Squatters say they are occupying Grade II listed Hackney building for public benefit

Squatters who have taken over a Grade II listed Georgian building in Hackney insist they are occupying it for public benefit.

About 10 people are living at the former New Lansdowne Club, Mare Street, and are said to be trying to turn the property into a social centre – despite it being sold earlier this year for more than £1.6 million. It is thought the new owner had wanted to convert it for commercial and residential use.

The squatters moved in during the first week of August and have held various open days and barbecues over the past month in which they have invited people in to help clean and repair the building, as well as planting a vegetable garden.

On Saturday, they held what they referred to on their blog as a “birthday party” to commemorate a year since residential squatting was made a criminal offence.

The building previously had squatters in 2010.

A Hackney resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “There’s not much to damage inside. Most of it has been damaged by past occupiers.

“It’s got a poor track history for a building which should have been valued.”

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The building, once called the Elizabeth Fry Institute for Reformation of Women Prisoners, was used to train female inmates in a variety of skills in Victorian times.

It merged with the Manor House Refuge for the Destitute in Dalston and became a hostel for girls on probation for minor offences in 1924.

It later became a working men’s club and was known as the New Lansdowne Club but became vacant in 2000. The building’s owners went into liquidation in 2011.

Both the squatters and Currell estate agents, who handled the sale, declined to comment.