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The Ragged School Blog Deptford

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Greenwich Planetarium and Disposable Heritage

With the sad closure of The London Planetarium in Baker Street, the moment is perfect for the brand new Time Galleries at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. This is the first phase of an ambitious new program which will in turn be followed by a new planetarium in 2007. If anything, Greenwich continues to teach the world how to turn the accidents of history into an ongoing asset - Deptford could certainly learn a thing or two. So continuing to honour the late Ragged School in Hales street with a slow protest at its abandonment by both The Shaftesbury Society and Lewisham Planning department as disposable heritage, I have been tracking down other Victorian and industrial buildings saved and converted for good use. I went last week to the old Ragged School in Newport Street, Vauxhall and spoke there to David, who helped explain its conversion to the magnificent Beaconsfield. This gallery is a tour de force in sensitive, low impact conversion, leaving a flexible interior to meet the demands of an ever changing exhibition program, whilst preserving its intact architectural legacy. The current commission entitled 'Greenwich Degree Zero' by Rod Dickinson and Tom McCarthy imagines what would have happened in 1894 if the French anarchist Martial Bourdin had not accidentally blown himself up in Greenwich Park, but had instead set alight the Observatory. A mesmeric black and white film with ghostly relish shows the flames afoot whilst a Victorian gentlemen with top hat looks on. At Beaconsfield, the upper gallery has various documents about February 15th 1894, telegrams, diagrams, accoutrements and the various reportage about the true historical event. The smaller space on the ground level has an historical appraisal of Victorian anarchism to help us get a context around how the event took place more than a century ago. The show continues to the 30th April.


At 9:19 am, Blogger Adam said...

To be fair, the Shaftesbury Society didn't abandon the building. It was condemned some years ago, and lacking the funds to restore it, and it not being suitable for the current direction of the charity, they made the decision to put it on the market.

The decision wasn't to the taste of many of the people still involved in the Shaftesbury Christian Centre, many of whom had pretty much grown up in the old Princess Louise Institute (the original Ragged School was on a site further north of what you're calling the Ragged School), but it made sense to the Shaftesbury Society.

At 12:43 am, Blogger andreworford ªº said...

I appreciate your comments Adam, I hope over time that we can (as an online community) develop and articulate the discussion around complex historical legacies that charities and institutions inherit. It certainly is expensive to do a good job with an old building, and it needs a vision as well as money, but it can be done. I wanted to start some kind of audit trail as to exactly how 'heritage' disappears. Meanwhile I praise the SCC Deptford for using podcasting. I also love the pictures of Clearing out The Ragged School/Princess Louise Institute before you moved out. Oh, and yes I do realise this wasnt the original ragged school, but with Deptford disappearing so fast, the last remaining ragged school was more than charming.


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