Save Oliver Twist’s Workhouse!

Our office is just down the road from one of the few remaining Georgian workhouses in London – the Cleveland Street Workhouse.  However, it is currently under threat, as plans are in place to have it demolished. University College London Hospital wants to knock it down and erect an 11-storey modern building in its place.

There is an important literary connection to this building, as it is considered to be Charles Dickens‘ inspiration for Oliver Twist.  When just a young boy, for five years Dickens lived only nine doors away from the workhouse, in a house which still stands today at 22 Cleveland Street (on the corner of Cleveland Street and Tottenham Street – known at the time as 10 Norfolk Street).  At age 11, after his father was imprisoned, Dickens was forced into child labour at a blackening factory near Covent Garden, part of the catchment area of the Cleveland Street Workhouse, and it would have acted as a threatening reminder that he could easily end up there.  Not only did it provide the inspiration for the workhouse in Oliver Twist, but his ties to this particular institution stayed with Dickens until the very end of his life when he became a great supporter and friend of Dr Joseph Rogers who was the medical officer at the Cleveland Street Workhouse and a leader in reforming the appalling medical conditions all of London’s workhouses.  You can read more about the Dickens and Cleveland Street Workhouse connection here

This morning we received a letter from local Lib Dem Aimery de Malet urging us to sign a petition to save the building, and I share some of the letter and the link to the petition here, so you too can choose to take part in saving our local Georgian heritage:

‘We have a real chance to stop a scheme to demolish one of our area’s irreplaceable examples of Georgian heritage… English Heritage agrees the Cleveland Street Workhouse should be listed and they’ve published their recommendation that has since been sent to the Government. Ministers are reading this now and will shortly make their decision.
We hope they’ll reverse the previous Government’s decision to refuse protection.
Once our heritage is gone it’s lost forever.

If you haven’t already, sign the petition at

Together we can save our heritage.’

Susie Dunlop, Publishing Director

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