The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Woolwich Market Hall building,
The design of the Woolwich Market Hall roof is thought to be quite rare,

C20 Society fights to save historic market hall building

We are  campaigning to prevent the demolition of a unique market hall building in South East London, condemning plans which will see the market, along with a number of historic buildings demolished and replaced with flats.

St Modwen and Notting Hill Housing’s Spray Street Quarter Scheme in Woolwich, with architects Panter Hudspith and Glenn Howells, proposes the total demolition of a large site near the Woolwich Arsenal on the Plumstead Road.

The Public Market in question was erected in 1936 to cover open trading stalls. The market roof – a ‘lamella’ system – was patented in Germany in 1920, and the Society understands that it is the earliest surviving example of the building system in the UK. The lamella system is a lattice usually formed of steel or timber struts, which generate very strong spans that don’t require internal supports. Usually used in military buildings, the Public Market is therefore also rare as an example of this system being used in a commercial context. The building had been standing empty for some time, but has recently been repurposed as a popular night time venue by Street Feast.

The application proposes the demolition of most of the roof in its current form. It puts forward several potential options for re-using parts of the roof structure in the new scheme as sculptural pieces.

Senior Conservation Adviser Tess Pinto said: “‘Re-using bits of the structure seems like a token gesture – and doesn’t conserve a key part of what is important about the market roof, which is its use as a big, uninterrupted space for people to gather in.”

She went on to say: “Our primary concern is the loss of the historic market place and the rare form of construction it exemplifies, but this scheme proposes to sweep away an entire city block of buildings which have grown up organically over the last 150 years, in a part of London that has already been transformed almost beyond recognition in the last few years.”

The C20 Society has objected to the application and has submitted the market building for listing. A decision from Historic England has not yet been reached.