Jewish Maternity Hospital – Campaign Newsletter No. 10

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On Tuesday, 20 December 2011, we issued a Newsflash containing the full text of Stephen Howlett’s reply to Tom Ridge‘s letter of 16 December 2011. Here is Tom Ridge’s reply of 21 December 2011.


After you have read all three letters we feel sure that you will want to write in support of the Campaign’s request for a meeting with Peabody and Tower Hamlets Council. Please write to Stephen Howlett ([email protected]), and send copies to Owen Whalley ([email protected]) and the press.

Dear Mr. Howlett,


Thank you for your e-mail of 20 December, in which you neither accept nor reject my recent request to meet with you and Tower Hamlets Council to reach an amicable settlement, as suggested by the Minister for Tourism and Heritage.


As was evident at Peabody’s public consultation meeting on 7 November 2011, there are probably more objectors than supporters living in the vicinity of your proposed scheme.


We do not doubt that your interest in the site has always been to provide the “maximum amount of affordable homes”. However, of the 33 proposed homes only 9 are for affordable rent, whilst 11 are for shared ownership (which is beyond the means of families living in “B&Bs and hostels”) and 9 for sale on the open market.


Your so-called “options for retaining the existing buildings” were only “explored” as a response to the campaign to save the two cottages. Furthermore, they were “explored” by architects utterly convinced of the superiority of their proposed new buildings. And not by independent architects, as offered by Will Palin of SAVE Britain’s Heritage – an offer made in an e-mail to you, which you failed to even acknowledge.


You say that retaining the two cottages would result in the loss of “six 3 or 4-bed family homes with private gardens for social rented tenants”. But, on the plans which I have seen, the only “homes with private gardens” are along the south boundary and separated from the cottages and your five-storey block on Underwood Road by an extensive area of well-planned amenity space.


Your e-mail also ignores the fact that the campaign is proposing the retention of the two cottages as two family homes, which would be a living memorial to a unique maternity hospital. This is not, therefore, a simple case of prioritising the needs of some of the poorest people in London “above the retention of bricks and mortar”. You also ignore the fact that the “bricks and mortar” are now “non-designated heritage assets, in accordance with PPS5”. And that it is for this reason that the Labour Group motion (unanimously voted for at the Full Council Meeting on 29 November 2011) stated that Peabody has a duty to provide affordable homes and respect the Borough’s heritage.


English Heritage did not decide that the buildings “lack sufficient architectural merit to be retained”. It decided that the buildings lacked sufficient architectural interest to be listed. Furthermore, it described the former Jewish Maternity Hospital as a “rare Jewish welfare building in London’s East End”.


We are not opposed to the accurate commemoration of the former Jewish Maternity Hospital. But we also believe that, as the largest and possibly most important of the three surviving former Jewish welfare buildings in London’s East End, its two smallest buildings must be retained as valuable built evidence of the Jewish East End and the fact that the East End is renowned as a historic point of arrival for migrants from all over the world.


There is no substitute for a proper bricks-and-mortar memorial which is also two much-needed homes for families needing a place to call home.


On behalf of the 760 or so signatories to the petition, I therefore renew my request to meet you and Tower Hamlets Council to achieve the amicable settlement suggested by the Minister for Tourism and Heritage.


And also ask that, as this meeting is likely to be in the New Year, you instruct your demolition contractors to secure the loose tarpaulins on the cottage at 24 Underwood Road and ensure that rainwater is being shed away from the building. Also, please instruct them to leave the cottages when they resume work.


Yours sincerely,


Tom Ridge

Save Mother Levy’s Campaign

3 Responses

  1. Stanley Fox says:

    In reply to Stephen Howlett’s (CEO Peabody Trust ) email to Tom Ridge dated 21 December 2011. I believe that Tom Ridge(local historian) and local campaigner is absolutely genuine and right in his comments to preserve the two buildings of Underwood Road for demolition by Peabody without the proposed final meeting that was arranged between Tower Hamlets planners and Owen Whalley as stated in Tom Ridge’s reply to Stephen Howlett. This has been completely side stepped and the ingenuous comments by Peabody have to be addressed , this is a fundamental rule of law, in view of the wide opposition against the complete demolition of a “Sacred Trust ” and “betrayal” of nineteenth century history of the only Jewish Maternity Hospital in England at the time in 1911 that provided Welfare and Safety for Mothers and babies at the time. Tom Ridge should not be ignored in his endeavour to save history, past and present, he has my wholehearted support in this campaign.

  2. Helen marcus says:

    I was born in Mother Levys

  3. Helen marcus says:

    My brother and I were born in Mother Levy’s -1938 and ’36 ….and only just found out through Tom Ridge, bless him, that It was the JMH and so enjoying reading its history. The building should have a blue plaque, birthplace of at least two who have contributed to literature and entertainment worldwide — and I’ve no doubt there are many more. If it would help, I’ll try and do some research….am living in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast of Oz. Grew up around Brick Lane, schooled at the best grammar school in east London, CFS in Spital Square and know the old East End like the back of my hand.
    Wish you every success.

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