Tower Hamlets Council has agreed to sell off a rare building to raise cash to build a town hall.
Council cabinet members agreed to put Cheviot House in Commercial Road on the market at a meeting on Tuesday, November 3.
But councillor and local history enthusiast Peter Golds (Con, Island Gardens) spoke of the building’s interesting past – including its would-be use as Stepney’s “control centre” in the outbreak of nuclear war.
“Tower Hamlets Council has estimated the building was built in the 1950s,” he said. “It was actually built in the 1930s – there were really no art deco buildings like this built after the war because nobody had the money for them.”
It was originally the headquarters of clothing company Kornberg And Segal, before being bought by Stepney Council in 1948.
It was then used primarily for council administration, before it was leased out for offices until recent years.
Now empty, the council has not set a date for putting it on the market, but it is likely the building will be structurally sound enough to support a change of use.
“It is more than structurally sound,” said cllr Golds. “It was reinforced in 1953 for the event that a nuclear bomb should attack Britain.
“If Britain had faced an attack, it would have been used as the control centre for Stepney. The fact the council is selling it is a sign of the times.
“People forget that every British Prime Minister until 1990 was faced with the prospect that, every day, there were nuclear missiles pointed at Britain.
“Something like this would not have seemed so unusual.”