Activism & Solidarity

Campaign Against the Demolition of Historic Jewish Maternity Hospital in Spitalfields

This campaign aims to save a remnant of the former Jewish Maternity Hospital (1911-40), the Arts & Crafts building at 22 & 24 Underwood Road in Tower Hamlets, as the last example of its kind in the country and a memorial to the pioneering achievements of Alice Model, MBE.

Mother Levy’s Hospital Spiltafields © Tom Ridge

Popularly known as Mother Levy’s Nursing Home, it was the first organisation in this country to provide home helps and maternity nurses and among the many generations of East Enders who came into the world within the walls of this dignified Arts & Crafts building were Alma Cogan, Arnold Wesker and Lionel Bart.

The developer has already started to demolish the building in advance of permission, but it is possible to preserve just this building and still provide new housing on the rest of the site. The petition will be presented to the developers, Peabody, and Tower Hamlets council on 29 November.

You can sign the online ‘Mother Levy’ petition here.

Please forward this request to friends to achieve 1000 signatures.

To read more about the campaign and view the building, see the Spitalfields Life blog here.


  1. Many thanks History Workshop for featuring the petition to Save Mother Levy’s – the former Jewish Maternity Home – or the “Oasis in the Ghetto” as it was dubbed in 1911. Please sign the petition anyone who hasn’t already done so. There are plenty of links to the petition and plenty of old and newly-discovered history on the JMH on a Save Mother Levy’s Facebook page: take a look (and sign the petition to Save Mother Levy’s….or have we said that already?!)

  2. Update from the campaign:

    Following the unanimous decision by Councillors at the Tower Hamlets Council meeting on 29 November 2011 (press release 30 November), Cllr. Rabina Khan wrote to Peabody’s Chief Executive, Stephen Howlett. She informed him of the decision and pointed out that the cottages were now non-designated heritage assets and, in accordance with PPS5, her officers had a duty to protect them. Peabody should, therefore, alter their Option 3 converted to a family home.

    In his reply of 5 December 2011, Stephen Howlett acknowledged that the buildings had recently been given the status of non-designated heritage assets but failed to “see how the position has changed”. He then referred to the English Heritage decision not to list the buildings and clearly thinks that this means that they can be demolished, regardless of their new status.

    He must stop using the 2010 refusal to list as a justification for demolition and accept the fact that English Heritage described the former Jewish Maternity Hospital as a “rare Jewish welfare building in London’s East End”.

    Also that the Council’s 17 October 2011 recognition of the buildings as “non-designated heritage assets in accordance with PPS5” means that their retention is now a material consideration in planning terms. And that Peabody has a responsibility to at least to retain and convert the two cottages.

    On 8 December, campaign representatives met with one of the Mayor’s advisors. And on 12 December, Lord Janner of Braunstone QC wrote to Stephen Howlett saying that he would be grateful to know that the cottages have been saved. We
    understand that Lord Janner fully supports the campaign and is working to help achieve its aims.

    Dr. Sharman Kadish, the Director of Jewish Heritage UK, wrote to Stephen Howlett on 14 December with a copy of a letter from the Minister for Tourism and Heritage. John Penrose MP suggested “engagement between the Campaign, Tower Hamlets Council and the developers, Peabody Housing Trust, for an amicable settlement”. Dr. Kadish suggested to Stephen Howlett that we take this advice and reach a settlement.

    On 16 December, Tom Ridge wrote to Stephen Howlett on behalf of the 760 or so signatories to the Campaign’s petition,
    formally requesting that he meet with campaign representatives and Tower Hamlets Council, as soon as possible.

    Later the same day, we received an email from Tower Hamlets Head of Planning, Owen Whalley, saying that he had written to Peabody asking for a meeting “to further discuss the retention of the cottages”, and that Stephen Howlett had agreed to meet and a date is being finalised.

    Tom Ridge (via email) 17 December 2011

  3. Campaign Update:

    On Tuesday, 20 December 2011, we issued a Newsflash containing the full text of Stephen Howlett’s reply to Tom Ridge’s letter of 16 December 2011. Here is Tom Ridge’s reply of 21 December 2011. After you have read all three letters we feel sure that you will want to write in support of the Campaign’s request for a meeting with Peabody and Tower Hamlets Council. Please write to Stephen Howlett ( and send copies to Owen Whalley ( and the press.

    Tom Ridge (via email)
    21st December 2011

  4. John Myers’ 1911 Arts and Crafts Jewish Maternity Home in Whitechapel was demolished by Peabody Trust on Friday, 13 January 2012. Photos of the demolition, comments and further background here on the Save Mother Levy’s Facebook page : to all at History Workshop for your support and for highlighting the Campaign. 

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