Regular readers of this blog may wonder why I'm including a reference to the newly inaugurated East End Preservation Society... but then you may already know of my passion for the marvelous Spitalfields Life blog.
I cannot now remember how I came across the Gentle Author who posts everyday without fail about the people and places of the East End. I have been reading and enjoying the thoughtful, thought provoking blog posts for more than a year, prompted by my familiarity and familial links with the East End and I have learned many a lesson that could benefit Swindon. The latest has been the inauguration of the East End Preservation Society in the wake of the loss of several historic buildings and sites at the hand of London Mayor Boris Johnson.
With the Technical College on Victoria Road in a perilous condition and situation, we in Swindon should be establishing just such an organisation. So many of our historic buildings have already been lost, it's time to stand up for those that remain.
Here is just a small selection of long lost buildings published courtesy of Swindon Local Studies.
Dan Cruickshank’s Inugural Address for The East End Preservation Society
“It should now be possible to protect our historic buildings, to maintain and improve our conservation areas, to represent and reinforce traditional communities and to create and sustain well-balanced new communities – ones that build on the rich and inclusive cultural tradition of East London.
But it seems that all these worthy expectations will not be realised without drastic, radical action. East London has reached a critical time in its long and rewarding history. Massive new developments such as the one proposed for Bishopsgate Goodsyard (which includes a series of towers from twenty-eight to five-five storeys in height) threaten to overwhelm adjoining conservation areas and infrastructure, cast shadow over communities and cause irreparable damage to established areas which have a strong character.
There is no strong evidence that developers are actually acting on opinions expressed through the consultation process – and the feeling is that the welfare of many is to be sacrificed for profits for a few.
The sound and handsome nineteen-twenties London Fruit & Wool Exchange in Spitalfields is to be largely demolished for a scheme which includes no housing, and which entails the destruction of the popular local pub, The Gun, and the eradication of the important late seventeenth-century street, Dorset St. The site could hardly be more sensitive, located in a conservation area, and opposite Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Christ Church, one of most moving historic buildings in London.
After much debate and local opposition, the scheme was originally rejected by Tower Hamlets Council – a victory for community action and local democracy – but the Mayor of London intervened and, after acting as judge and jury, overturned the local authority’s decision and granted development consent. An alternative scheme – drawn up by local groups and which kept the important existing buildings and street pattern, which built on the history of the site – which proposed some housing and which would have created local employment – was dismissed out of hand.
This story represents a collapse of local democracy, and a cynical disregard of local people and opinion. So much for democracy when it comes to the protection and enhancement of East London! So much for the opinions of local communities! So much for history!
Read more about Swindon's fascinating history in Swindon Heritage - the quarterly magazine for lovers of local history. The Winter edition is out now - for a list of stockists and how to subscribe visit the website.
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