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Plans by Tower Hamlets Council to turn historic Raine’s House in Wapping into ‘hub for hire’

PUBLISHED: 07:00 27 January 2018 | UPDATED: 08:08 30 January 2018

Raine's House in Wapping, built 1719 as a school for poor children. Picture source: Google

Raine's House in Wapping, built 1719 as a school for poor children. Picture source: Google

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Public consultations are held today by Tower Hamlets Council to convert an historic early-Georgian building in London’s East End into the borough’s second ‘community hub’ for hire.

Get-together at Raine's House for the people of Wapping... their only social centre in the district. Picture source: Raine's House Get-together at Raine's House for the people of Wapping... their only social centre in the district. Picture source: Raine's House

The local authority wants to convert the 300-year-old Grade II-listed Raine’s House into a ‘hub’ where residents and neighbourhood groups can rent a small room for £30-an-hour, plus £40-an-hour to use the kitchen.

Registered charities get it for £25, while the commercial rate is £60.

Letters have been sent out by the town hall’s project manager Wendy Harrington inviting residents to the consultation held at the two-story building in Raine Street, off Wapping Lane—currently used as the Wapping community centre.

The proposal is to refurbish the building to “safeguard its historic fabric”. The council has already appointed an architect, even before today’s consultation which starts at 1pm.

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs cuts ribbon to open East End's first 'community hub' in Seprtermber 2017. Picture source: LBTH Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs cuts ribbon to open East End's first 'community hub' in Seprtermber 2017. Picture source: LBTH

Tower Hamlets mayor John Biggs cut the ribbon on the first community ‘hub’ in September just a mile away at Shadwell’s Chrisp Street, off the Commercial Road, with its multi-purpose spaces, meeting room, kitchen, free Wi-Fi and multimedia equipment.

The “versatile, bookable spaces” mean council-owned buildings which are being turned into neighbourhood ‘hubs’ can be used by more than one group at a time—but they’d have to share the kitchen.

Other ‘hubs’ are planned in Wapping, Bromley-by-Bow, Limehouse and two in Bethnal Green, following a survey in November which found 74 buildings only being used for a third of the available hours. Some buildings had no formal agreements and had inconsistent charges.

“There was a hotch-botch of agreements and terms of occupation,” a council spokesman explained. “Some groups were paying rent while others were paying nothing.”

Historic early Georgian Raine's House that Tower Hamlets Council wants to turn into a 'community hub for rent'. Picture source: Google Historic early Georgian Raine's House that Tower Hamlets Council wants to turn into a 'community hub for rent'. Picture source: Google

Now they are all to be charged the same, even though small neighbourhood gatherings had been allowed to use publicly-owned buildings like Raine’s House without fees. The council claims the new charges would be “just enough to meet upkeep”.

Raine’s House was built in 1719 as a charity school by Henry Raine, who had made a fortune selling alcohol. He felt as a devout Christian that he should be philanthropic and open a school where poor children could get a free education.

The building in recent years has been used as a community centre and as offices of the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields.

The original school, now called Raine’s Foundation, moved to Spitalfields, then to its present location at Approach Road in Bethnal Green. It marks its 300th anniversary, like Raine’s House itself, in 2019.

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