Blur guitarist Graham Coxon joins fight over plans to demolish spiritualist temple in Camden

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Blur guitarist Graham Coxon is among campaigners fighting plans to bulldoze a historic spiritualist temple founded by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Coxon lived next door to Rochester Square Spiritualist Temple in Camden for 18 years, where he claims he regularly spoke to his deceased grandfather via a medium.

The temple has been abandoned for more than three years and developers propose to knock it down and build a three-storey block of flats and “flexible arts-based community space”.

Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes and a proponent of spiritualism, donated £500 of the £600 cost of building the temple and laid the foundation stone in 1926. 

Coxon, who returned to Blur for 2015’s The Magic Whip album, has submitted objections to the plans with Camden council along with more than 100 others.

Demolition plans: Rochester Square Spiritual Temple in Camden

He told magazine Psychic News: “I love that place. I’d go there in the summer when they had open days, offering readings for a fiver, and get in touch with my grandad every now and then. I think it’s a real shame that developers want to knock it down.

“Some of the readings I have had there are quite uncanny. I was told things from my grandad Percy that no one else could have known.”

The demolition is also opposed by actor Steven Mackintosh, star of Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels. 

In a letter to the council he objected to the destruction of a “beautiful and historic” building and garden. 

New flats: An image of what the flats could look like

He adds: “The church is very attractive to look at, even in its current state, [and] contributes greatly to the historic aesthetic of the conservation area. The proposed development is totally out of character with the neighbouring houses.”

Other concerns include loss of green space, being overlooked by flats and a basement being dug. An online petition started in Australia has won the support of 370 people hoping to save the building in the square, where four-bedroom homes are worth about £2 million.

Campaigner Wendy Stokes said she wanted to turn it into a shrine to Conan Doyle: “Children round here are too scared to walk past it at night, they think it’s haunted. It looks so spooky and dilapidated but it has been left to rot. It should be restored as a tribute to Conan Doyle. It’s got lovely murals, stained glass, original furnishings. It is nine years off 100 years old, when it would be listed anyway, and it’s holy ground for a lot of people.” 

Spiritualism was founded in the 19th century and its belief in mediums helping followers to converse with the dead flourished in the interwar period.

The Right Reverend Dr Barry Harding-Rathbone, who calls himself Britain’s highest ranking spiritualist minister, said in his objection: “We simply cannot support the continued wanton demolition of our national faith heritage sites for yet another soulless and impersonal steel-and-glass bland structure.”

A spokeswoman for developer NTA Planning would not comment. A council hearing on the plan will take place in the coming months.


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