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Clerkenwell’s distinctive fire station is up for grabs

Clerkenwell Fire Station on Rosebery Avenue – closed as a fire station since 2014 by London’s then Mayor Boris Johnson – is currently on the market via the London Fire Brigade.

 A London Fire Brigade spokesperson said: “Clerkenwell Fire Station has been closed for seven years following a public consultation. During lockdown it was made available as a temporary homeless shelter, however this arrangement has now ended. The sale proceeds from his site will be invested back into our essential services.” 

The buyer will have to contend with a strict Grade II* listing, given in 1988 for the many outstanding features of this red brick building. It was built in 1912–1917 to the Arts and Crafts design of HFT Cooper of the London County Council Architects’ Department, it incorporated earlier fire stations from 1871 and 1895 respectively (see pictures, courtesy of London Metropolitan Archive).

Within, it has rare laundry fittings in the attic, thought to be the only such survival in the country, and the whole edifice is of a notably grand scale, dating from the Edwardian era when the fire brigade evolved to include petrol vehicles.

Sometimes said to be the first fire station in London, it was an upgrade of an earlier station at 27 Farringdon Street. When it was in use, it housed the superintendent’s quarters on the second floor, and married quarters on the upper floors. 

Another feature is a late 20th century drill tower which is not listed, so will be unlikely to stay in a new development. In April 2019, after an earlier sale fell through, the fire station was occupied by The Outside Project as London’s first LGBTIQ+ homeless shelter. 

In May the Project moved on and the fire station has once again become vacant, bringing the cost to the taxpayer of keeping it shut since 2014 of nearly half a million pounds in security, rates and maintenance. 

In early 2020 it was reported that Islington Council were to buy the building and refurbish it as social housing. This fell through in 2020, when the Council reviewed its proposal to purchase it and concluded it could not proceed. 

Said Councillor Diarmaid Ward, Islington Council’s executive member for housing and development: “We have taken the difficult decision not to proceed with the purchase of Clerkenwell Fire Station, which we can no longer afford due to the financial pressures brought on by the Covid-19 crisis. 

“We will work closely with London Fire Brigade to ensure the site helps to provide much-needed, genuinely affordable homes for local people. “We remain committed to building more council housing, despite the inadequacy of government funding for new council housing. The money we would have invested in this site will be used to build more genuinely affordable housing elsewhere in our borough.”

The photographs are courtesy of London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) and available to view on the London Picture Archive website along with 250,000 historical images and maps of the capital londonpicturearchive.org.uk. 

Located in the heart of Clerkenwell, LMA is London’s historical archive, providing free access to millions of documents, films, maps and images from 1067 to the present day. 

LMA is open to everyone, whether you’re researching your family tree or interested in the history of your street. 

Visit the LMA website to find out more: cityoflondon.gov.uk/lma

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