New look for grand old house

ONE of Forest Gate’s most historic buildings has been restored to its former glory with a �150,000 makeover.

The Red House, a Grade II-listed property in Upton Avenue owned by St Antony’s Catholic Club, has had a glossy external renovation.

Club secretary Bernard Jakob said: “We are delighted with the look of the club now.

“After years of appearing derelict, the exterior is now in great condition.”

For the past six months, building contractors Bolt and Heeks have been carrying out extensive restoration work on the 18th Century house. Work included roof repairs, which involved exterminating a few unwanted nesting pigeons, and renewing woodwork.

Stonemasonry, including urns on the roof and the front entrance, was also restored and windows replaced and renovated.

The project was carried out after Newham Council and English Heritage served the 350-member St Antony’s with a restoration order in February.

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Following the ultimatum, club members accepted a proposal by their committee to increase subscriptions so that the club were able to borrow the majority of funds to save the historic site. English Heritage are providing �44,000 for the project.

After months of restoration work, scaffolding on the house came down last month.

External work has now been completed. But as The Red House motto states: “There is much to be done”. St Antony’s members now setting about internal renovation.

The building has a long and illustrious history, dating to the reign of George I in 1717.

It was purchased by East London-based Dutch merchant Isaac Blijdesteyn in 1760 when the-then village of Upton was at the heart of London’s international trade boom.

The Red House as it appears today was the result of substantial alterations in the 1880s.

It remained in the Blijdesteyn family until 1933 when it was sold to St Antony’s Club for �10,000.

St Antony’s were founded in 1907 as a social club for Catholic men in Forest Gate.

The club originally used a room in St Bonaventure’s school, but due to increased membership decided to purchase its own premises.

During the 1930s, Forest Gate was still regarded as a relatively affluent part of residential London and the club’s membership included doctors, lawyers, schoolmasters and the Catholic clergy.

Modern-day members will celebrating the rebirth of their premises with a party on December 11.