Exclusive

Geffrye Museum: The pub for labourers, the museum for the middle classes and an extension that resulted in class war

War of words erupts after council declares derelict building is of benefit to community

A museum dedicated to Britain’s middle classes has failed in an attempt to bulldoze the 175-year-old working class pub next door, in the wake of fierce local opposition.

The director of the Geffrye Museum in East London is said to have prompted outrage among locals opposed to the demolition after reportedly declaring at a public consultation meeting that he had “no interest in the culture of the labouring classes”.

David Dewing, who wanted to clear the way for a new extension to the museum to be built, argued that the site was running at capacity with 100,000 visitors a year and needed developing. But when Hackney Council’s planning committee scrutinised the building application they voted against it by seven to two.

The plans, drawn up by David Chipperfield Architects, involved knocking down the Marquis of Lansdowne pub next door to make way for a two-storey extension. It was intended that the new site would house a gallery, library and collections store as well as restaurant and conference facilities. The council said the benefits were “not of sufficient merit to justify the loss of the public house”, as well as potential damage to the site’s Grade I listed almshouse.

Mr Dewing described the rejection of the plans as a “complete shock” which had left his organisation “totally devastated”.

The pub, derelict for 20 years, is not listed but sits in a conservation area and Georgian and Victorian groups have said it would be a loss were it to be knocked down.

Will Palin, a trustee of the Spitalfields Trust, who led the campaign to save the Marquis, said: “Local people feel very strongly about the few historic buildings that are left in the area. People were shocked by the plans; they felt the museum was out of touch.”

He added: “The museum was constantly trying to denigrate the building… It’s a quintessential building from Hackney of the 1830s. It was buildings like these that made the area what it was.”

A local blogger, who goes by the title of The Gentle Author but did not want to be named, was at the public meeting. They told The Independent that the “whole room gasped” when Mr Dewing made his remark about “labouring classes”.

“I was so shocked that I wrote it down verbatim at once and I have witnesses,” they said. A second person present supported the story.

However, Mr Dewing responded: “We didn’t record the meeting, so I can’t stand here and say I never said that. But I don’t think I said it and it’s not something I believe. I disown it completely as a statement.” Mr Palin, who was not at the meeting added: “I know David, and he’s not a snob. It was an unfortunate thing to say. It may have been out of context.”

Mr Dewing said focusing on the living rooms of the middle class was a “valid historical theme” but added: “We don’t dismiss the labouring classes and the aristocracy. To say we’re not interested is a complete misstatement.”

He added his statements may have been confused but “to suggest this museum is some sort of elitist group is nonsense and hurtful”.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
education
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London