Ancient Right of Liberty declared against Shoreditch redevelopment

Mark mark at
Wed May 14 17:05:59 BST 2008

In North London, the campaign against the construction of 645,000 square feet of skyscraper offices, 310 flats and a hotel behind Bowl Court has stepped up a notch with residents declaring an ancient right to self-determination!

Maps in the City of London Guildhall Library show the neighbourhood
has the status of a distinct district with liberty and independence
from central planning law in the capital. Although this was meant to
have been rescinded, documents have been discovered that apparently
question whether the little piece of liberty might still stand.
(See article from Sunday's Observer newspaper copied below).

The new BowlCourtSquat, off Plough Yard nr Shoreditch
High St is located on the fringe of this disputed area of collosal commercial redevelopment in the heart of Shoreditch which borders on the existing commercial area of Liverpool Street. Part of this development is "Bishop's Place" - a 51 storey tower on the junction of Shoreditch High Street/Norton Folgate and Worship St. Proposed by private developer Hammerson, and designed by Foster and Partners, it would be a hotel, office and apartment complex that would dwarf and overshadow the area



History of this new space - Rampart 2.2:
 The space was originally liberated at the end of March, and opened up for the decentralised days of action weekend of 10th/11th April 2008, as a Squatters Estate Agency:


Residents 'go independent' to beat skyscraper

Campaigners find a weapon in Tudor land grant

Vanessa Thorpe, arts correspondent
Sunday May 11, 2008
The Observer

Residents fighting plans for a new Norman Foster-designed skyscraper in central London intend to declare 'independence' to prevent it being built in their small parish of Norton Folgate.

Like the fictional residents of Pimlico in the Ealing comedy, Passport to Pimlico, opponents claim they could have an ancient right to self-determination which they will use to stop Bishop's Place, a �700m scheme by property developer Hammerson.

They say maps uncovered in the City of London's Guildhall Library show that Norton Folgate still has the status of a distinct district and that its historic boundary gives them the right to resist central planning law in the capital.

 The scheme would create 645,000 sq ft of offices, 310 flats and a hotel. Standing next to Liverpool Street's new Broadgate Tower, it will be a similar height and has been approved by Hackney council. It is destined for a corner of the area Railtrack sold to Hammerson six years ago.

The area, which lies between Bishopsgate and Shoreditch, was originally the precinct of the Priory and Hospital of St Mary Spital. When the land reverted to the Crown during the Reformation, a small extra-parochial 'liberty' retained its separate status and came under the jurisdiction of the Dean and Chapter of St Paul's Cathedral. In Elizabethan times it was a popular haunt for artists and writers because it was outside the walls of the City and escaped its jurisdiction. Playwrights Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson lived in the parish.

It was thought the liberty had been abolished in 1900, but the newly uncovered documents cast doubt over whether it was ever properly abolished.

Support for the campaign to preserve the area from more skyscrapers comes from English Heritage, Cabe (Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment), the Georgian Group, the Spitalfields Trust and, unexpectedly, from the singer Suggs, frontman of the band Madness, who is about to release an album and a song called 'The Liberty of Norton Folgate'. The skyscraper would mean the demolition of a Victorian electricity generation site known as The Light and run as a bar. Five thousand have signed a Save the Light petition.

Robin Stummer, an architectural expert who works in the area, found the maps and documents when he was doing research into St Leonard's church in Shoreditch, where William Shakespeare is believed to have worshipped. He handed his findings over to the barrister who has been engaged to fight the threat to the Light bar.

'This could well be of great significance in the matter of the proposed development,' said Stummer. 'The barrister confirmed there could well be grounds for questioning the status of Norton Folgate, some of which could pertain to building rights and consent.'

Suggs says that his interest in the area began when he first read about the idea of the 'liberty'.

'It was outside the law - the law was inside the walls; on the outside you could just do what you liked. So all the people inside on a Friday night would go to the outside and hang out with the newcomers and the crazy goings on.

'I think that's a great analogy for the way London is, it's always been like that.'


 BowlCourtSquat, off Plough Yard nr Drunken Monkey, Shoreditch High St
 Closest tube Liverpool Street (map

More information about the Diggers350 mailing list