In 2016, local historian Dr Ann Robey was commissioned to undertake a review of Perseverance Works with a view to attaining listed status. Based on the site’s historical and architectural interest, environmental significance and aesthetic merit, Hackney granted us listed status later that year. Read on to find out more about Dr Robey’s report, and the many reasons Perseverance Works was deemed of special interest in the local area.
1. Historical interest
According to Dr Robey, Perseverance Works’ cluster of buildings ‘represent the industrial history’ of this part of London. Traces of the city’s building industry, metal work, furniture-making and leather trade can all be found on site, though the site has now been transformed into spaces of creative industries, demonstrating the ways the daily uses of historic buildings can evolve.
2. Architectural interest
Formerly a cluster of warehouses and workshops, the site has been transformed into modern work units thanks to the ‘clever transfiguration’ led by architects CZWG. Since the 1980s, a number of additions have been made to the site, including the distinctive steel-clad building The Hangar, and the Cotton Gardens development.
3. Environmental significance
Much loved by tenants and visitors alike, the green space of the courtyard was a central part of our listing application.
4. Aesthetic or artistic merit
Notable for our ‘pleasing mix of different uses’, the listing application cited the ‘cluster of different buildings accessed via narrow passages’. Here, the courtyard was once again celebrated, as was Allen Jones’ sculpture Red Worker, which welcomes visitors to Perseverance Works.
Dr Robey’s research found that in 1748, the land on which PW was built included gardens and a tenterground – a place to dry newly manufactured cloth. Just half a century later, the street frontages along Hackney Road, Kingsland Road and what is now Cotton Gardens were built up, though a small garden remained in place, and could be reached via a passage from Kingsland Road. As the mid-nineteenth century approached, the street network became denser, with lanes and courtyards appearing.
‘The Perseverance Works complex, part of which was a former match factory, is likely to have been constructed in the mid-19th century. The layout of the individual buildings and the slight differences in their styles, indicate construction at different times, by different people and for different industrial purposes,’ Dr Robey writes, highlighting the site’s use as a builders’ yard until the end of the Second World War. Soon enough, a textile factory making corsetry and hosiery, a firm of metal stampers, leather workers, furniture manufacturers and a steel furniture maker could be found here.
From 1950 onwards, many of the furniture factories and builders’ yards left this dense area for the Lea Valley and further afield, and South Hackney entered a period of decline. This was reversed in the late 1980s and 19990s when the area was transformed by regeneration projects, marking the beginning of Hackney’s revival and its transformation into the creative hub we know it to be today.
If you’d like to read more on PW’s history, take a look at this interview with Dr Robey.