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Preservation calls for ‘rare water gypsy time capsule’

PUBLISHED: 09:47 13 January 2016 | UPDATED: 09:47 13 January 2016

Squatters at the Old School House in Hackney.

Squatters at the Old School House in Hackney.

Archant

Housing developer Vision Homes has been urged not to break its promise to donate a heritage building likened to a “Victorian time capsule” as a museum.

When housing developer Vision Homes was awarded planning permission to build housing on Paradise Dock in 2009, it was agreed that the Old School House building in Lea Bridge Road, Lower Clapton, which it owns, should be turned into a heritage and community centre.

But the Clapton Arts Trust (CAT) community organisation needed to raise around half a million pounds and has still not managed to do.

An application for a Heritage Lottery Fund grant was refused because CAT neither owns the building nor possesses a 20 year lease.

Now Vision Homes has submitted a planning application to convert the dilapidated Grade II listed 18th century Tudor Gothic style building into two two-bedroom flats, which is due to be decided tonight at Hackney Council’s planning committee meeting.

A petition against the plans has nearly 1,000 signatures, and five councillors have written letters calling for the preservation of the historic building, which was once a mission school for the children of itinerant riverboat people and workers.

A spokesman for the Clapton Conservation Area Advisory Committee likened the building to a “Victorian time capsule”, and said the visitor centre would generate an opportunity to research the social history of its water based communities, which were an important aspect of British Victorian life.

“Interest - both academic and popular - in boating communities and the heritage of our waterways, is increasing,” they added.

Cllr Ian Rathbone who has been trying to raise the funds for the museum, said: “That this example of an early Victorian one-room mission school has survived into the 21st century in an inner city borough such as Hackney is remarkable.

“Such buildings were long undervalued, resulting in a large number being demolished which has contributed to their rarity value.

“The building’s historical significance is further enhanced by its association with people living and working on the river who the Victorians called ‘water gypsies’ and whose vanished culture and heritage has only recently been recognised as having historical significance.”

Vision Homes declined to comment.

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