What is Spiegelhalter's?
It's not much to look at now - a tatty shop front on London's Mile End Road, embeddedin the lop-sided frontage of a 1920s department store. But it's a powerful and evocative symbol of East End indomitability. It's what's left of a former jewellers' shop, it stands for something we're in danger of losing - and the time to act is now.
What's the story?
Here's the great topographical writer Ian Nairn in Nairn's London (1966):
Messrs Wickham, circa 1920, wanted an emporium. Messrs Spiegelhalter, one infers, wouldn't sell out. Messrs Wickham, one infers further, pressed on regardless, thereby putting their Baroque tower badly out of centre. Messrs Spiegelhalter ('The East End Jewellers') remain; two stucco'd storeys, surrounded on both sides by giant columns à la Selfridges. The result is one of the best visual jokes in London, a perennial triumph for the little man, the bloke who won't conform. May he stay there till the Bomb falls.
The bomb hasn't fallen - yet. Spiegelhalter's survived the Depression and the Blitz but since its closure long-term neglect, official indifference and the pressures of gentrification mean the need for action to preserve what remains is now urgent!
Why does Spiegelhalter's matter?
For almost a century this plucky little structure has stood its ground and is now a remarkable survivor, representing the triumph of the individual over corporate bullying. It's also a record of the area's changing social and ethnic mix and a reminder of the cultural continuities of the past century.
What does the campaign aim to achieve?
We want Tower Hamlets Council to help ensure the preservation of this loveable East End landmark.
Spiegelhalter's exposes the inadequacies of historic building protection in that something so humble and ordinary cannot really be listed. Listing is not up to Tower Hamlets but the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, on advice from English Heritage. But Tower Hamlets Council can give it some protection by putting it on a "local list", which would be a step in the right direction. That's the modest aim of this petition.
What can I do?
Please support this campaign by signing this onlne petition - it takes a few seconds to do so. We need thousands of names. Tell your friends and family, neighbours and colleagues - spread the word!
What happens next?
Once the facade is preserved and conserved we'd like to work with the owners and Council to ensure that the space behind the facade is made secure and the site made suitable for appropriate commercial use.
The facade remains in place but is in a very poor state. Plans have been floated to replace Spiegelhalter's with a glass atrium (entirely inappropriate for the site) and we need to act fast to secure the building's future.
The current revival of interest in the writings of Ian Nairn, and the huge popularty of the re-issued Nairn's London confirms that a rising generation shares his belief in the need for communties and cultural continuity. Nairn was an early champion of Spiegelhalter's nearly half a century ago and the preservation of a site he much admired would be a fitting tribute to Britain's greatest topographical writer and attract worldwide interest and approval. Tower Hamlets Council have a wonderful opportunity to do the right thing and save this unique structure.
Ths campaign is supported by
The Twentieth Century Society http://www.c20society.org.uk/news/save-spiegelhalters/
- Planning department
Tower Hamlets Council
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