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Historian Dan Cruikshank in battle to stop 18th century Huguenot house being bulldozed

PUBLISHED: 10:00 24 May 2019 | UPDATED: 13:10 24 May 2019

Historian Dan Cruikshank takes on fight to save Club Row weaver's house. Picture: Mike Brooke

Historian Dan Cruikshank takes on fight to save Club Row weaver's house. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

TV Historian Dan Cruikshank is spearheading a campaign to stop an historic 18th century Huguenot silkworker's house in Bethnal Green being bulldozed to make way for a luxury block of flats.

Club Row's historic 18th century weaver's house on the corner of Redchurch Street. Picture: Mike BrookeClub Row's historic 18th century weaver's house on the corner of Redchurch Street. Picture: Mike Brooke

The veteran East End celebrity preservation campaigner is behind a move by the Huguenots of Spitalfields heritage group to save the three-storey property in Club Row near Shoreditch.

Now the Department for Culture's Historic England, the public body that protects the nation's historical environment, confirmed last night to the East London Advertiser that it was considering listing the house.

Developers have applied to Tower Hamlets Council to demolish the 260-year-old property and replace it with modern flats.

How the run-down house in Club Row looked in 1953. Picture source: Tower Hamlets ArchiveHow the run-down house in Club Row looked in 1953. Picture source: Tower Hamlets Archive

"Houses like this are now rare," Dan told the Advertiser. "Its survival all these years shows how the silkweaving cottage industry developed.

"These homes were built for silkworkers to live in and work with their families, unlike the grander Huguenot properties we see in Spitalfields where the wealthy master weavers lived."

The structure was plain, with a single room on each floor with a wide window front and back to let in much daylight needed for silk-weaving with its delicate colourings.

What developers want to replace the weaver's house. Picture source: LBTHWhat developers want to replace the weaver's house. Picture source: LBTH

"Such simple houses are easy to overlook when it comes to preservation," Dan fears.

"This building is important, because it gives us an insight into the economy of the 18th century silk industry before the industrial revolution—there are now too few left."

The application was made by Squire Heritage consultants whose client is listed as Concept Stew computer systems and software consultancy in Brick Lane. There has been no response to the Advertiser's calls to their listed number.

Dan Cruikshank... Dan Cruikshank... "Such simple houses like this are easy to overlook." Picture: Mike Brooke

Objections from the Huguenots of Spitalfields heritage group say the Club Row house on the corner of Redchurch Street is "exceptionally rare" and should be listed as an historic building in a conservation area. The proposed block of flats, they insist, is "not worthy a replacement".

An Historic England inspector has been to Club Row this week. A spokesman said: "I can confirm that one of our inspectors did visit the site and we are considering the weavers' house for listing."

This boosts Cruickshank's campaign—he lives himself in a preserved former weaver's cottage half-a-mile away off Commercial Street and has championed East End heritage struggles since the 1960s.

Cruikshank in 2015 in battle to stop developers tearing down historic properties at Norton Folgate. Picture: Mike BrookeCruikshank in 2015 in battle to stop developers tearing down historic properties at Norton Folgate. Picture: Mike Brooke

Dan's most recent victory was in 2017 stopping a skyscraper being built in Whitechapel that would have overshadowed a row of ancient Grade I-listed almshouses built in 1695.

He also led campaigns to stop the bulldozing of the London Wool Exchange in Spitalfields in 2016 with its preserved wartime public air-raid shelter and Blossom Street conservation area properties at Norton Folgate in 2015.

But these campaigns were over-ruled each time by Boris Johnson using his executive powers as mayor of London.

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