Hooper

A seventeenth century Clapton building is facing demolition after a charity put it up for sale, claiming that renovations would be too expensive.

The Grade II listed Bishops Wood almhouses, which have housed poor elderly people for more than three centuries, are being put up for sale by owners the Dr Spurstowe and Bishop Wood Almshouse Charity which plans to use the proceeds to build a larger facility on a new site in Hackney.

However, the sale has raised fears that a private developer will purchase the building and demolish it to make room for the creation of more profitable luxury flats. Demolition would also mean the loss of the chapel, which forms part of the structure and is notable for being the smallest of its type in the country.

The charity says that while the sale is regrettable, refurbishment would cost as much as £750,000 for only four flats while selling the building would enable them to build significantly more homes for the elderly.

Fr Rob Wickham, rector of nearby St. John at Hackney church and member of the charity’s board of trustees, defended the decision. He said: “As a charity for housing elderly people … they cannot justify spending that kind of money to provide only four modern flats. The trustees have tried to get help from heritage organisations but without success. They are therefore considering their options, one of which is to sell the precious old building.”

The news of the sale and potential risk to the historic building came as little surprise to some locals. Construction worker John Doyle, who fears what may happen at the hands of developers, said: “That’s Hackney for you. They’re all after making money and they just don’t care about the history or the heritage.”

Others were more pragmatic, such as local shopkeeper Marcus Solak, who said: “Better it be used for something than lying empty. Anything is better than empty buildings.”

Despite the concerns, any buyer wishing to demolish the almhouses will require permission from the council, because of its listed status. In considering the request, the council would take expert guidance from English Heritage before making a decision.

Councillor Ian Rathbone, chair of the Clapton Pond Neighbourhood Action Group, hopes to take advantage of this fact by including the threatened building on an upcoming tour of the borough by English Heritage. Cllr Rathbone said: “We’re trying to involve them to keep pressure on the trustees to sell to a responsible buyer.”

 

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Historic Building At Risk in Clapton

DSCF1734A cluster of 17th century buildings facing Clapton Pond have been made available for sale by the charity that owns them, prompting concerns that they could be demolished, despite having listed status.

The buildings were originally built to provide housing for elderly local women and did so up until 2012.  As well as flats and a courtyard, the building complex contains a chapel said to be the smallest in the country.

Despite the buildings having grade II listed status, developers could demolish them if given permission by Hackney Council.  It is not yet known if this would be something future owners may attempt. 

Local Councillor Ian Rathbone, who is chair of the Clapton Pond Neighbourhood Action Group, said they “don’t anticipate demolition, just because of the building’s listed status” but added “we are keen to meet with any potential buyer, and expect that this would happen through the formal planning process” as they seek reassurances over the buildings’ future.

The Council does not usually approve the demolition of listed buildings, according to its website.  Any decision would only be made after consultation with English Heritage.

The charity, Dr Spurstowe and Bishops Wood Almshouses, say that they intend to use the money raised by the sale to pay for the construction of new homes with which they could provide more social housing for the elderly.  They had initially hoped to refurbish and continue to use the almshouses but the cost was prohibitive. 

 Father Rob Wickham, member of the board of trustees of the charity and rector at St. John at Hackney Church said: “As a charity for housing elderly people, rather than a charity to protect heritage buildings, the charity cannot justify spending that kind of money” and pointed out that “Anyone who bought it would of course have to follow the strict guidance of English Heritage when refurbishing it”.

 Previous residents of the buildings, called the Bishops Wood Almshouses, were moved by the charity that owns them into alternative accommodation in 2012 and they have lain empty ever since.

 Marcus Soak, who works in a shop nearby, said: “it’s better [they] be used for something than lying empty. Anything is better than empty buildings”.

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