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
Nick Clark is the arts correspondent of The Independent. He joined the newspaper in June 2007, initially reporting on the stock markets. He has covered beats including the City, and technology, media and telecoms and made the switch to arts in December 2011. He has also contributed articles to the sports section.
Friday 03 May 2013
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”.
- 1 Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
- 2 Margaret Thatcher 'expressed fears of Asian rising' at Anglo-Irish summit in 1984
- 3 The 'Black Museum': After 150 years, public set to see exhibits from police’s grisly crime museum
- 4 The Unluckiest People of the Year 2014 (and one very unlucky giraffe)
- 5 Magna Carta will be 800 years old next year – the perfect reminder of the rights and freedoms we must hold dear
Exclusive: Abusers using spyware apps to monitor partners reaches 'epidemic proportions'
UK weather: Warning for more snow and ice as freezing temperatures and gales hit Britain
Margaret Thatcher 'expressed fears of Asian rising' at Anglo-Irish summit in 1984
UK weather: Travel chaos continues as King's Cross train delays add to snow on roads
The Unluckiest People of the Year 2014 (and one very unlucky giraffe)
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
Immigrants make UK racist, says Ukip councillor Trevor Shonk
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...
£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...