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Georgian HQ of heritage charity opens its doors

Along with the opportunity to explore this handsome Georgian building, visitors will be able to find out more about SPAB and its work, gain expert advice about caring for old buildings and buy publications on the repair of old houses.  There will also be a demonstration of traditional timber framing skills in the walled courtyard garden.                              
SPAB represents the practical and positive side of conservation.  The Society was founded by William Morris in 1877 to counteract the over zealous and highly destructive ‘restoration’ of medieval buildings practised by many Victorian architects.  Today it is the largest, oldest and most technically expert national pressure group fighting to save old buildings from decay, demolition and damage, offering courses, publications and advice to help professionals, homeowners and enthusiasts care for historic buildings.                          

37 Spital Square stands on the site of the twelfth century Augustinian Priory and Hospital of St Mary.  Archaeological excavations nearby have revealed walls, column bases and hundreds of graveyard burials.  In the basement of No. 37 visitors can still see a stone corbel from the priory buildings.

The probable builder or first occupier of the present 37 Spital Square was Peter Ogier III, a Huguenot refugee like so many of the 18th century inhabitants of Spitalfields.

The Ogiers, a prominent and wealthy French family, fled to England to escape religious persecution; they settled in Spitalfields and prospered as silk merchants.  In 1740 Peter would have been in his late 20s and had probably just inherited following his father’s death.  This perhaps provided the finances needed for work to, or the purchase of, 37 Spital Square.   
Records show that people were living on this site in 1731 and 1750, but not 1741 suggesting that this was the time when the plot was under reconstruction.  Certainly Peter Ogier appears to be the first new occupier since 1699.

The houses of Spital Square have been progressively demolished during the 20th century to make way for new development, road widening and market expansion.  Very little now remains of the “quiet, unobtrusive, irregularly shaped square” described in the 1840s. No 37 is the only Georgian building remaining.

However, newly vibrant Spitalfields is now one of the most culturally diverse and exciting areas of London with the famous curry houses of Brick Lane vying with smart shops, boutiques, restaurants, galleries and market stalls to attract visitors.  
Anyone planning a visit to Spitalfield’s on Saturday 19th September will find that this corner of London is packed with enough fascinating buildings to make the area the focus of their trip – definitely including a stop off at SPAB’s offices at 37 Spital Square.