Exhibition at the “time capsule” museum Dennis Severs House showcases a campaign to stop the demolition of 18th century housing in Spitalfields and Shoreditch. By Alex Leonards. Sub-edited by Jaideep Vaidya.
Dennis Severs House is a modest “time capsule” museum which stands amongst a picturesque street of 18th century terraced housing in Tower Hamlets, Spitalfields. The showcase inside is to aid the Save Norton Folgate campaign by The Spitalfields Trust, who want to stop the “threat to and plight of the liberty of Norton Folgate.” This is where property management company British Land plan to demolish 75 per cent of the existing period buildings.
British Land plan to build offices, retail and residential property within an area of 320,000 square feet, across two acres. The area will front Shoreditch High Street and Norton Folgate directly north of Spitalfields.
The exhibition aims to attract people to the surrounding site encouraging them to voice their opinions to Tower Hamlets Council, with the hope to halt British Land’s plans. David Milne, curator of the museum, is passionate about preserving the period buildings in the area. He feels the exhibition is vital:
“It’s a way to show people that if it wasn’t for the Spitalfields Trust, who arrived here in the 70s and stopped British Land destroying this neighbourhood, and none of this would have survived. Now, British Land have come back 40 years later and put in these plans to create vast towers of glass and destroy ancient fabric. It’s wrong.”
Milne refers to a photo in the far right of the room that shows where British Land plan to demolish three quarters of the area.
“It’s like a bomb site,” he says in disbelief.
In a months’ time, the whole site will be taken over by small independent artists and designers for a big shopping event. Milne believes this proves British Land are wrong in believing the buildings cannot be used. “All these young creative people, if they could set up a business here, they’d be here all the time,” he says.
The Spitalfields Trust aren’t just campaigning against the plans; they have put forward some ideas themselves. “Our proposal is not to say don’t build these new buildings, but asks why do you have to destroy so much of the ancient fabric just for the sake of it,” says Milne. Instead of pulling down the buildings and replacing them with out of place glass buildings, they want to “give back the historic nature of this neighbourhood by building facades of houses which were lost.”