Bid To Save Plucky East End Shop

James Drury
By James Drury Last edited 40 months ago
Bid To Save Plucky East End Shop

The grand former Wickhams department store, surrounding the pugnacious little Spiegelhalter's.

It's always reminded us of the plucky little cafe in Batteries Not Included, but now it seems Spiegelhalter's in Whitechapel is under threat.

The shopfront — a lasting reminder of one man's refusal to submit to developers — finally looks set to be lost ...to developers.

A key feature of Mile End Road, Spiegelhalter's was a  jewellery shop. Then in 1922 when plans were announced to build Wickham's, dubbed 'the Selfridges of the east', developers tried to buy the modest two-storey building. But the Salter family which owned it refused to be budge.

Many attempts were made to acquire the shop, but the Salters never sold. And so the grand colonnades and clock tower of Wickham's ended up being built around the little building, which has remained something of a monument to man's stubbornness ever since.

Wickham's finally succumbed to the decline of independent department shops in the 1960s, but Spiegelhalter's outlived it, trading until 1982.

Spiegelhalters is currently derelict and roofless, a mere shell. And now there are plans to develop the Wickham's building into offices for media companies which seem to suggest the frontage of the former jewellers will be lost.

A petition has been started to persuade Tower Hamlets Council to protect the shopfront. And backed by the Victorian Society and the Twentieth Century Society it's been gathering pace. As petition founder David Collard says: "Listing is not up to Tower Hamlets but the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, on advice from English Heritage. But Tower Hamlets Council can give it some protection by putting it on a 'local list', which would be a step in the right direction."

Victorian Society Conservation Advisor, Sarah Caradec, said: "Spiegelhalter's is not in itself the most architecturally important building. However, in its context it is not only amusing but it tells an important story about Whitechapel’s development. Tower Hamlets should add Speiegelhalter's to its local list and do everything in its power to ensure that this building continues to tell its story to future generations.’

Londonist approached developers Resolution Property, but no-one had responded at the time of publication. We'll update this article when we hear back.

Last Updated 14 January 2015

Adam S

It would be a crying shame to see this building demolished. There's really no need, when you consider the story and the history behind the place there's no good reason not to renovate the existing structure.

It would be so sad to see another entry in Nairn's London vanish into the dead-eyed face of modern architecture.

James Guppy

I used to live on Cleveland Way (alley on LHS) - it would be a real shame to lose the façade. I always wondered what happened to its middle - see to the right of the clock tower - bomb damage?

Ronnie May

Local history and culture standing in the way of the money makers - it has never happened anywhere and never will - unfortunately...

John M

The building is derelict! Of course it should be developed and turned into something useful and not costing our local council money as it is.

Maureen Demar Hall

You would think the media companies would get more advertising mileage out of leaving it be! (and be heroes for doing so.......)

Anne Gibbons

My father brought my mothers wedding ring there, marrying a Salter all the men brought there. Both my parents are dead now but I proudly wear the ring inscribed 28-6-1954.