112-year-old shop under threat of closure
PUBLISHED: 15:55 12 February 2009 | UPDATED: 15:55 07 September 2010
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Robyn Rosen AN independent trader who runs a shop which has been in his family for 112 years is threatening to sell up if English Heritage decides to list his building. William Martyn is owner of W Martyn, a tea and coffee specialist shop in Muswell Hill
AN independent trader who runs a shop which has been in his family for 112 years is threatening to sell up if English Heritage decides to list his building.
William Martyn is owner of W Martyn, a tea and coffee specialist shop in Muswell Hill Broadway.
He has been left reeling after English Heritage informed him they were considering his building for listed status.
It means he would be unable to make any changes to the inside or outside of his shop without permission.
"Martyn's will close before English Heritage gets a hand on our business," Mr Martyn, 45, said.
"If they get to do it, it's the end of this business. What right does an outside organisation have to tell us what to do?
"I wanted to put air conditioning in and change a cabinet and I've been told I wouldn't be able to do it if it was listed.
"We are responsible for our businesses and English Heritage should mind their own businesses. If we are having the control of our business taken out of our hands is there any point in running it?"
Mr Martyn's family has been running the shop since 1897 and he took over from his father four years ago.
"This isn't a job to me, it's a way of life," he said. "It's in our blood."
Despite the shops Victorian appearance, Mr Martyn said it is a "montage from across the century" with modern items such as a coffee roaster from the 1930s and fluorescent lighting from the 1970s, and therefore does not meet English Heritage's requirements.
And customers are just as shocked by the news.
Hetty Bower has been a customer of the shop since 1938 when she first moved to Muswell Hill.
Now 103 years old, she recalled the Martyn family supplying her golden and diamond wedding anniversaries with goods.
"It's a lovely old-fashioned shop with a lovely smell of coffee," she said.
"I would be so unhappy if it closed because I associate it with a happy part of my life.
"I don't want English Heritage to interfere."
Rev Geoffrey Seabrook of the Hornsey Parish Church said: "I'd be devastated if it closed down. Martyn's has been very supportive to the church and community and anything that puts it under threat is a very sad and bad thing."
A spokeswoman from English Heritage confirmed that it is considering the building for listed status.
"We are right at the beginning of the process and are in contact with the owner to try and arrange a time convenient for him for an advisor to make a site visit," she said. "Listing recognises the architectural and historic merit of buildings that fulfil the criteria for designation in a national context.
"This is not to say that listed buildings can't be altered or 'modernised' but the recognition of listed status ensures that sensitive decisions are executed without harming the special interest of the building that marked it out as 'listable' in the first place."
Mr Martyn added: "If it gets listed, on no account will I ask for planning permission to change anything, I'll just do it. They can take me to court and if the shop goes bankrupt that's down to English Heritage."
Once English Heritage has compiled its recommendation it is sent to the minister for culture who makes the final decision.
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