Uncertain future for London's earliest surviving workhouse

An application for the demolition and redevelopment of the former Strand Union workhouse on Cleveland Street was submitted in August and is still pending.

The former workhouse (most recently the Middlesex Hospital annex) was built between 1775 and 1778, possibly to the designs of Edward Palmer. It is considered to be one of the earliest surviving workhouses in London. During the 19th century the building was adapted and enlarged, and in the 1860s it became an infirmary and its wings were extended. Despite these changes and the loss of its original entrance, the building retains its 18th century character – its outward appearance reflecting the trend of the time towards the plain treatment of domestic elevations in metropolitan architecture. The building also retains its distinctive H-plan.

The national significance of the building is reinforced by its association with the health reformer Dr Joseph Rogers, who was appointed Medical Officer to the Strand Union in 1856. In 2008 English Heritage recommended the building for listing but it was turned down by the Secretary of State.

The site lies within the Charlotte Street Conservation Area which is drawn specifically to include the annex building – a tacit acknowledgment of the positive contribution it makes to the special character of the conservation area. Although it is mentioned in Camden’s character appraisal of the conservation area, it is not identified as making a positive or negative contribution.

SAVE feels that the demolition of the annex building would cause substantial harm to the conservation area. It is clear to us that the building is quite capable of refurbishment, adaptation and integration into a new scheme for the site, were a different brief to be prepared. In addition we are at a loss to understand how the replacement building can be said to enhance the character of the conservation area. It does not fit with the Georgian development associated with this part of the conservation area.

To view the planning documents visit Camden Council website. The applications are referenced: 2010/2205/P and 2010/2209/C.