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Tassaduq Ahmed MBE Tassaduq Ahmed

Save Our Heritage

12 July 2002
By Alison Swersky
The piece as it appeared in the newspaper.

A historic East End building that embodies the spirit of British multiculturism is in urgent need of a £3m cash injection to avoid closure.

19 Princelet Street in Spitalfields, Europe's only museum of immigration and diversity is under threat after the landmark site was put on English Heritage's Buildings at Risk Register. Built in 1719, the site was originally a Hugenot silk merchant's house and subsquently became home for refugees from across the world.

A small synagogue was added in 1869 at the back of the house, and is one of the only surviving Victorian shuls in Britain.

The Grade II listed building, which joins Jack Straws Castle in Hampstead and Brixton Windmill on the register, was taken over by the Spitalfields Centre charity in the 1980s to preserve the site. The group converted the building into a museum for visitors to discover how Hugenot, Irish, Jewish and Bangladeshi people shaped the surrounding area.

However the "Suitcases and Sanctuary" exhibition and attached educational centre are rarely open to the public due to lack of funds.

Spitalfields Centre chairwoman Susie Symes said: This is a vital moment for such a unique project. We need support from all our communities to save this very special place. It is so important for the future of our children who are growing up in a multicultural world.

She added You have this five-storey Hugenot immigrant's building and a Victorian synagogue literally joined together. What could be more symbolic of the constant flow of people and their move into mainstream society?.