A half century of heritage

As The Amwell Society moves towards its 50th anniversary, it’s reaching out to new members

By Peanar Soinoid

In 1972, when the Amwell Society came into being, London was still in the grip of slum clearance. More Victorian houses were swept away in the 1960s and 70s than had been destroyed by bombs in World War II. They were thought of as damp and insanitary. It’s true that many houses in Finsbury – even in the 1970s – had no bathrooms and only a basic WC, often in the yard. Nevertheless, some visionary people saw the beauty of the houses built by the New River Company and the Lloyd Baker family between 1820 and 1830, which made these two speculations the earliest suburban developments in, what was then, outer London.

The initial ambition of the Amwell Society in 1972, was to work with the London Borough of Islington [LBI] through the creation of one of Islington’s first conservation areas. The New River Conservation Area is still the principal means by which the Georgian townscape is protected. The vast majority of houses in our area are now Grade II Listed, meaning that they are shielded by planning laws. Even now, any proposed changes have to be approved by LBI. The Amwell Society has almost 200 families as members. The Society is sociable, active and committed to every nook and cranny of the area. We hold occasional events both social and educational and take part in community life as good neighbours. In recent years we have had major success in the context of preservation.

• We prevented the demolition of the old St Philip Magnus school building, now the Courtauld Institute, on Penton Rise. The hotel firm, IBIS, aimed to build yet another mammoth budget hotel on the site.

• Across 30 years, we fought for the historical site at the New River Head to be preserved. A gated private development was proposed but now the House of Illustration will be the resident charity on the site and in the fullness of time, the Engine House, adjacent to the New River Head Gardens will be opened to the public as a new museum and cultural facility.

The Society is currently helping to resist the unsuitable redevelopment at the Children’s Society building at the lower end of Margery Street and we are keeping an eye on the future of Clerkenwell Parochial School which is quite likely to close for good this summer. We are keen that the building, built in the mid 19th century, continues to house an educational organisation which has benefit to our community.

Recently we have led a consultation on the impact of the LBI’s Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme with the aim of ensuring the best outcome for residents of our area. The response rate to our online survey was impressive with almost 40 per cent of members giving us their opinions. Recent events have highlighted the need and value of local communities and organisations to work together as never before. Oh, 2022 is our 50th anniversary year. Keep an eye out for special initiatives and celebrations.

The Amwell Society is always looking for new members and committee activists to enable us to best represent the interests of our community. We are cheap! Membership is £15.00 for three years.

So join us through info@amwell.org.uk or www.amwell.org.uk