Today was not only Mayfair Art Weekend, but an event to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Spitalfields Trust, one of the most powerful agencies of urban regeneration – Tory radicals as Mark Girouard said Raphael Samuel described them.
The event began with the Gentle Author speaking from the upstairs window of 23, Folgate Street about the postwar owner of 5 and 7 Elder Street, who had an entirely unsentimental view of living there, disliking the absence of plumbing and liking the construction of Centre Point. Her father had refused to buy the two houses for £1,800 in 1972.
Mark Girouard spoke in 3, Fournier Street about the circumstances which led to the foundation of the Spitalfields Trust in May 1977. He, Colin Amery and Dan Cruickshank had got tired of protesting about the amount of demolition of old buildings (of 230 important buildings in Spitalfields, 90 had been demolished in the previous twenty years). They thought that it would be much more efficient if they could raise the funds to buy buildings, and were helped to do so by Patrick Trevor-Roper, an eye surgeon (he wrote The World through Blunted Sight). Girouard remembered Spitalfields as very run down, dominated by the Market which had led to the demolition of Spital Square and by small-scale manufacturers occupying old Georgian buildings, including the last of the silk tie manufacturers, a firm which made bras, and facilities for drying bananas.
In the summer of 1977, Dan Cruickshank, Mark Girouard and others squatted 5 and 7, Elder Street for a period of seven weeks in order to prevent the houses being demolished by British Land (1, Elder Sreet had burnt down and no.3 had been demolished as a hazard):-
In September 1977, Girouard and Cruickshank went out of the house to get a cup of coffee at the Market Café and the demolition men moved in. This allowed the GLC to move in in order to prevent demolition and, in October 1977, assorted grandees, including Thomas Pakenham, occupied the headquarters of British Land in order to negotiate purchase of the two houses, which was overseen by Douglas Blain, an Australian who had tried to buy Elder Street in 1962 and is the other hero of the story.
This is 19, Elder Street where Raphael Samuel lived (he allowed the squatters to use his telephone):-
And this is the house opposite where Mark Gertler lived:-