Regenerating Charlton: What to do with the old summer house?

Charlton summer house

We’ve written before about whether Charlton needs a regeneration plan. We’ve also written about the challenges ahead for Charlton House under its new owners. There’s one place in SE7 where these two themes come neatly together.

You may well recognise the old public toilet opposite St Luke’s Church. It’s been locked shut for about a decade now. There’s a longer and more fascinating history to this building, though – it’s a Grade I-listed summer house, built in about 1630 and designed by Inigo Jones.

If it was in Greenwich, it’d be cherished. If it was in Woolwich, developers would probably have bulldozed it for “investment opportunities”. This is Charlton, though, so it’s just sat there, closed.

Now Severndroog Castle is back in rude health, it’s probably the most neglected historic building in Greenwich borough. It quietly passed from the council to the Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust in July 2014 – so it’s now their job to decide what to do with it.

If the centre of Charlton is to be regenerated, the trust is going to have to play a big part in that. It’s recently found a long-term tenant for Charlton Assembly Rooms, which was recently refurbished by Greenwich Council, but what future is there for the summer house?

We’d like to make a small suggestion. This could make a brilliant place for people to try out small businesses. A former public toilet near Loughborough Junction station is being used for just that – and there’s no reason why we think this can’t happen in Charlton.

Cider I Up, Loughborough Junction
The Platform Cider Bar at Loughborough Junction. The building has also been used as a bike market, jewellery shop and cosmetics retailer.

The Platform is a project backed by Lambeth Council and Meanwhile Space.

If you’ve got a business idea, The Platform gives you training and advice, and then allows you to try out your dream in one of three locations – two railway arches and an old toilet at Ridgway Road.

The best-known use for the Ridgway Road toilet has been as a cider bar – it’s well worth a visit if it reopens – but the space has also been used for a farm shop, art gallery, workshops, bicycle market, organic cosmetics shop and jewellery shop.

Perhaps a cider bar next to a pub might not work out (or maybe it would if you avoided matchdays?), but putting the summer house to good use for small businesses is certainly better than leaving it empty. It’s just an idea – and if Charlton’s fortunes are to be revived, it seems like a very good one to us.