October 31, 2011, 1:47pm
By Renee Ghert-Zand
Despite opposition, the last remaining Jewish hospital building in London’s East End will be torn down to make way for a five-story housing development. The Tower Hamlets council agreed for the Jewish Maternity Hospital on Underwood Road, Whitechapel, to be demolished because it does not have landmark status. It is neither listed by English Heritage, nor does it fall within a Conservation Area, according to a report in the East London Advertiser.
Those opposed to the demolition, including cultural and political leaders, are especially upset that the cottages next door to the hospital are also set to be taken down. They say that they are large single-family homes in good shape. “The Director of Jewish Heritage UK, Sharman Kadish, also wrote to Peabody [the real estate developer], saying the social and historic significance of the cottages next to the main hospital building have been overlooked while urging the trust to convert the cottages into residential use,” the article in the Advertiser said.
The developer contends that keeping the cottages would negatively affect the number of housing units needed to be built and would make its plan financially unfeasible.
The Jewish Maternity Hospital operated between 1911 and 1947 and had an attached midwifery school. It was built as a two-story building containing three maternity wards, an operating theater and several annexes and offices. Of its 12 beds, 4 were reserved for patients who could not pay for medical care. The building quickly became too small, and eventually additional wings were added on. The hospital also added on many other services, including pre-natal and post-natal care clinics.
Since WWII, and after the hospital moved to another site, the building has served as a nursery and childcare center, and more recently as a family welfare association for local residents in Tower Hamlets.