Clapton campaigners in desperate plea to save Old School House before it is auctioned

Squatters at the Old School House in Hackney.

Squatters at the Old School House in Hackney. - Credit: Archant

Campaigners are in a race against time to “save” a derelict Grade-II listed school building in Lower Clapton before it sells at auction.

Clapton Arts Trust (CAT) has long wanted the Old School House to be used as a community space, but its owner, Vision Homes, has listed it with planning permission to turn it into two luxury flats.

When Vision Homes was given planning permission to build housing on Paradise Dock in 2009, it was agreed the building in Lea Bridge Road should be given over to a heritage and community centre.

But CAT for its part needed to raise £500,000 to run programmes there, and didn’t manage to do so after failing in a bid for a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

Now Vision is selling up. The building is listed with a guide price of £450,000 at Allsop auction house, where it will go under the hammer next week – although the listing makes no mention of the fact it is Grade II-listed.

CAT had initially wanted it as a boating museum, to highlight its role among the “floating population” on the River Lea.

During Victorian times the building provided free schooling for the boatmen and bargemen’s children.

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Now CAT wants the site for a digital and creative skills centre, although campaigner Julia Lafferty says anything that keeps its defining features could work.

“Essentially what is happening is what’s happening across London,” she told the Gazette. “The heritage is being sacrificed for housing targets. The plans that have been granted would destroy its historical integrity. We’re in touch with the Victorian Society, who made a callout for the 10 most endangered buildings in England.”

Julia is also appealing to those in Hackney with deep pockets to stump up the cash and preserve its heritage, even if it were to change its use. “I’ve had some people say it would make a nice restaurant,” she added. “But it could lend itself to any usage. We want to have a use that will keep it set up as a one-room Victorian school house.”

CAT has also ambitiously asked the council to make a compulsory purchase order (CPO) on the property, which it told the Gazette it will not do.

The building was designed by Victorian architect Arthur Ashpitel, who gifted it to the parish with a clause stating if it was no longer needed it should be offered back to his family. The parish ignored that clause and sold the building privately in 1920.