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Workhouse listing casts shadow over CZWG plans

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The government’s decision to list a Georgian workhouse in Fitzrovia, London, could scupper plans by CZWG to redevelop the building

Architecture minister John Penrose yesterday announced plans to protect the eighteenth century structure with Grade II-listed status. The building’s new ‘special architectural and historic interest’ will have to be considered in the redevelopment plans. The current proposals include demolishing the workhouse and replacing it with housing and offices.

Penrose said: ‘This austere and imposing building is an eloquent reminder of one of the grimmer aspects of London’s 18th century social history.  

‘Some claim that it was the inspiration for the workhouse in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, but whether it was or it wasn’t, we know that it is the sole survivor of the workhouses that were operating in the capital when Dickens wrote his famous novel, and that as a young man he had lived just nine doors along from it.’ 

Completed in 1778 the building was known as Covent Garden Workhouse during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and served as the Middlesex Hospital’s outpatients department until the hospital closed in 2005.

Will Palin of campaign group SAVE Britain’s Heritage said: ‘This is an excellent decision by John Penrose. We hope now that the architects will look at a sensitive conservation-led scheme for converting, adapting and extending this building to give it a new life and new purpose.’

The practice’s £8.2 million scheme would replace the workhouse with a 10-storey structure featuring 142 residential units with 397m² of commercial space.

A spokesperson for CZWG said the studio had yet to be issued with any formal correspondence and the scheme was progressing as normal.

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