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Fine row of Victorian houses in Whitechapel to be demolished by Tower Hamlets

Tower Hamlets Council has submitted plans to demolish an unusually exuberant late Victorian terrace at 3-11 Vallance Road, off Whitechapel Road.

©Alex Pink/East End Preservation Society

The Victorian Society is strongly objecting to this wanton act of destruction.

The row of fine but severely neglected houses with shops at street level features arched windows decorated with unusually eclectic stucco motifs whose detail is worthy of mention in Pevsner's 'Buildings of England'. The exoticism of the decorations recalls the Pavillion Theatre complex and workshops which stood around the corner on Whitechapel Road until 1961.

These buildings on Vallance Road are rare survivors of the bombings of the Second World War, slum clearances and later redevelopment. Tower Hamlets identified the need to restore them as a priority in their 2009 Whitechapel Market Conservation Area Appraisal.

Now the Council suddenly states that they "do not contribute to the character or appearance of the Conservation Area", that repair and refurbishment is not viable and that they must be demolished.

The Victorian Society wonders whether this is linked to the fact that the buildings at 3-11 Vallance Road sit at the gateway into the Tower Hamlets' ‘Whitechapel Vision Masterplan' of a massive sweep of retail, offices and residential blocks on either side of Whitechapel Road.


© Crown copyright and database rights 2013 Ordnance Survey, London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Despite the Masterplan asserting that "Whitechapel's rich heritage is one of its unique features and defines its urban character, that it will protect and enhance the existing historic environment and heritage assets and that empty buildings and properties will be encouraged to be refurbished," 3-11 Vallance Road, a classic example of East London's diverse architectural heritage, is to be demolished.

The Masterplan claims a "need to regenerate dilapidated and potentially unsafe buildings on the Vallance Road corner site, which have liabilities attached to their current poor state of repair." If "potential" unsafeness and the fact that repairing dilapidated buildings incurs costs is grounds for demolition, Tower Hamlets' architectural heritage is at real risk.

Kathy Clarke, Conservation Adviser at the Victorian Society said: "The loss of 3-11 Vallance Road would be a crushing blow to the conservation area. Whitechapel's rich architectural history has been eaten away for many decades, whether through bombing, slum clearance or dilapidation and redevelopment. These very interesting remaining buildings provide a sense of the area's development and a link to its past. They cannot be allowed to disappear.

Vallance Street is unusual in Whitechapel for preserving some for the texture of East End pre-War. It will be a real shame if this is lost."


Tuesday 21 January, 2014

More recent item: Church Commissioners want to demolish beautiful Essex church despite viable scheme
Earlier item: Victorian Society & SAVE submit planning application for Smithfield General Market and Annex

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