Pair of 18th century Huguenot silk workers houses are saved from demolition

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

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

A pair of 250-year-old East End silk weaver cottages that faced demolition have been saved after they were deemed of “special historic interest”.

The 18th century Huguenot silk workers houses in Club Row, Bethnal Green, were Grade II-listed by Historic England this week after campaigners rallied to save them.

Developers had applied to Tower Hamlets Council to demolish the properties, built in 1764, and replace them with flats.

But the new classification will give the houses protection from destruction.

Historic England said the homes are "extremely rare".

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The public body added: "Reflecting the requirements of the industry in their design, such houses were perhaps the first in which design was directly associated with the needs of a single industry and were peculiar to this district."

The three-storey cottages were originally built to house silk workers and their families - likely to have been Huguenot refugees fleeing violence in France.

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Inside they were plain with a single room on each floor and wide windows to let as much daylight as possible to make it easier to colour match fine silk threads.

Historic England noted that the decade the houses were built in was a turbulent one in Bethnal Green, thanks largely to the silk trade.

The homes were constructed at the end of the Seven Years War (1756-63), when French foreign trade was temporarily captured.

London was experiencing a housing boom, particularly in the East End, but between 1763 and 1766 there was rioting in response to the introduction of labour-saving machinery.

There are now very few of the homes left in the East End.

Historic England said: "Houses of this sort were developed in Bethnal Green during the 18th Century in association with the growth of the industry, largely for occupation by weavers, and are therefore industrial as well as domestic buildings.

"The houses stand as an extremely rare survival of a house type which was once ubiquitous in this area."

Developers had insisted the homes were of "little architectural merit" in an extremely built up area.

But after an outcry from protesters, Tower Hamlets Council issued a Building Preservation Notice last month to ensure the buildings were not damaged before Historic England could complete a survey.

Campaigners, including east London writer the Gentle Author and the East End Preservation Society, celebrated the victory on social media.

Cherry Gilchrist said: "Thank goodness for a small but important victory for heritage over commercial development."

Lucinda Preston added: "A success after seeing so many buildings demolished or gutted."

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