Wickhams surrounds the Spiegelhalter shop


(based on an article in The Times)

The old Wickhams department store on Mile End Road, completed 1927, is a masterpiece of thwarted desire. Although called the ‘Harrods of the East’, its architectural model was Selfridges, its facade; a confident parade of giant iconic columns in imitation of the Oxford Street version. It even goes one better by having a tower in the centre: Gordon Selfridge planned one for his store but never achieved it. All would have been perfect had it not been for the Spiegelhalters, a family of jewellers who owned a two-storey building near the middle of the site. They were descendants of the first Mr Spiegelhalter who had set up shop in Whitechapel in 1828 after coming to Britain from Germany. The business had moved to 81 Mile End Road in 1880. The Spiegelhalters refused every inducement to sell up, causing an exceptional case of colonnadus interruptus, their little structure causing the march of columns to stop and start again. It also meant the tower was built slightly off-centre. The original idea for Selfridges — a completed colonnade plus a tower — was fated to be achieved in neither Oxford Street nor Mile End Road. What we have instead is more interesting, a graphic demonstration how competing ambitions and sheer obstinacy shape a city. As it turned out the Spiegelhalters lasted longer. Wickhams closed in the Sixties; the jewellers became a wine shop in the Eighties, now also gone.

The Wickhams store building and 81 Mile End Road as it is today, now the Carmel grocery store. How long it will stay like this we do not know. A planning application has been made to demolish 81 Mile End road and replace it with an atrium. The application says 'The attractiveness and uniformity of the frontage of 69-89 Mile End Road is only marred by 81 Mile End Road, which is inferior to Wickham House in terms of apperance, detailing and architecture.' It goes on to say that changing the entrance to Wickham House will faciliate ease of access by pedestrians and wheelchair users. The applucation refers to change of use but does not specify what that is, offices presumably.