The much-interrupted project, which first gained planning approval in 2018, three years after the tenants moved out, was stalled again when demolition contractors said asbestos had been discovered in the roof. This held up work for several days. When demolition resumed, the green sign, 'Brake Shear House' at the top of the main building was removed. Beneath was an earlier name plate of previous owners, dated 1893, and the name 'John Swain and Son, photo-engraving works."
Shanly Homes say plans for the 1.2-acre site include a stepped block of four to five storeys providing 50 luxury apartments; eight three-storey semi-detached houses; up to three commercial units; and parking space for 54 cars.
Access from the High Street will be improved by the demolition of a vacant clothes shop to allow for the widening of the existing entrance to allow two-way traffic.
Much of the Brake Shear House complex has been boarded up in recent years following the sale of the site for redevelopment in 2015 when long-established firms including two printers, a sheet-metal works, two recording studios and garage were forced to find new premises.
At the time there were protests over the loss in and around High Barnet of so many workshops and light-industrial premises and the proprietors criticised Barnet Council’s failure to cater for businesses offering local employment opportunities.
When the site was originally purchased by a previous developer Wrenbridge, the 16 businesses operating from the premises claimed over 100 people were either directly employed there or made occasional use of stores and workshops.
Demolition contractors moved heavy plant into the site several weeks ago and many of the buildings have already been cleared away with the original frontage of Brake Shear House the last to go.
The block of two- and three-bedroom apartments – nine of which are shared ownership -- is to be built on the Brake Shear House side of the site and on the other side would be the eight semi-detached houses with the three commercial units immediately to the rear of the High Street premises.
During the lengthy planning process -- and final approval was only granted in February -- several of the workshops did have temporary uses and for a time the complex was brought back to life by the arrival of Nightingales Emporium, a collaborative selling point for a group of artists and entrepreneurs.
Initially Natasha Nightingale had high hopes for reviving Brake Shear House while it awaited redevelopment and she and her colleagues had a great buzz from bringing an historic area back to life.
“This was the original site of Barnet’s Victoria skating rink and swimming baths run by a pioneering entrepreneur Daniel Schmidt. He later had a museum of stuffed animals in his emporium, so we are following in his famous footsteps.
“In more recent years some of the rooms in Brake Shear House were recording studios where the likes of Elton John, the Spice Girls and Buzzcocks did some of their early recordings so it is a great privilege to be part of Barnet’s history, however briefly.”