Survey of London Monograph 5, Brooke House, Hackney. Originally published by Guild & School of Handicraft, London, 1904.
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AN INTRODUCTORY NOTE. BY C. R. ASHBEE.
It is a privilege to have seen Brooke House, and all dwellers in East London—indeed all Londoners—are the gainers by being reminded that so beautiful a thing is still with us. Mr. Mann's monograph, giving as it does a careful and well-planned account of the whole fabric, speaks for itself; but a word from the Editor may perhaps be permitted as to the value and purpose generally of antiquarian research among existing buildings, and as to what the Committee's special function may be said to be in regard to it.
This function may be termed an educative one. We desire to remind Londoners of the beautiful things still in their midst, and to encourage an endeavour and determination for their maintenance.
It is often difficult, it is often costly, to do this, but it is never impossible where the public are sufficiently educated to desire the maintenance of historical & beautiful architecture. In two of our previous publications the Committee had to lament the destruction of noble buildings which, with a little more intelligence on the part of local governing bodies, could quite well have been saved & turned to wise public service. Scarce two weeks after the appearance of the Committee's monograph on the Great House, Leyton, the splendid work of Sir Fisher Tench—with the Thornhill frescoes, the fine later Adam's workmanship, the terraced garden, and all the other beautiful things it contained—was relegated to the housebreaker, and swept away. We now see spawned over the site rows of tiny brick cottages, & doubtless in a few years some enlightened Councillor of Leyton will be raising the twin cries of overcrowding and the need for a public library, garden, and institute; whereupon ten times the sum that bought the Great House will be levied on the rates, and nothing near so fine as what we have lost will be given us again. It is a curious reflection how singularly unpractical the average Englishman sometimes is, owing to the want of the æsthetic sense !
We trust some Councillors of Hackney who still appreciate the beauty of Brooke House may chance to see this, and so mock at the Councillors of Leyton.
C. R. ASHBEE, Chairman of the Survey Committee.