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Hackney Central's second oldest building set for restoration after 15 years of lying derelict

PUBLISHED: 13:14 06 April 2018 | UPDATED: 13:47 10 April 2018

Squatters were again evicted in December 2016. Picture: Rossana Tich

Squatters were again evicted in December 2016. Picture: Rossana Tich

Archant

Hackney Central's second oldest building is finally set to be restored after 15 years of lying derelict.

The property has been boarded up for years. Picture: Rossana TichThe property has been boarded up for years. Picture: Rossana Tich

A planning application to bring 195 Mare Street back into use was signed off on Wednesday last week by Hackney’s planning committee.

The scheme will see existing extensions behind the main building flattened and replaced with 21 flats, the sale of which will pay for the restoration of the historic building – costing up to £2.2million.

Built in 1699, the house has been empty – bar several groups of squatters – since the New Landsdowne Social Club closed in 2003.

St Augustine’s Tower is the only building in the centre of the borough that’s older, and Historic England says it is recognised nationally for its “high heritage significance”.

Squatters have been eviceted from 195 Mare Street. Picture: Rossana TichSquatters have been eviceted from 195 Mare Street. Picture: Rossana Tich

It was first the home of the Dollins family but from 1860 to 1913 housed the Elizabeth Fry Institute for Reformation of Women Prisoners. A plaque stating as much can be seen on the gates.

Since 2003, it has changed hands various times. Permission was granted in 2004 for flats to be built in an extension at the back of the building with the main site converted into a restaurant and cultural centre – but nothing came of them.

Squatters did their best to restore it in 2009 after moving in, and began giving free workshops in bike repairs and welding, also hosting arts events and political meetings until they were removed a year later when a bank repossessed the building.

Nick Perry, chair of the Hackney Society, said of the decision: “There’s a whiff of groundhog day – we were in this position in 2004, eight years after it was first on the national Heritage At Risk register – and yet the building has just sat, decaying more ever since.

Squatters have been evicted from 195 Mare Street and the property has been boarded up. Picture: Rossana TichSquatters have been evicted from 195 Mare Street and the property has been boarded up. Picture: Rossana Tich

“The architects gave planners the vaguest of oral assurances they expected to be instructed imminently to draw up detailed construction plans for the renovation. But words are cheap.

“The owner evidently didn’t anticipate buying such a costly and fragile, antique lemon.

“Rest assured we’ll all be monitoring progress carefully, and the applicant should be under no illusion the council are a lot keener to act ensure progress is made than once they were.”

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