The Twentieth Century Society

Campaigning for outstanding buildings

Gone to the dogs: Catford’s Tote Building destroyed by night-time fire

The Twentieth Century Society is shocked to learn that in the night from 18-19 May Catford’s Tote building, the last remaining structure on the former South London Greyhound racing course, burnt out. The Society had put the building forward for spot listing in January 2005 as it still had its original 1930s machinery which operated the tote board. The exterior of the building was to one side ‘disguised’ as a fine residential building, the other side was formed by the board. As far as we know Catford had the only architecturally significant tote board building in the country.

The former racing grounds are to be redeveloped by English Partnerships who are planning to build over 400 residential units on site. English Partnerships had written to the DCMS and stated it would not demolish the building before the outcome of the listing was known.

The Police and London Fire Brigade are currently investigating the case and we hope to know what caused the fire later this week. We deeply regret the tragic loss of this extraordinary part of England ’s sporting history. We believe the building could have been integrated in to the housing scheme and could have given it an interesting focus.

The Society feels that buildings that are under review for listing need interim protection, a measure that we hope will be implemented in the near future, together with other fundamental changes to the listing process that are happening now. The Catford Case shows that buildings under consideration for listing are particularly vulnerable and need to be better protected. Their demolition or destruction should be treated as a criminal offence. We urge the government to pass primary legislation to this effect as soon as possible.

For further information and images please contact: Cordula Zeidler, Caseworker, The Twentieth Century Society, tel: 020 7250 3857,