The former Jewish Maternity Hospital in Underwood Road, known affectionately as “Mother Levy’s”, was the only Jewish maternity hospital in England. Built in stages between 1911 and 1927 thanks mainly to the fund-raising efforts of Alice Model MBE, the former hospital includes four separate buildings on Underwood Road. Attractive, but not sufficiently grand to be listed by English Heritage, they and the utilitarian buildings at the back are to be torn down by Peabody Housing for a five-storey block of 33 flats for rent, shared ownership and sale on the open market.
This gross act of cultural vandalism was sanctioned by Tower Hamlets Council planning officers on 18 October. Peabody got this totally non-democratic but legal seal of approval by applying for what is called ‘prior notice of demolition’. It allows them to hold a so-called public consultation meeting in early November, demolish all the buildings and then submit a planning application for their proposed block of flats on the cleared site. With your readers’ help, I intend to go on fighting to save the two small ‘cottages’ at 22 & 24 Underwood Road. Each is practically ready made as a large family house and would represent the only Jewish maternity hospital in England and serve as a memorial to Alice Model MBE and all the people born there between 1911 and ca. 1940.
So far, my online petition to Peabody (www.residents-first.co.uk) has been signed by about 250 people, including Sir Arnold Wesker (born JMH 1932) and Tower Hamlets Councillors Stephanie Eaton, Alibor Choudhury, Joshua Peck, Rachael Saunders, Gloria Thienel and Amy Whitelock.
As well as signing the petition, please write to Peabody’s Chief Executive (firstname.lastname@example.org), asking him to at least spare the ‘cottages’ and convert them to family houses for rent, shared ownership or sale. Send a copy to Tower Hamlets Head of Planning (email@example.com) and a copy to me (firstname.lastname@example.org). Letters already sent include letters from the Director of Jewish Heritage UK, the Chairs of the East London History Society and the Jewish East End Celebration Society, Tower Hamlets Cllr. Bill Turner, and the Secretary of SAVE Britain’s Heritage.
Tower Hamlets is fortunate to have the listed 1913 Jewish old people’s home in Mile End Road (now Albert Stern House) and the listed 1903 Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor in Brune Street, Spitalfields. Surely, we can at least keep the 1911 ‘cottage’ at 24 Underwood Road and the 1927 ‘cottage’ at 22 Underwood Road, as part of the scarce built evidence of the Jewish East End and of the fact that the East End is renowned as a historic point of arrival for migrants from all over the world.
admin7 October 23rd, 2011
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