Of all the elegant Victorian houses which once adorned this part of the capital, St Mary's is the last one standing. Well, just about. Today, tragically, it is a wreck. Ravaged by fire in 2005, and since used as a tyre dump, it has remained neglected and uninhabitable ever since. It would still, nevertheless, be possible to restore it as a unique development for the people of Hackney Borough.
There is, of course, a good reason behind my keen interest in the Lodge's future. It was designed and constructed by my forefather, Mr John Young (1797-1877) (Figure 3.1), renowned architect and erstwhile Surveyor to the City of London. Among his other works is the Royal Marsden Hospital on London's Fulham Road (Figure 3.2).
Figure 3.1: My ancestor, the architect John Young (1797-1877)
To be exact, he was my great-great-great-grandfather. His daughter, Caroline Pettis Young (1838-1908) married my great-great-grandfather, Mr James Knight Spradbery (1841-1907) in 1865.
Figure 3.2: The Royal Marsden Hospital, London (1863)
My forebears lived in the property until 1878, when it was sold to a wealthy corn merchant, Mr William Crabb. Despite the Crabb family living there for only six years, a fascinating story about their grandson emerged in 2006, fifty years after his death. Lionel 'Buster' Crabb OBE, GM (1909-1956) had become famous, posthumously, after winning the George Cross for outstanding courage during World War Two. The acclaimed 1957 film The Silent Enemy tells of his days as a Royal Navy diver and intelligence agent. According to newly-released documents, he was eventually murdered and dismembered by a Russian frogman while attempting to attach a surveillance device to the hull of a Soviet warship. A dangerous occupation, if ever there was one.
Almost a century later, the Lodge had assumed a quite different status. In 1961, London County Council utilized the building as a charity-run hostel for single mothers. Although fondly remembered by many of its occupants, the facility closed in the mid-1990s (Figure 3.3) and was subsequently vandalized until completely derelict (Figure 3.4).
Figure 3.3: St Mary's Lodge in 1993
Copyright 2006 Charles Rohrer
I hope desperately that an acceptable agreement can be reached in the near future. Otherwise, an impressive facet of East London's history will be lost forever.
Figure 3.4: St Mary's Lodge in 2003
Copyright 2006 Charles Rohrer
The campaign to save St Mary's Lodge is based at:
Further information regarding John Young can be found at:
National Archives files appertaining to Lionel 'Buster' Crabb can be accessed at:
A concise account of Crabb's life and work, along with further references, is available at:
I should like to thank Mr Charles 'Chuck' Rohrer, a leading campaigner, for allowing me to include his photographs in this article. He describes the Youngs and their descendants as 'an interesting bunch'.
Copyright 2010 Paul Spradbery