Spray Street demolitions: Woolwich Public Market gets Grade II listed status

Public at Woolwich
Woolwich’s old covered market – now operated by Street Feast – is now listed

Controversial plans to knock down and redevelop Woolwich’s historic covered market have hit a setback after Historic England gave the 1930s structure a Grade II listing.

A Greenwich Council-backed scheme seeks to demolish the 1936 Public Market and surrounding buildings – including scores of businesses run by and for black and ethnic minority communities – to replace them with 742 new homes, shops, offices, a cinema and a new public square.

Parts of the market’s roof structure would be reused as sculptures in the current plans, according to developers St Modwen and Notting Hill.

But the listing means that Historic England must be consulted on any plans to demolish the 1936 building. It now has the same status as the former Woolwich Polytechnic building in Calderwood Street, which another developer is planning to restore rather than demolish.

Woolwich Covered Market in March 2017
The market before its Street Feast transformation

The listing was secured after the Twentieth Century Society applied to Historic England, which called it “a big, uninterrupted space for people to gather in”.

After lying neglected for many years, the space is now being used as a weekend street food market by Street Feast.

Historic England’s listing says the market is “a good representation of the Lamella system, built at a scale which clearly demonstrates the structural capability, is unaltered, and is the earliest known surviving example” and is “based on a simple but visually distinctive geometric structural system which creates a striking, uninterrupted interior”.

It calls it “a rare survival of a dwindling number of Lamella structures in England, of which over 100 were built during the interwar period and only 16 of which are thought to remain”.

At a public meeting held by Speak Out Woolwich earlier this year, Save Britain’s Heritage director Henrietta Billings said the building was “busting with history”, comparing the battle to save the building with that to keep Smithfield Market in the City of London.

“It tells a fascinating story about the development of Woolwich, and it really isn’t good enough for the developers to be coming forward with proposals for complete and utter obliteration,” she added.

Plans for the Spray Street redevelopment had been expected to go before Greenwich Council’s main planning committee this autumn. The listing is likely to delay this.

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