* UPDATE, January 2016: This handsome mansion has fallen to facadism, a term rarely meant as a compliment
A CLASSICAL building that is part of the borough’s heritage, broken bequest conditions, reckless squatters, fly-tipping, owners passing the property one to another, suspicious fires, broken promises, deceived and angry locals… just another Hackney story?
The saga of St Mary’s Lodge in Stoke Newington has all the elements of other architectural losses, among them the recent destruction of the massive Dalston Lane Victorian theatre and the confused treatment of the Georgian terrace a few hundred metres east.
In this borough, these confrontations of philistinism with conservation play like a well-scripted drama. The latest has reached the scene where a political group sees some advantage and steps on to the stage.
The case of St Mary’s Lodge, the grand architect-built 1840s house in Lordship Road N16 OQX, has been taken up by the Liberal Democrats. That, of course, is an opposition party’s job: to help those frustrated Stoke Newingtonians who are trying to save what remains of local history from the incompetence or gullibility of Labour-dominated Hackney council.
That the opportunity occurs a few months before council elections is a good motivating factor.
Labour councillors were also eager to make capital out of the poor old house, posing in 2004 for a newspaper to show they were preventing demolition.
At the town hall on 26 March 2014 Hackney Mayor Jules Pipe was asked if the council would compulsorily purchase St Mary’s Lodge. A compulsory purchase orders allows a local authority to buy a property when other measures have failed.
The meeting was told the advice was that an order was not possible while discussions with the owner were continuing. But, say the LDs, Hackney’s planners have been in talks throughout the 12 years of the property’s slide into dereliction, and what has that achieved?
Today, as local politicians squabble and blame one another for failing the house, it is collapsing into the ground. And what ground: 0.14-hectares (just over a third of an acre) that, with or without a building on it, is likely to make its present owner, Keren Habinyan, a company connected to a rich Hasidic sect, a great profit on the price it paid two years ago.
A Loving Dalston request to Keren Habinyan for a comment has not had a response.
To think, officialdom took over the house in 1959, in a deal that stipulated the property be used for charitable purposes.
David Altheer 290314
* A petition has been posted on the council website. See comment below or press this link. For a chronological history of St Mary’s Lodge, southwest corner Lordship and Manor roads, Stoke Newington N16 OQX, press this link. See also Hackney council’s summary.
* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.