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Heritage Lottery funding to pay for Geffrye Museum to demolish Victorian pub

A museum whose purpose is to celebrate domestic life should not be destroying a classic feature of that life - the local pub

The Geffrye Museum in Grade I-listed almshouses in Shoreditch, east London has appointed David Chipperfield Architects to build a new extension to house more exhibition space, a new restaurant, upgraded circulation spaces and a new entrance facing the recently opened Hoxton Overground railway station.

Sadly the plans involve demolishing a classic example of the Victorian public house, The Marquis of Lansdowne, which sits in a corner of the museum’s garden facing the new Hoxton station. The Society was surprised that the Geffrye Museum, which specialises in the history of the English domestic interiors, has not chosen to preserve a building so closely connected with English domestic life. The Geffrye Almshouses were built in 1714 to provide shelter for the East End’s poor and elderly. The Marquis of Lansdowne pub (1839) on the corner of the almshouses’ site would have been at the heart of the community for many local residents.

David Chipperfield’s plans include a bar and dining area in the new extension. Victorian Society Conservation Adviser Kathy Clark asks: “Can David Chipperfield not find a sensitive way of using the existing pub space for the Museum’s new dining area? Look at the success of the South London Gallery in integrating a neighbouring Victorian terraced house to create spaces for its café as well as exhibition space.”

The Society asks the Heritage Lottery Fund to consider whether the £11 million contribution it is making to the extension project is compatible with HLF’s remit to “conserve the UK’s diverse heritage for present and future generations to experience and enjoy.”

It is ironic that the Geffrye Almshouses were themselves saved after leading members of the Arts and Crafts movement campaigned to persuade the L.C.C. to convert the 18th century buildings into a museum in 1914. Yet now the Geffrye Museum is ploughing on with its plans to demolish the Marquis - despite the protestations of this Society, Save Britain’s Heritage, the Spitalfields Trust and 640 signatories to an online petition at www.change.org.

The Society calls on the Geffrye Museum and David Chipperfield Architects to bring the Marquis of Lansdowne back to life and make it into the pivotal corner it deserves to be between the Geffrye Museum and Hoxton station.

Tuesday 29 January, 2013

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