Not one, but two squatting stories in London this week.
Firstly, a Grade II-listed, 300-year-old mansion has been taken over by squatters in Hackney. The building at 195 Mare Street has been empty for several years, but was recently sold to a developer. About 10 squatters have moved in, saying they are fixing up a property that has been neglected for too long. They held a public meeting to inform locals about their plans; you can read about that meeting on the LRB blog.
One of the organisers Max, 23, says their goal is to see the empty building used to benefit the local community and protest against the new anti-squatting legislation.
He told the Standard: “It’s a beautiful building and we have done a lot of research into it over the years. The land is probably worth more than the building… there is insurmountable damage and the costs to repair it would be a lot greater so the developer is waiting for it to fall down. We have not seen him, he has not been round. If they wanted to fix it up and open it to the community then we would have no problem with that – it’s the wasting we have a big issue with.”
The mansion, built in 1699, was a family home for 150 years before being transformed into the Elizabeth Fry Institute for the Reformation of Women Prisoners in 1860. (There’s a plaque to this part of the building’s history on the gatepost.) It was then a working men’s club until 2003.
Last Sunday, squatters moved into the Duke’s Head pub in Hampton on the borders of Bushy Park. The pub, which has been on site since the 1870s, includes a function room, kitchen, and central space on the ground floor plus space for the landlord to live upstairs.
Residential squatting was criminalised last September. However, the law does not currently apply to commercial buildings like this pub and the Mare Street property. An early day motion, backed by 24 MPs, calling for the law to be changed was brought in the last parliamentary session.
Photo from lrb.co.uk