What Happened To Tadmans

by the gentle author

February 2019
February 2019 -Photo ©gentle author
April 2019
April 2019 Photo ©gentle author

Although Tadmans in Jubilee St, Whitechapel, was two hundred years old, it was not a listed building or in a Conservation Area, which means there was no protection for it in planning law. Originally built as part of the Mercers’ Estate, constructed at the same time as Commercial Rd in the early nineteenth century, this fine Georgian corner building was a landmark for generations of East Enders who knew it first as the Mercers Arms, then as greengrocer and more recently as the Stepney branch of Tadman’s, a family firm of local undertakers.

Neither the Spitalfields Historic Buildings Preservation Trust nor the East End Preservation Society knew of the plans to demolish Tadmans until after permission had been granted. The unprotected status of the beautiful old building, which Historic England refused to list, meant that no wider consultation was necessary. It was within the scope of planning law for the application to be decided by a case officer in the planning department without any even requirement to go to Tower Hamlets Development Committee.

After NW1 Developments Ltd received permission in May 2018 to demolish Tadmans and replace it with a block of luxury flats (without any ‘affordable’ housing) in generic spread-sheet architecture, they submitted a secondary application for a more ambitious development. It was only at this point that the Spitalfields Trust and the East End Preservation Society found out about the application and submitted objections, after the event. This was also when readers of Spitalfields Life wrote to object, taking advantage of the opportunity to request that Tadmans not be demolished.

At that moment there was an expectation that public opinion might be taken into account and, when the developers then withdrew their second application, there was hope that they had listened and Tadmans would be saved. Yet when the scaffolding went up earlier this month, it became apparent that the developers were going ahead with their original application, for which permission had already been granted, and demolition commenced.

In Hackney, the council planning department circulate monthly summaries of heritage-related planning applications to the relevant public amenity societies such as The Hackney Society. It is great pity that Tower Hamlets cannot do the same. If the Spitalfields Trust and East End Preservation Society had known about the application to demolish Tadmans before it had been approved, there might have been a chance to save it.

Tadmans and some Regency terraces to the north of Jubilee St are all that remain of the original streetscape before the harsh post-war destruction and imposition of inferior modern buildings upon Stepney in the name of ‘slum clearance.’ If the remaining historic buildings are not in a Conservation Area because of the redevelopment that surrounds them, it does not make them less worthy of protection. Tower Hamlets Council has a statutory duty to protect heritage assets, including those not listed or in Conservation Areas. It was a responsibility that they failed to uphold on this occasion and the East End is a lesser place for it.

Geoffrey Fletcher recognised the distinctive nature of Tadmans when he drew it for his elegaic book, The London Nobody Knows, half a century ago – yet regrettably Tadmans is now consigned to history just as he feared.

Images and words by the gentle author

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