Plans to turn former Broadwood piano works into Hackney Wick 'student city'

Former Broadwood piano works being turned into student accommodation

Plans have been unveiled to turn the former Broadwood piano factory into student accommodation - Credit: Southern Grove

The site of a famous piano factory that closed down at Hackney Wick 75 years ago could be turned into a complex to house hundreds of students. 

The factory was run by John Broadwood & Sons which holds a Royal Warrant as piano makers to the Queen who are one of the oldest surviving pianoforte manufacturers in the world, established in the 1720s.  

Its instruments have been used by the great masters down the ages such as Beethoven, Mozart and Handel. 

Now plans for a £55million scheme to turn the former Old Ford works into a “student city” at Fish Island, next to the River Lea opposite the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, have been unveiled by Southern Grove developers.

It would have 200 bedrooms with co-working facilities, a gym and space for workshops, linked to Southern Grove's sister company Future Generation's 330-bed scheme already going ahead next to it.

The two schemes together would serve five university campuses within a two-mile radius. 

“Hackney Wick is one of the most rapidly regenerating areas of London,” Southern Grove Group’s chief executive Tom Slingsby said.

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“The piano works and the scheme next to it are going to be a part of the most cosmopolitan and diverse communities of students. The whole area is being transformed into one of London’s key districts.” 

The universities it aims to serve include Queen Mary at Mile End, University of East London at Stratford, Loughborough’s London postgraduate campus and UCL’s east campus both in the Olympic Park. 

The London College of Fashion is also moving to the Olympic Park with its new campus currently under development. 

The piano works complex is proposed to have 5,000sq ft of commercial space.

But the plans also retain the “heritage” chimney and boiler house that formed part of the John Broadwood factory which opened in 1902 after the company moved out of Westminster.  

A Broadwood piano made at Hackney Wick went on Captain Scott's Antarctic expedition in 1910 and was played on the ice.  

The factory continued making pianos before diversifying briefly in the First World War to wooden biplanes that were held together with piano wire. 

Piano-making resumed until the Second World War when production switched to gramophones for a while, before the company moved to Hendon.