In 1927, the Wickhams department store was built on Mile End Road, and it looked like this:
The story behind the strange shape the building has is a curious one.
The Wickham family’s neighbours were the family that owned the Spiegelhalters jewellery shop. When the Wickham family decided to build their huge department store, meant to be Selfridges’ rival, neighbour Spiegelhalters refused to sell their property and move out. However, this did not stop the construction of the superstore, resulting on a great big gap over the Spiegelhalters jewellery shop, right in the middle of the grand façade.
The architectural writer Ian Nairn once said that it was ‘one of the best visual jokes in London’. The building itself provides a glimpse into East London’s Jewish history, and a reminder that occasionally rich property developers don’t get everything they want.
Today, the owners of the building are planning on demolishing Spiegelhalters and replace it with an empty space, that would look like this:
However the East End Preservation Society has raised a petition to save Spiegelhalters, because this little shop has survived against the odds for over a century and it shall remind there, as Ian Nairn said; it conforms ‘a perennial triumph for the little man, the bloke who won’t conform. May he stay there till the Bomb falls’.
And if you believe this is a good way to preserve the East End’s heritage you can sign the petition here:
Time Out, (2015). Save Spiegelhalters, east London’s weirdest building – Now. Here. This. – Time Out London. [online] Available at: http://now-here-this.timeout.com/2015/01/28/save-spiegelhalters-east-londons-weirdest-building/ [Accessed 8 Mar. 2015].
Post by: Marta Santillana