The Lavender Pump House is one of the few surviving pieces of Rotherhithe’s dockland buildings. It was constructed in 1928-9 to house the pump machinery that regulated the levels throughout the complex dock system which, until the pump house was built, fluctuated considerably. The building itself is lovely, a really attractive 1920s building with tall windows, full of light, with its original round Port of London Authority plaque commemorating the building date still in place on its Thames-facing side. Surrounded by a small wildlife park with a remnant of dockland water at its front, it was always one of the nicest ways of presenting Rotherhithe’s past, peaceful, appealing and full of charm.
The interior was stripped out many years ago and some of the original machinery is preserved at the Brunel Museum. For many years the Pump House was a museum and included a local history display. When this very sadly closed, the future of the building, in the ownership of Southwark Borough Council, became a real concern. It was used by a local business for storage for a while, which kept it safe, but when the rental on the building was raised they left. Lacking new tenants, the building was next occupied by squatters who were eventually removed. Then, Following a suggestion that the building could be converted to use as a gym in association with the Hilton Hotel, the council placed security guards to protect it. However the plans were cancelled and in the last few months the security has no longer been in place and the Pump House has again been occupied by squatters, who were evicted in the last few days.
The Chair of the Friends of Russia Dock Woodland, Steve Cornish, has been into the Pump House to see what it looks like, and the mess is substantial. The graffiti is shown in the header at the top of the page. Fortunately the graffiti is superficial damage and can be painted out, but Steve has been told that the internal wiring had been removed along with some of the internal fixtures and fittings. Steve contacted English Heritage last year and they expressed concern that damage to the internal fixtures and fittings might well invalidate the possibility of receiving listed status.
The absence of security measures has lead to two separate periods of occupation by squatters, the most recent group of which were evicted by court order last week. The inevitable result has been considerable damage to the interior of the property. The graffiti is of course superficial, but apparently the internal wiring had been removed along with some of the internal fixtures and fittings. English Heritage were contacted last year about listing the Pump House and expressed concern about about ongoing damage to the internal fixtures and fittings, which might well invalidate the possibility of receiving listed status.
It seems clear that if the Lavender Pump House is to be saved from becoming a casualty of Southwark Council’s ambitions to redevelop every inch of Rotherhithe for blocks of flats, local people will have fight to keep this valuable piece of local heritage.
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