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    Archive for the 'Whitechapel' Category

    Whitechapel History Fest: 25–27 October

    By the Survey of London, on 12 October 2018

     

    The Survey of London is the organiser of a multi-vocal history festival convened to mark the end of the three-year Arts and Humanities Research Council funded research project, ‘Histories of Whitechapel’. This three-day event will bring together a range of local experts, residents and historians to discuss the past and present of Whitechapel at the Idea Store. There will be talks, the premiere of a specially commissioned film, poetry readings and round-table discussions. Contributors include Rachel Lichtenstein, the Gentle Author, Ajmal Masroor and Dan Cruickshank.

    Tickets (£5 per day, £12.50 for three days) are available via Eventbrite. You can also follow live updates from the conference by searching for the hashtag #WhitechapelHistFest on Twitter.

    Programme for Whitechapel History Fest. Please click on the image to view a larger version

    Thursday 25th October – 6.30–8.45pm

    Avram Stencl: The Yiddish Poet of Whitechapel
    Rachel Lichtenstein

    This illustrated talk examines the life and work of London’s foremost Yiddish poet Avram Nachum Stencl (1897–1983) who was born in Poland in the late nineteenth century into a rabbinical dynasty. After spending some time in Holland and Germany, he made his way to Berlin in the 1920s where his work attracted the attention of the literary elite, including Thomas Mann. He arrived in dramatic circumstances to London in 1936 and spent the rest of his life passionately dedicated to the preservation of the Yiddish language. Stencl became one of the most familiar figures of Jewish Whitechapel, standing outside the lecture halls, meeting places and cafes, crying out, koyfts a heft! – Buy a pamphlet. He established the longest running literary group in the UK but is now practically unknown. Come and learn more about this extraordinary figure, if you have memories of Stencl to share Rachel would be delighted to hear from you.

    Rachel Lichtenstein is a writer, curator and artist. Her publications include: Estuary: Out from London to the Sea, Diamond Street, On Brick Lane, Rodinsky’s Room, Keeping Pace: Older Women of the East End, A Little Dust Whispered and Rodinsky’s Whitechapel. Her artwork has been widely exhibited both in the UK and internationally. Venues include The Whitechapel Gallery, The British Library, The Barbican Art Gallery, Wood Street Galleries (USA) and The Jerusalem Theatre (Israel). She is a Reader in Creative Writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, a tour guide of London’s Jewish East End and works as the archivist and historian in London’s oldest Ashkenazi synagogue, Sandys Row.

    Poetry Readings
    Celeste, Bernard Kops, Chris Searle, and others

    Celeste is a teacher and performance artist based in Shoreditch. Celeste presents new works exploring themes of time, place and identity in London.

    Bernard Kops was born 91 years ago in Stepney Green. ‘Where my East End streets gave me the strength and chutzpah, the building blocks of my future, my world of writing. So here I am, still alive and working, with the joy of love and living, with my wonder wife of 63 years and enormous family. And my writing, for writing is work, and work is life. And behind me and ahead are my years of drama, poetry and novels.’ He has written some new poems – East End Dreams – for this event.

    Chris Searle has written or edited over fifty books on subjects as diverse as education, poetry, language, journalism, cricket and jazz. Among them The Forsaken Lover (which won the Martin Luther King Award in 1973), Classrooms of Resistance, The World in a Classroom, Words Unchained: Language and Revolution in Grenada, Your Daily Dose: Racism and ‘The Sun’, Pitch of Life and Forward Groove. He writes a weekly jazz column for the socialist daily newspaper, the Morning Star. In 1971 he collaborated with Ron McCormick to produce the influential book of schoolkids poetry, Stepney Words, and a number of other projects in East London, most recently Stepney Words III (commissioned by Rich Mix, the Shoreditch media arts centre). Together they produced and published Whitechapel Boy, a reappraisal of the poetry of the First World War poet, Isaac Rosenberg, to commemorate the centenary of the poet’s death in the French trenches in April 1918.

    St George’s German Lutheran Church, Alie Street, in 2017, photograph by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London

    Friday 26th October – 10am–5.15pm

    At Home in Whitechapel’s Deutsche Kolonie
    Sarah Milne

    During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Whitechapel was home to tens of thousands of German migrants, many of whom were intimately connected with the prosperous sugar industry. While scant physical traces of Whitechapel’s sugarhouses remain, drawings and descriptions from the archives reveal the diverse buildings associated with this industrious community. Following a newly-arrived German sugar baker, a well-established sugarhouse owner, and a school mistress, this talk will explore what everyday life was like in Whitechapel’s oft-forgotten Deutsche Kolonie.

    Sarah Milne is a research associate and website co-editor on the Survey of London’s Whitechapel project. She is particularly interested in how global exchanges have shaped London’s built environment through the centuries. Sarah is also a lecturer in the history of architecture at the University of Westminster.

    Mapping and Place
    Seif El Rashidi, Shlomit Flint, Duncan Hay, Laura Vaughan

    The Survey of London’s ‘Histories of Whitechapel’ interactive map will be a starting point for thoughts from and discussion by a panel with a range of expert engagements with urban geography – GIS systems, participative and otherwise, micro-geography, psychogeography and space syntax.

    Seif El Rashidi is the project manager for Layers of London, based at the Institute for Historical Research. Layers of London is creating a website bringing together a significant collection of historic maps and other London-related resources for the first time, working with community groups, schools and the general public to encourage them to contribute information about the London that they know.

    Shlomit Flint is an architect with a master’s in public policy and planning and a PhD in geosimulation and spatial analysis. Shlomit has studied the impact of recent immigration on Whitechapel’s built environment through digital means with a desire to influence public policy. She is a Research Fellow with the Survey of London’s Histories of Whitechapel project.

    Duncan Hay is a Research Associate at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at UCL with expertise in psychogeography and English literature. He has been responsible for the design and functioning of the website for the Survey of London’s ‘Histories of Whitechapel’ project.

    Professor Laura Vaughan is Director of the Space Syntax Laboratory at UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture. Her most recent publications include a study of the significance of urban space in shaping religious solidarities in nineteenth-century Whitechapel, while her book on the spatial dimensions of social cartography, Mapping Society, has been released this autumn with UCL Press. Laura is a member of the Survey of London’s Whitechapel project’s steering group and advisory panel.

    The Petticoat Lane Foxtrot
    Alan Dein

    From singers, songwriters, conductors, and cantors to musicians, managers, proprietors of record shops and club owners – Alan Dein reflects on the stories of Whitechapel’s Jewish community whose musical roots go back to the major wave of Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants fleeing the pogroms in Eastern Europe at the end of the nineteenth century. Their stories are entwined with the development of the British recorded music industry. In particular, Dein focuses on the remarkable sounds of Cockney Jewish-themed jazz recorded in London between the 1920s and the 1950s. As many of the tunes celebrate Jewish cuisine – from beigels to schmaltz herrings – Dein will also reflect on the world of speciality food shops and businesses that proliferated in Whitechapel during the interwar years.

    Alan Dein is an oral historian and radio broadcaster. He has presented documentary features for BBC Radio for over twenty years, and has worked on oral-history projects and podcasts for numerous institutions including The British Library, The Museum of London, The Royal Parks, English Heritage, The Guardian, The Jewish Museum, and local history and community groups. He was the project co-ordinator of ‘King’s Cross Voices’ (2004–2008), a major Heritage Lottery Funded oral history project exploring the living memory of London’s King’s Cross. In 2012, Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives published After You’ve Gone – East End Shopfronts, 1988 which accompanied an exhibition of his photographs.

    Sailors and Settlement
    Kinsi Abdulleh, Tamsin Bookey, Derek Morris

    The proximity of the Thames and London’s port to southern parts of Whitechapel, including Wellclose Square, Dock Street and Ensign Street, has meant strong connections with mariners and other seafaring people from several regions of the world since at least the eighteenth century. Their impact on the built environment has ranged from sailors’ homes or hostels to more enduring settlement and descendants.

    Tamsin Bookey is the Heritage Manager at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives, an archivist and a member of the Survey of London’s Whitechapel project’s steering group and advisory panel.

    Derek Morris MSc, FGS, is a graduate of Queen Mary College, University of London. He found that his ancestral family lived in Mile End in 1770 opposite Captain James Cook, the famous explorer, and this discovery led him to extensive research on eighteenth-century Stepney. He has written four books on the social history of the area, including Whitechapel 1600–1800: A social history of an early modern London Inner Suburb and London’s Sailortown 1600–1800: A Social History of Shadwell and Ratcliff, an Early Modern London Riverside Suburb (with Ken Cozens), both published by the East London History Society. He is also an associate member of the University of Portsmouth, Port Towns & Urban Cultures Project.

    Kinsi Abdulleh is a visual artist, a social activist and the founder of NUMBI Arts.

    View from the roof of Mosque Tower, Whitechapel Road, 2016, photograph by Rehan Jamil for the Survey of London

    Bengalis in London’s East End
    Julie Begum

    This presentation will trace the history of the Bengali community in the East End since the seventeenth century, looking at early settlers and more recent post-war Bengali migration history, characteristics and differences, relationship to Empire, and social dynamics.

    Julie Begum is Co-founder and Chair of the Swadhinata Trust (www.swadhinata.org.uk) and the recipient of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets Civic Award for Outstanding Service to the Community 2017.

    Heritage and Community
    Emily Gee, Hudda Khaireh, Will Palin, Howard Spencer

    This discussion will address Whitechapel’s histories in relation to conservation (current and past), loss, memorialisation, sites of memory and questions of identity and authenticity in relation to heritage and its definitions.

    Emily Gee is Historic England’s London Planning Director. She has worked at Historic England since 2001 and served as Head of Listing Advice from 2011 to 2016. Emily also leads Historic England’s Twentieth Century Network. She has published on Victorian and Edwardian housing for working women and on listing, including post-war buildings and issues of diversity. Emily is a member of the Survey of London’s Whitechapel project’s steering group and advisory panel.

    Hudda Khaireh is an independent researcher with a background in Public International Law and a member of Thick/er Black Lines artist collective.

    Will Palin is the Director of Conservation at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and a former Director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage. He is also a founder of the East End Preservation Society.

    Howard Spencer is a senior historian with English Heritage with responsibility for London’s blue plaques scheme. He is the editor of The English Heritage Guide to London’s Blue Plaques.

    Mapping workshop at London Enterprise Academy, 2017

    Hido Raac: Place-making and Demarcating
    Hudda Khaireh

    History is the fruits of power, but power itself is never so transparent that its analysis becomes superfluous. The ultimate mark of power may be its invisibility; the ultimate challenge, the exposition of its roots.
    – Historian Professor Michel-Rolph Trouillot

    Hido Raac is a waking Odyssey, exploring the sites and histories of the Somali community in East London to open discussions on how communities and geographies are formed as well as the events, institutions and ideologies that shape our understanding or ‘mapping’ of an area. Hudda’s contribution to the Whitechapel History Fest will be to share her experiences of the Hido Raac project – particularly the sites identified and community stories connected to Whitechapel.

    Hudda Khaireh is an independent researcher with a background in Public International Law and a member of Thick/er Black Lines artist collective.

    Histories from the Archives
    Malcolm Barr-Hamilton, Dor Duncan, Jamil Sherif

    Archives, whether formally constituted and public, or more contingent in nature, are an essential source for understanding the historic built environment and the people that shape it, perhaps all the more so in an area like Whitechapel that has seen so many changes. This discussion with examples from the Tower Hamlets Archives, the newly opened archive at the East London Mosque and others will foreground different ways archives can enhance awareness of local and wider histories and multiple voices.

    Malcolm Barr-Hamilton has long been the Borough Archivist for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

    Dor Duncan is an artist and archivist at Whitechapel Gallery.

    Jamil Sherif is part of the Research and Documentation group at the Muslim Council of Britian, and the Chair of the East London Mosque Archives Steering Group. He has set up the first formal archive of a Muslim organisation in the UK, now situated in the East London Mosque and publicly accessible. His biography of Abdullah Yusuf Ali, the most widely read English translator of the Quran, Searching for Solace was published in 1994 and he continues to research and write on the key figures of British Muslim history.

    ‘Whitechapel Boys’: The view from Whitechapel across one hundred years
    Chris Searle and Ron McCormick

    In April 2018, the writer Chris Searle and photographer Ron McCormick published a re-appraisal of the poetry of the World War One poet Isaac Rosenberg to mark the centenary of his death in the French trenches at the end of the great conflict. The book tells the story of Rosenberg’s early development as an English artist in the first two decades of the twentieth century and is controversially illustrated with McCormick’s photographs of Spitalfields and Whitechapel taken during the 1970s when the area was undergoing a rapid change from a community of predominantly émigré Jews and facing a new influx of immigrants from the Indian sub-continent. Searle explores these cultural and political influences in his text and develops a thesis about the development and value of Rosenberg’s poetry for a modern society. While the changing culture of the vibrant multi-ethnic district of East London of modern times echoes the experiences and earlier world of Rosenberg and his fellow Whitechapel Boys sixty years before. The whole is underpinned with a powerful visual picture of Whitechapel as it might have appeared in the 1920s mirrored through McCormick’s photographs as a record of a similar patchwork of family and tenement living, street life, poverty and industry, told through the faces of Whitechapel people in the 1970s. In many ways Searle and McCormick’s partnership and their engagement in the life and culture of East London reflect the creative endeavours and experiences of their earlier forebears, the ‘Whitechapel Boys’.

    Chris Searle has written or edited over fifty books on subjects as diverse as education, poetry, language, journalism, cricket and jazz. Among them The Forsaken Lover (which won the Martin Luther King Award in 1973), Classrooms of Resistance, The World in a Classroom, Words Unchained: Language and Revolution in Grenada, Your Daily Dose: Racism and ‘The Sun’, Pitch of Life and Forward Groove. He writes a weekly jazz column for the socialist daily newspaper, the Morning Star. In 1971 he collaborated with Ron McCormick to produce the influential book of schoolkids poetry, Stepney Words, and a number of other projects in East London, most recently Stepney Words III (commissioned by Rich Mix, the Shoreditch media arts centre). Together they produced and published Whitechapel Boy, a reappraisal of the poetry of the First World War poet, Isaac Rosenberg, to commemorate the centenary of the poet’s death in the French trenches in April 1918.

    Ron McCormick’s photographs, ‘Neighbours – Spitalfields to Whitechapel’ were exhibited at Whitechapel Art Gallery and The Serpentine Gallery. He was a commissioned artist for the seminal exhibition ‘Inside Whitechapel’ (Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1973). With a background in both fine art and documentary photography, he has been involved in social and community initiatives since the early 1970s. He taught at the prestigious School of Documentary Photography in Newport, South Wales, and Southampton Solent University where he established the university art collection and became its first curator (2001–14). He is represented in the collections of the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, The National Library of Wales, The Arts Council of Great Britain, The Crafts Council, Contemporary Arts Society for Wales, Fotogallery Wales, and Curtin University, Perth, Australia.

    George Holland: Whitechapel’s Unsung Hero
    David Charnick

    From the 1850s until his death in 1900, merchant-turned-evangelist George Holland worked to help relieve the distress caused by poverty in the Whitechapel area. Despite his considerable efforts, he is almost unknown today; this presentation will show why he deserves to be better known.

    David Charnick is a City of London guide who also guides extensively in Tower Hamlets. Additionally he teaches tour guiding courses through the borough’s Idea Store Learning adult education service. He is the author of The Dark Side of East London, which considers life in the East End in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

    Stories from my time at the London Hospital
    Jil Cove

    Jil Cove looks back over fifty years in Whitechapel, from her early days as a student midwife at the London Hospital to her life now in Old Castle Street.

    Jil Cove came to work at the London Hospital in 1961. She fell in love with the area and has stayed ever since.

    The Co-operative Wholesale Society’s buildings in Whitechapel
    Rebecca Preston

    The Co-operative Wholesale Society was headquartered on Leman Street and Prescot Street from 1881. Its significance in the area’s history is represented by some impressive buildings, now converted to other uses.

    Rebecca Preston is based at Royal Holloway, University of London, and also teaches at the Institute of Historical Research. She is currently engaged as a researcher/writer for the Survey of London’s work on Whitechapel. She has recently been a research associate on another AHRC-funded project, ‘Pets and Family Life in England and Wales, 1837–1939’. Her research spans the history of urban and suburban development, including parks and gardens and different kinds of living space in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Britain, and she has a particular interest in the relationship of people to place.

    Exploring Wilton’s Music Hall and its history
    Carole Zeidman

    Carole will talk about Wilton’s in the context of Whitechapel, the factors for the building’s exceptional survival, and its continuing fascination today.

    Carole Zeidman is an ‘Old East Ender’, who lived in Cable Street as a young child in the 1950s and was Wilton’s Historian and Senior Tour Guide from March 2011 to December 2017.

    East End Vernacular: The artists who painted the East End streets in the 20th century
    The Gentle Author

    The Gentle Author will speak about a subject that he published in book form in 2017.

    The Gentle Author has been publishing a daily story about the culture of the East End on the Spitalfields Life blog for the past nine years and is the author of a number of books including Spitalfields Life, The Gentle Author’s London Album, The Cries of London and East End Vernacular.

    Graces Alley with the entrance to Wilton’s Music Hall in 2018, photograph by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London

    Saturday 27th October – 10am–4.45pm

    Life in the East End
    Imam Ajmal Masroor

    Ajmal Masroor will speak about Whitechapel as he knows it and knew it from childhood. He will tell some stories around photographs that represent his own memories and experiences.

    Ajmal Masroor is a renowned broadcaster, commentator and Imam with his roots in the East End. In 2014 he was recognised in the Muslim 500 as one of the most influential Muslims in the world today. He has presented programmes on BBC One, Channel 4, Islam Channel and Channel S. He writes regularly on socio-political and spiritual issues facing the world in general but the Muslim community in particular. His writing has been published by Emel, the New Statesman, The Guardian and the Evening Standard. He leads Friday prayers at four mosques in London: Goodge Street, Palmers Green, West Ealing and Wightman Road in Haringey. He studied Islam, politics, Arabic language and relationship counselling. He holds an MA from Birkbeck College, University of London.

    Survival and Traces: Whitechapel’s pre-Victorian buildings
    Peter Guillery

    Development pressure is not a new phenomenon in Whitechapel. Waves of investment and improvement across centuries have displaced most of early Whitechapel’s buildings, in many cases genuinely for the better. There are a few notable survivals, of fabric if not of function, as at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, St George’s German Lutheran Church, and the former Davenant School. Other sites exhibit more partial, even hidden traces of medieval, early-modern and Georgian Whitechapel, examples such as Altab Ali Park and Wellclose Square.

    Peter Guillery is an architectural historian and editor for the Survey of London, where he is the Principal Investigator for the AHRC-funded ‘Histories of Whitechapel’ project. Away from the Survey, his publications include The Small House in Eighteenth-Century London, and, as editor, Built from Below: British Architecture and the Vernacular and Mobilising Housing Histories: Learning from London’s Past (with David Kroll).

    Sharing Local History
    Celeste, Gary Hutton, Danny McLaughlin

    This session will be focussed on the experiences of three local residents, who all know and love Whitechapel, but who have different stories of place to tell. It is a forum to reflect on the diverse ways in which they have gathered and shared local history within the community, and what motivates them to do so. The discussion will consider the use of digital and social-media platforms as well as oral history and photography.

    Celeste is a teacher and performance artist based in Shoreditch. Celeste presents new works exploring themes of time, place and identity in London.

    Gary Hutton comes from a very colourful background, having spent his life growing up in Whitechapel. Gary’s Whitechapel is a very different place, and with a different view, from many, as the social history of Whitechapel is runnning through his veins. Gary will talk about the Whitechapel he loves and around which he guides the occasional walking tour to provide a different view of Whitechapel. In his spare time, Gary helps run two sites on social media, one being the Facebook group ‘Whitechapel Born n Bred’ and he is also the founder and chief executive of the charity Product of a Postcode.

    Danny McLaughlin was born in, and has lived his whole life in Whitechapel. Though his work takes him worldwide investigating fraud, he is always happiest at home in E1.

    The former Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel Road, 2016, photograph by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London

    The expansion and remodelling of the London Hospital, 1884–1919
    Amy Smith

    In the second half of the nineteenth century, the London Hospital was one of the largest general hospitals in the country. Approximately 800 beds for more than twenty-one types of patients, all treated for free, were arranged across an extensive historic building that had gradually become outdated. This talk explores the remodelling and enlargement of the hospital between 1884 and 1919 to form a sprawling medical complex that functioned on modern lines. A century later, much of that complex has been demolished and altered as part of the hospital’s transferral to a new tower block.

    Amy Smith works as an historian on the Survey of London. She has recently researched the Royal London Hospital for the current study of Whitechapel and is now working on a forthcoming volume on Oxford Street.

    Sugarhouses and German Refiners
    Andrew Byrne, Sigrid Werner

    Sugar refining, widespread in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Whitechapel, was very largely managed by German immigrants. Andrew will talk about sugar-baking or sugar-refining houses, their impact on the East End, their architects and their demise. Sigrid will talk about the development of the German immigrant community in the East End, its churches, schools and synagogues and its destruction in World War One.

    Andrew Byrne is an architectural historian. He ran the Spitalfields Trust in the 1990s and is the founder of LONDON 1840, which is building a scale model of London as it was in that year.

    Sigrid Werner has been a resident of Tower Hamlets for almost twenty years and of London for over thirty years. She is a theologian by training and a local historian for the East End. She specialises in the history of the German community in Tower Hamlets, was one of the authors of the 250th anniversary exhibition at St George’s German Lutheran Church in Alie Street, and has also published on Islington and Tower Hamlets church history and local family history. She works locally with an education charity.

    Citizens of No Mean City: Toynbee Hall, Whitechapel Gallery and the Survey of London
    Aileen Reid

    In 1873 an idealistic young clergyman and his wife arrived in ‘the worst parish in London’, keen to make a difference. By the end of the century they had created Toynbee Hall and were building Whitechapel Gallery, and had nurtured the young C. R. Ashbee, who founded the Survey of London in the 1890s. This talk will explore the common and sometimes problematic origins of these now rather disparate enterprises.

    Aileen Reid has been a research associate on the Survey of London since 2005, currently working on Whitechapel’s historic core around the High Street, and as web co-editor of the Whitechapel Histories project. Her interests focus on the long nineteenth century, from the ‘art architects’ (monographs on E. W. Godwin and a group of C. F. A. Voysey townhouses will be published in 2020) to housing reform, and the use of film as a research tool in architectural history.

    East End Rebels 1880s to 1930s
    David Rosenberg

    In the struggle for better lives in the East End, sweatshop workers downed tools, bakers formed workers’ cooperatives, women organised rent strikes, councillors went to prison, people built barricades, and police were pelted with kitchen implements. In this talk you will discover who was agitating, rioting and refusing to accept injustice and inequality and what they achieved.

    David Rosenberg is a writer, educator and tour guide who focuses on London’s radical history. He is the author of Rebel Footprints and Battle for the East End and has a website at www.eastendwalks.com.

    Film premiere: ‘Changing Tastes; Whitechapel’s south Asian restaurants’
    Nurull Islam and Rehan Jamil

    The premiere of a short film commissioned by the Survey of London on the south Asian restaurant scene in Whitechapel. It can be argued that the palate is one of the best barometers of social change, and Whitechapel’s history can certainly be tracked through its menus and restaurants. This film captures one strand of this history, looking at how Bangladeshi and Pakistani migrants established both themselves and a new cuisine in Whitechapel, how this has evolved and where it is going. Interviews and new footage provide a fascinating insight into a vibrant and important aspect of Whitechapel’s story.

    Nurull Islam is Centre Director for the Mile End Community Project.

    Rehan Jamil is a documentary photographer who is primarily concerned with communities in transition. Rehan completed a long-term personal project ‘The East End of Islam’ (1997–2007) a photographic documentary relating to the Muslim community in Tower Hamlets and around the East London Mosque. Rehan’s photographs have been exhibited in many galleries and museums including the Whitechapel Gallery, the Station Gallery Frankfurt, Ragged School Museum, Bruce Castle Museum, the Menier Gallery and St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace. Rehan is the author of several books including Common Ground: Portraits of Tower Hamlets, Ocean Views, Common Ground: Aspects of Contemporary British Muslim Experience and Peace by Piece.

    The Jagonari Centre and the East London Mosque: Architecture in the 1980s
    Shahed Saleem

    The 1980s saw the completion of two major landmarks for the local community in Whitechapel. This talk will trace the trajectory of these projects, how they started, developed, and the struggles that they endured and overcame. The architectural process that led to the buildings that stand today, one a place of worship and the other a community facility, will also be described, drawing on the material that has been gathered through the Survey’s research project.

    Shahed Saleem is a Senior Research Fellow at the Survey of London, a practicing architect, and a design studio tutor at the University of Westminster School of Architecture. His particular research interests are in the architecture of migrant and post-migrant communities, and in particular their relationship to notions of heritage, belonging and nationhood. He has authored The British Mosque, an architectural and social history, published by Historic England.

    The former Jagonari Women’s Centre, Whitechapel Road, 2017, photograph by Shahed Saleem for the Survey of London

    The Survey of London’s ‘Histories of Whitechapel’ Project Reviewed
    Open discussion led by Peter Guillery

    This session is intended as a general discussion, to sum up the Whitechapel History Fest and to reflect on the Survey of London’s website-based work in Whitechapel.

    Whitechapel: An Historical Overview
    Dan Cruickshank

    Dan Cruickshank will draw on deep familiarity with and knowledge of Whitechapel and its buildings, looking back to sum up proceedings with an account of works carried out by the Spitalfields Trust in Whitechapel.

    Dan Cruickshank is an architectural historian, a television presenter and the author of numerous books, including Spitalfields: The History of a Nation in a Handful of Streets. As a long-standing resident of E1 he knows Whitechapel well.

    Tower House (former Rowton House), 81 Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel

    By the Survey of London, on 28 September 2018

    With its distinctive roofline and seven storeys rising sixty feet, Tower House is a local landmark that did indeed tower above its neighbours when first built. Initially called Rowton House, Whitechapel, the building opened in 1902 and was the fifth of six ‘Rowton Houses’ established in London between 1892 and 1905 to provide decent, low-cost accommodation for single working men. Known as Tower House from 1961, during the late 1970s the building was found to be inadequate as housing and began to decline. After various schemes to adapt it for use as a public building and supported housing fell through, Tower House was sold to a developer and converted to upmarket apartments in 2005–8.

    Tower House, Fieldgate Street, view from the southwest in 2016. Photograph by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London

    Rowton Houses were large model lodging houses founded by Montagu (‘Monty’) Lowry Corry, later Lord Rowton (1838–1903), Tory politician, nephew of the seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, and former secretary to the Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli. Rowton was appointed Chairman, the other founding directors being Cecil Ashley, Richard Farrant and Walter Long, MP and former Chairman of the Local Government Board; after accepting a Cabinet post, Long was replaced by William Morris (junior), a partner in the firm of Ashurst Morris Crisp, which acted as the company’s solicitors.

    Rowton House, Whitechapel from the east, c.1903. (From Jack London, The People of the Abyss, 1903)

    Known as ‘hotels for working men’, the buildings were a response to the capital’s housing crisis of the 1880s, intended as superior alternatives to the common lodging house, where the poorest Londoners slept in dormitories over a shared kitchen. Like other kinds of model housing, Rowton Houses were intended to be models of hygiene and order, and as models for other organisations to follow. Rather than being purely charitable institutions, they were designed to turn a modest profit for shareholders, on the model of five per cent or ‘remunerative’ philanthropy. The local and national press, and medical, architectural, sanitary, and municipal journals were broadly supportive of the Houses’ improving aims and reported on them at length.

    Rowton Houses were not intended to be the cheapest lodgings. Common lodging houses cost from around 4per night in London at this time and the London County Council (LCC) initially charged 5at its municipal lodging house. Rowton Houses insisted that their enterprises were not charitable or philanthropic organisations but poor men’s clubs or hotels. At the opening of the Whitechapel House, the chairman, Richard Farrant, was reported as saying privately that ‘the Carlton and Reform Clubs might have superior upholstery but that there was not a club in London where a man could live so comfortably, economically, and healthily as at the Rowton Houses’. [1] The press made frequent approving comparisons with gentlemen’s clubs and, in many ways, including the exclusion of women, the suites of dayrooms and the encouragement of male sociability, Rowton Houses did resemble all-male elite clubs.

    The first Rowton House opened at Vauxhall in 1892 (470 cubicles). King’s Cross opened in 1896 (677), Newington Butts in 1897 (805), Hammersmith in 1899 (800), Whitechapel in 1902 (816) and Camden Town (Arlington House) in 1905 (1,087). The architect for all apart from Vauxhall was Harry Bell Measures, whose characteristic red-brick blocks lined with slit windows, leavened with gables, turrets and terracotta detailing, created a new and easily recognisable style of building in the capital. Of the five London Rowton Houses designed by Measures, only Tower House and Arlington House survive and only Arlington remains in use as a hostel.

    The Whitechapel building was made up of two adjoining parallelograms separated by an inner courtyard open at one end, in order to provide good air circulation and light. On concrete-clad steel construction, the elevations are in pressed Leicester facing bricks, with Fletton bricks on inward faces. Semi-circular windows face outwards from the dayrooms on the first two floors, including in the two bays at this level (one of which has been replaced by a new entrance), and above these are the rows of narrow windows to the hundreds of cubicles, the sashes and frames to which have been replaced throughout the building. Externally, the expanse of brick is relieved with gables, turrets and pink terracotta dressings, and the large projecting porch, flanked with octagonal finials, and which served as the original entrance, is also of terracotta. The diminutive cherub presently seated on the central finial is a recent addition; it replaced a larger figure of a child holding a globe on his shoulders, which may have represented a young Atlas.

    Original entrance porch at Tower House, 2016. Photograph by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London

    Originally the first two floors (known as the ‘entrance floor’ and, above that, the ‘ground floor’) contained the office, staff quarters, and the lodgers’ kitchen, dining and other dayrooms, washing facilities, lockers and services; above these were five floors of cubicles, whose rows of narrow windows contributed to the building’s outwardly institutional appearance. When Measures was asked why he didn’t group his windows, he replied that ‘if I yield to that temptation, then the sleeper has to pay the penalty for the sake of my elevation. Personally, I think the sleeper comes first and that my elevations should truthfully proclaim it’. [2] Despite the new entrance and alterations to the windows made as part of the 2005–8 conversion, the Fieldgate Street elevation still reads as a Rowton House, the major alterations to the exterior being the penthouse floor and at the rear of the building.

    On entering Rowton House, Whitechapel, lodgers bought a ticket at the office window and, if they wished, weekly lodgers could pay a 6deposit for a locker, before passing through a turnstile and into a vestibule. From here, lodgers could go up a flight of stairs to a small ‘glass-roofed lounge with palms and flowers’. [3] Or they could enter the main corridor, on the lower ground ‘entrance floor’, which ran east–west through the building. The lockers, and the sinks, baths and footbaths (free), baths (1including soap and towel) and facilities for washing and drying clothes, were all located on the east side of this floor. The tailor, shoemender and barber were in the same area. Once clean and dressed, the men could go to their cubicle for the night or make use of the dining and recreation rooms up to a certain time in the evening.

    Rowton House, Whitechapel, plan of the entrance floor, from The Brickbuilder, July 1903. (Courtesy of the California History Room, California State Library, Sacramento, California) Please click on the image to view a larger version. 

    A huge dining room occupied the centre of the entrance floor, with seating at teak tables for 456 men. Lodgers could cook their own suppers over a range, either with food they brought with them or from ingredients bought at the shop. Alternatively, they could buy a cooked meal at prices which, as the company stressed, amounted to little above cost, achieved through the bulk buying of provisions. Lodgers could purchase a pint of tea in a special Rowton House-emblazoned mug for a penny in 1906, while 5bought a plate of roast mutton or beef with seasonal vegetables followed by a hot pudding. Top-lit and ventilated with lantern lights, the dining room was finished with the same ‘high dado of glazed brickwork in tints of cream and chocolate’, as found throughout the dayrooms. [4] Due to the size and function of the building, institutional associations were impossible to escape but the aim was to mitigate this through dayroom arrangements and decoration and, at Fieldgate Street, to ‘give an effect of sprightliness and comfort’. [5] Framed pictures hung on the walls, the plastering ‘tinted to a shade of terracotta’ above the tiling.[6] While Measures was responsible for the design of the building, Rowton and Farrant personally oversaw the interior design and decoration, choosing the bedding, furniture, pictures and, even, at King’s Cross, a stag’s head shot by Rowton, for the walls.

    Rowton House, Whitechapel, dining room, from The Brickbuilder, July 1903. (Courtesy of the California History Room, California State Library, Sacramento, California)

    On the south side of the corridor on the entrance floor lay the smaller smoking room, its windows in the central bays looking, through the railings, into Fieldgate Street. This had space for 140 lodgers at teak tables with additional easy chairs around the fire places at each end. Cards and games of chance which might encourage gambling were banned but chess and draughts were provided.

    The reading room lay immediately above the smoking room on what was known as the (upper) ground floor. This was fitted with cupboards for newspapers and bookcases, from which lodgers could borrow books on application to the Superintendent, open bookcases having been abandoned across the Houses after thefts made it necessary to lock them.

    Rowton House, Whitechapel, plan of the ‘ground’ (first) floor, from The Brickbuilder, July 1903. (Courtesy of the California History Room, California State Library, Sacramento, California) Please click on the image to view a larger version.

    A series of panels ‘emblematic of “the Seasons”’ hung in the reading room. These took up a large part of the back wall facing the windows onto Fieldgate Street, fitted above the tiling. As was widely reported, these were ‘painted by Mr H. F. Strachey of Clutton, near Bristol, a cousin of Lytton Strachey and art critic of The Spectator. They were given by him as the practical interest of an artist in the elevating work of a Rowton House’. [7] ‘Each season is represented by a single figure and also by a larger composition, while over the fireplace in the middle is a small allegorical work. In it a symbolical figure of England sits enthroned, while the fruits of the land are brought to her by the cultivators’. [8]

    There were no panels in the other Rowton Houses and it is not known what happened to those at Fieldgate Street. It is possible that they were lost during alterations of 1953, which divided the Reading Room into a Billiard Room and a Quiet Room.

    Near the reading room was a door to the open-air or smoking lounge. As at the previous Rowton Houses, this was formed on the roofs of the rooms below, in this case the kitchen, dining and washroom areas. Invisible from the street, this space, in the void which allowed air and light to circulate within the building, was fifty feet wide and surrounded on three sides by the cubicle floors. Benches were placed around the lantern lights and it was laid out with tubs of flowers as a roof garden. Like the decoration, pictures and pot plants within the House, the garden was an attempt to de-institutionalise the buildings.

    Rowton Houses prided themselves on the superior size and construction of their cubicles and on the quality of the beds and bedding. After experiments with shared dormitories at Vauxhall proved unpopular, all subsequent Houses were provided with individual sleeping cubicles. These measured 5ft by 7ft 6inches and were 9ft high. Each lodger had a sash window under his own control, an iron bedstead with a sprung mattress, a clothes hook, and a chair. The partitions (of strong pine, rather than iron as in shelters and some model lodging houses) reached nearly to the ceiling, with a space at the top. Initially this was left open but in the early twentieth century was meshed in after ‘fishing’ by residents into neighbouring cubicles showed that valuables were unsafe. By this means visual privacy was achieved while ensuring the building remained light and well ventilated.

    Rowton House, Whitechapel, footbaths, a cubicle and corridor, from The Brickbuilder, July 1903. (Courtesy of the California History Room, California State Library, Sacramento, California) Please click on the image to view a larger version.

    This account is extracted from a fuller history by Dr Rebecca Preston for the Survey of London (link). That draws on the project, At Home in the Institution? Asylum, School and Lodging House Interiors in London and South-East England, 18451914, led by Jane Hamlett at Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2010–11, and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (RES-061-25-0389).

    [1] Yorkshire Post, 7 August 1902, p.6.

    [2] British Architect, 22 March 1901, p.213.

    [3] Yorkshire Post, 7 August 1902, p.6.

    [4] East London Observer, 9 August 1902, p. 8

    [5] London Evening Standard, 7 August 1902, p.7.

    [6] East London Observer, 9 August 1902, p.8.

    [7] The Brickbuilder, July 1903, p.144.

    [8] Municipal Journal, 8 August 1902, p. 648.

    Two curiosities on the London Hospital estate in Whitechapel

    By the Survey of London, on 6 July 2018

    The Governors of the London Hospital acquired a large tract of land to the south and south-west of their hospital in the eighteenth century. Initially this was a buffer, to preserve healthful open space. But it was soon built up, largely with streets of houses, and has more recently been redeveloped in parts for hospital expansion. This post presents two unconnected but differently surprising sites on this territory, one on either side of New Road.

    London Action Resource Centre, 62 Fieldgate Street

    This building has a remarkable chequered, yet consistent, and distinctly Whitechapelian history. It was erected in 1866–7 as a mission house and infants’ school for the parish of St Mary Matfelon Whitechapel. First plans were to extend on the garden of an existing house, but in July 1866 the Rev. James Cohen gained the London Hospital’s approval for complete rebuilding, displacing two houses on Charlotte Street (as the east end of Fieldgate Street was called until 1894), the second so that the top end of Parfett Street (formerly Nottingham Place and a cul-de-sac) could be narrowly opened up. The establishment was known variously as St Mary’s Mission House and the Charlotte Street Infants’ School, the building’s purpose signalled through the use of simple Gothic Revival forms. The originally single-storey rear range had high-silled segment-headed windows and a glazed roof to a room for mothers’ meetings, evening readings and mission work. It communicated with the main block through a wide pointed-arched opening. Double-iron handrails on the main block’s stairs seem designed to provide for young children. Mission use continued up to about 1918.

    62 Fieldgate Street, Whitechapel, as built in 1866-7 as the Charlotte Street Infants’ School and Mission House. (from the parish of St Mary Matfelon’s annual report of 1883-4, Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives)

    The building was next used for a few years by Jewish anarchists as an International Modern School, following the inspiration of libertarian and non-coercive ‘modern’ schools established in Barcelona by Francesc Ferrer I Guàrdia. Attendance rose to more than 100, but funding difficulties prevented longevity. Arbeter Fraynd (Worker’s Friend), a Yiddish radical weekly paper, and its Jubilee Street anarchists’ club premises had been shut down in 1915. For a time the building at 62 Fieldgate Street was also used as the New Worker’s Friend Club, and by the East London Anarchist Group.

    In 1925 the building was converted into a synagogue for the Linus Hazedek and Bikur Cholim congregation, founded with a mission to help the sick, and moving here from Burslem Street on the other side of Commercial Road. Parfett Street had been further widened to the west in 1902–3, and a new door was formed in that side elevation in 1934, but the synagogue did not survive beyond the 1940s. Abraham Spitalowitch, a tailor, was in occupation by 1951, and other garment-makers passed through. Conversion works for continued rag-trade use that included raising of the former classroom to the rear were intended from 1978, but not carried through, though a shopfront for a showroom was inserted in 1981 for Sophia Fashions. Thereafter the building fell into dereliction.

    The London Action Resource Centre, 62 Fieldgate Street, view from the north east in 2016. (Photograph by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London)

    In 1999 a group arising from that decade’s Reclaim The Streets movement conceived the need for a base or action resource centre for direct-action and anarchist groups. Without awareness of the building’s history, 62 Fieldgate Street was purchased, largely through a single supporter with inherited wealth. Refurbishment works for office, workshop and library use as what was initially the Fieldgate Action Resource Centre were carried out in 2001–2 to plans by Anne Thorne Architects Partnership. These involved rebuilding and raising the rear section, which was given a roof garden. Figural graffiti on the shutters is by Stik.

    Shuttered shopfront at 62 Fieldgate Street, with graffiti by Stik. (Photograph by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London)

    Front door at 62 Fieldgate Street. (Photograph by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London)

    The Survey of London gratefully acknowledges information supplied by Mark Kauri, Laura Oldfield Ford, Tina Papanikolaou and Aikaterina Karadima.

    The Blizard Building, 4 Newark Street

    This sleek glass-fronted block was constructed in 2003–5 to provide a medical research centre for Queen Mary University of London. It was designed by the late Will Alsop in collaboration with AMEC, with Adams Kara Taylor as structural engineers. The building occupies an extensive site on the London Hospital estate, bounded by Newark Street to the north, Turner Street to the east, and Walden Street to the south, with its western boundary abutting the university’s Abernethy Building and Biosciences Innovation Centre.

    The Blizard Building, looking north in early 2018. (Photograph by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London)

    The Blizard Building is composed of two narrow glass-clad steel-framed pavilions east and west, separated by a central paved yard. These discrete monolithic blocks are connected at first-floor level by a slender bridge encased in panels of bright pink and red glass, and an extensive concrete basement that engulfs the larger part of the footprint of the site. The glass cladding of the pavilions is adorned by a series of colourful panels designed by the artist Bruce Mclean, and incorporates words chosen by Professor Mike Curtis and Professor Fran Balkwill, scientists based at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry at Queen Mary University. The building is named in honour of Sir William Blizard, the eminent surgeon and one of the founders of the medical college which opened at the London Hospital in the 1780s.

    The west elevation of the east pavilion of the Blizard Building, showing a few of the abstract panels designed by Bruce Mclean in collaboration with professors at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry. The white elliptical Cloud pod is visible inside the building. (Photograph by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London)

    The east pavilion of the Blizard Building comprises offices and study spaces skirting a large void, occupied by four pods of pioneering constructional complexity, each ‘playful, curvaceous, hollow and equally outlandish in different ways’. [1] Supported by a series of steel props and suspended steel hoops, Centre of the Cell is a two-storey children’s educational unit and exhibition space encased in an orange bubbling structure inspired by the nucleus of a cell. Its smooth surface contrasts markedly with Spiky, a prickly steel-framed structure zipped in a black PVC-coated polyester membrane. Both structures were designed and assembled in collaboration with Architen Landrell. Design & Display was contracted to produce Cloud, a steel-framed elliptical structure raised on steel legs, and Mushroom, an open deck supported by three vertical concrete posts. Cloud and Spiky contain spaces for seminars and meetings, and Mushroom is a staff social area.

    The east pavilion of the Blizard Building, looking towards Spiky, a pod designed by Will Alsop in collaboration with Architen Landrell. (Photograph by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London)

    The narrower west pavilion contains a double-height entrance foyer with a cafe, service plants, and a lecture theatre with tiered seating for 400 spectators. The large basement extends beneath the pavilions and the yard, receiving natural light from circular skylights and the light well in the east pavilion. It contains an assortment of open-plan and separate research laboratories.

    The latest ‘neuron’ pod in the course of construction, May 2018. (Photographed by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London)

    At the time of writing, a ‘neuron’ pod is in the course of installation at the north end of the bleak yard between the pavilions. Accessed via the central glazed bridge, this addition is intended to provide space for educational workshops, events and exhibitions. Designed by Will Alsop to represent a nerve cell, the new pod will be a prefabricated steel-framed structure resting on three legs, its main body encased in a steel skin sprouting acrylic fibres.

    The Blizard Building from Turner Street, showing the reflection of the modern block of the Royal London Hospital and the Yvonne Carter Building, a neo-Georgian block of 1975–7 designed to imitate the scale and materials of houses built on the hospital’s estate in the nineteenth century. (Photograph by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London)

    References

    [1] Building, Vol. 270, No. 8383 (27 May 2005), pp. 38–45.

    Whitechapel pubs (and a brewery)

    By the Survey of London, on 13 April 2018

    As part of the Survey of London’s ‘Histories of Whitechapel’ project and for eventual publication in our Whitechapel volumes, Derek Kendall has been photographing the area. Lately, through the winter months, he has been concentrating his attention on pubs. These recent photographs illustrate a range of interiors and exteriors, some of better-known pubs and others less well known.

    The Princess of Prussia Public House, 15 Prescot Street. Built in 1913 and a good example of an attractively legible Trumans façade. (© Derek Kendall)

    Bar Indo, 133 Whitechapel Road. Built in 1854 as The Blue Anchor Public House after its predecessor was destroyed in a fire. Until the 1760s the pub on this site was called the David and Harp. (© Derek Kendall)

    Interior of Bar Indo, 133 Whitechapel Road, recast with the front window in 1928 for Charringtons. The Blue Anchor sign is in storage above the entrance lobby. (© Derek Kendall)

    View of bar with owners Peter and Katy Clarke. Bar Indo, 133 Whitechapel Road. (© Derek Kendall)

    The Blind Beggar Public House, 337 Whitechapel Road. A Tudor ballad about Henry de Montfort, who died in the Battle of Evesham in 1265, imagined that he survived blinded to be rescued by a woman from Bethnal Green, where he ended his days begging. That parish once hosted other pubs of the same name. This establishment’s origins seem to be late seventeenth century. The present building dates from 1894 when it was erected to designs by Robert Spence, the engineer and architect to Mann, Crossman & Paulin. (© Derek Kendall)

    The Blind Beggar, 337 Whitechapel Road. The blood-red ceilinged interior has been much remodelled. Latter-day notoriety turns around this pub being the site of the shooting of Georgie Cornell by Ronnie Kray in 1966. (© Derek Kendall)

    Exterior of The White Swan Public House, Alie Street, Whitechapel. Originally built in the early nineteenth century, this pub’s fabric has undergone substantial changes since then. (© Derek Kendall)

    The Brown Bear Public House, 139 Leman Street. This pub was in existence by 1745 and is said to have been rebuilt in 1830. (© Derek Kendall)

    View from the east of The Black Horse Public House, 40 Leman Street. An inn and public house has stood on this site since the late seventeenth century. The present building appears to date from 1879. (© Derek Kendall)

    View from the south of The White Hart Public House and Gunthorpe Street Passage. The White Hart is the only long-standing pub left on the north side of the High Street. On the corner of Gunthorpe Street, an alleyway established by the sixteenth century and formerly known as George Yard, it was certainly here by 1723, when sixteen apparently smuggled bushels of coffee ‘concealed in a Load of Faggots’, were confiscated from the yard of the White Hart Inn. The pub was probably rebuilt in the 1770s and its pilastered frontage dates from a modernisation of the 1830s. (© Derek Kendall)

    Front bar of the White Hart Public House. The interior is typical Brewers’ Tudor, from further renovations in the 1920s and 1930s, with dark panelling and suburban-deco leaded-glass panels in the roof light in the rear bar. (© Derek Kendall)

    View from the south of Albion Yard, formerly The Albion Brewery, 331–335 Whitechapel Road, which grew from origins in 1807 to become one of London’s major breweries under Mann, Crossman & Paulin, a major local employer and supplier up to closure in 1979. The brewery has been included here partly on account of its links to the longer-lived Blind Beggar public house immediately to its east. (© Derek Kendall)

    View of the clock tower of Albion Yard, formerly The Albion Brewery, 331–335 Whitechapel Road. The Albion Brewery was established behind the Blind Beggar in 1807. It was rebuilt and extended in 1863–8 and 1894–1902 for Mann, Crossman & Paulin. In 1958 merger with Watney Combe Reid & Co. created Watney Mann but a restructuring scheme led to closure of the brewery in 1979. The building was converted to flats in 1993–5. (© Derek Kendall)

    South elevation of Albion Yard, formerly The Albion Brewery, 331–335 Whitechapel Road. As The Buildings of England has it, this ‘brewhouse’ or fermenting house at the rear of the entrance courtyard is ’embellished in show-off Baroque style’. [1] That work of the late 1890s is likely due to Robert Spence, who was then Mann, Crossman & Paulin’s engineer and architect. The boldly sculpted St George and Dragon panel is the brewery’s trademark, a reference to the patron saint of Albion. (© Derek Kendall)

    Reference

    [1] Bridget Cherry, Charles O’Brien and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England, London 5: East, 2005, p. 431.

    The Davenant Centre, 179–181 Whitechapel Road: part two

    By the Survey of London, on 23 March 2018

    A previous blog post (2 March 2018) presented the history of the Davenant School in Whitechapel from the 1680s through to the rebuilding of the Whitechapel Road front building in 1818. The two centuries since are accounted for here. Following closure of the Davenant Centre in 2017, the future of the site seems uncertain.

    Foundation School enlargement

    The formation of the Charity Commissioners in 1853 led to amalgamation of Whitechapel’s parish charities and the building of a Whitechapel Charities Commercial School on Leman Street. The Education Act and three Endowed Schools Acts of the years around 1870 and growing demand for school places were further backdrops to protracted discussions between the Whitechapel Trustees and the Charity Commissioners. Eventually in 1888 the Whitechapel Charities (embracing St Mary’s School and the Leman Street School) and the Davenant School were merged to form the Whitechapel Foundation, unified in adhering to Church of England religious instruction and amply provided for by historic charitable endowments. What had been Davenant’s Endowed Free School on Whitechapel Road, which had gone through a rocky period, was henceforward the Foundation School, a secondary school for 250 boys which was to be improved with new buildings (and a specified need for a chemical laboratory and workshops). The elementary schools (St Mary’s and Leman Street) were now, confusingly, called the Davenant Schools.

    Block plan showing Davenant and related school buildings and principal nearby sites as in 1953, buildings of 2016 in grey. (Drawing by Helen Jones for the Survey of London)

    With the new scheme settled, meetings chaired by the Rev. Arthur James Robinson in 1888 quickly approved plans for new buildings by Frank Ponler Telfer, the 24-year old son of one of the new Foundation’s Governors, John Ashbridge Telfer, a pawnbroker of 88 Whitechapel High Street. Another Governor was John Ashbridge, a solicitor based on the south side of Whitechapel Road (where the East London Mosque now stands) and the brother of Arthur Ashbridge, the District Surveyor for Marylebone who on occasions also acted as a surveyor for the Whitechapel Foundation. They were cousins to John Ashbridge Telfer. Their fathers, John Simpson Ashbridge and Somerville Telfer (who married Maria Ashbridge), and grandfather, John Ashbridge, had all been East London pawnbrokers. John Ashbridge and J. A. Telfer were the only Governors besides Robinson to attend a meeting with the Charity Commissioners in July 1888. The young Frank Ponler Telfer, whose mother Mary Ann was the daughter of John Ponler, a Wapping timber merchant, identified himself as a surveyor. He had served an apprenticeship in the City with George Andrew Wilson, architect and surveyor, during which the firm, as Wilson, Son & Aldwinckle, had in 1881 overseen alterations to the Duke’s Head public house immediately east of the school.

    Engraved view of the Whitechapel Foundation School, as designed by Frank Ponler Telfer in 1893. (Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives)

    A first complication to arise in 1890 was to do with the loss of light and air to the west of the school with the building of the Victoria Home (rebuilt in 1995–6 for the Salvation Army as Victoria Court at 177 Whitechapel Road). Arthur Ashbridge dealt with this and Telfer prepared new plans for what was to be called a Commercial School, now working with a new headmaster, Henry Carter. In 1891 the Governors split five to four against a new roadside building and in favour of a new building in the ‘garden’ (the playground and former burial ground), envisaging the road frontage being freed up for shops. Land along Old Montague Street was purchased to supplement what was already owned and four courts of small houses were cleared. On behalf of the Charity Commissioners Ewan Christian approved building in the playground, seemingly unaware that this would contravene the Disused Burial Grounds Act; his suggestions were otherwise largely bypassed. In 1892 nine firms of architects were invited to submit anonymised plans for a building behind the old school on the playground, to be on ‘columns and girders’ for an open ground floor so as not to lose the play space. Five schemes were received. That by Telfer was selected as the best, his father being one of the four inspectors. Other local architects, John C. Hudson and Herbert O. Ellis, placed second and third respectively. Telfer worked up his scheme in 1893 and building work followed in 1894–5 with J. S. Hammond and Son of Romford as contractors. Telfer was asked to ensure that the words ‘The East London Commercial School’ should appear in the floor and that a tablet should commemorate the governors. But the Charity Commissioners disapproved of the name and insisted it be the Whitechapel Foundation School. Fitting out followed in 1896. Already in 1898 most of the sixth-form boys were of Jewish origin, fathers being teachers of Hebrew, a furrier, waterproof manufacturer, butcher, tailor, and poultry and horse slaughterers, coming from as far as Stoke Newington, Camberwell and Upton Park.

    The assembly hall with covered playground and staircase of 1894–5 from the south in 2017. (Photograph by Shahed Saleem for the Survey of London)

    Stylistically ‘splendid Neo-Jacobean’, [1]  perhaps influenced by E. W. Mountford, Telfer’s two-storey building is of red brick with terracotta dressings, including mullion and transom windows, some with leaded lights, and scrolled gables. The competition brief forced formal ingenuity and resulted in a distinctive parti that is something of an architectural statement, albeit devised from Board School precedents. The ground-floor covered playground was outwardly articulated by arcaded piers. Within, cylindrical cast-iron columns and composite girders support the superstructure. The five-bay east–west assembly hall is grandly gabled – an intended flèche was vetoed by Christian. It has an arch-braced and barrel-vaulted wagon ceiling with turned tie beams and king posts. The south façade was visible from the passage through the old building across a now cleared yard, and the hall was approached by an eye-catching covered staircase with a stepped open arcade. This had been designed to be central, but was moved to the east bay and given a lobby at its head at the building committee’s suggestion, presumably for the sake of a larger yard. A nine-bay north–south range housed six classrooms and staff accommodation.

    The covered staircase of 1894–5 from the west in 2017 (photograph by Shahed Saleem for the Survey of London)

    Telfer was evidently accomplished, but despite this youthful opportunity his career did not take off. He identified himself in 1901 as an auctioneer, no longer a surveyor. He died in 1907, age 43.

    The assembly hall and staircase of 1894–5, south elevation and north-south section looking east. (Drawings by Helen Jones based on record drawings prepared for the Greater London Council in 1984)

    From 1900 to 1980

    The London County Council and the Board of Education imposed alterations and the addition of a Neo-Georgian north range parallel to Old Montague Street in 1908–9. Designed by Arthur W. Cooksey, this provided four more classrooms, a physics laboratory and an art room. There was no space or money for a gymnasium, but an enclosed fives court was added in 1915–17. This seems to betoken a consciousness of status in what became the Davenant Foundation School in 1928. It was, however, one of the smallest secondary schools in London and the only one unable to provide hot dinners. At the behest of the LCC, negotiations for an amalgamation or a move away from Whitechapel began in 1937, but these were interrupted by war and evacuation. There were wartime alterations to the front range for use as a centre for the Heavy Rescue Service. In the early 1950s voluntary-aid grammar-school status was granted and, despite a falling roll, a new range was added along Old Montague Street for a biology lab, library and two additional classrooms. As one pupil of the 1950s has recalled, ‘there was a large Jewish contingent who had to endure Christian hymns and prayers at morning assemblies. Many of us were already atheists so that side of things just washed over us!’ [2]

    Meanwhile, in the face of a decreasing local population, the LCC planned comprehensive redevelopment of the area. The school moved to Loughton, Essex, in 1965, a shift first suggested by the Ministry of Education in 1956. The Greater London Council’s Inner London Education Authority took the Whitechapel site and up to 1971 it was used for Walbrook College’s East London College of Commerce. The Victorian Society, Ancient Monuments Society and GLC Historic Buildings Division resisted a plan for clearance behind the already listed front building, use as a youth centre being suggested. This led to the listing in 1973 of the assembly hall and its staircase. Plans in 1975 to convert the school buildings to be an old persons’ club for the intended ‘Davenant Street’ housing development came to nothing and demolition north of the hall block ensued.

    Davenant Centre

    A scheme for refurbishment of the two surviving school buildings to be a community centre emerged from the GLC in 1984. In a project spearheaded by George Nicholson, Chair of the Planning Committee in the GLC’s last and defiantly radical days, more than £1m was made available for the formation of the Davenant Centre. This ‘community resources and training centre’ was to extend to include a new building on the empty site at 181–185 Whitechapel Road, all to house eight local groups: the Asian Unemployed Outreach Project, Dishari Shilpi Ghosti (musicians who had left the scene by 1988), the Federation of Bangladeshi Youth Organisations, the Progressive Youth Organisation, Tower Hamlets Advanced Technology Training, the Tower Hamlets Trades Council, the Tower Hamlets Training Forum, and the Jagonari Asian Women’s Resource Centre (which ended up with the adjacent new building – that is another story). With the Historic Buildings Division in close attendance, plans for the adaptation of the listed buildings were drawn up in 1984–5 by Julian Harrap Architects with Peter Stocker as job architect. Harry Neal Ltd carried out the building works in 1985–7, completion coming after the abolition of the GLC and despite an attempt by Westminster City Council to stop the works. The open ground floor under the hall was largely enclosed and the front block gained new stairs and partitions, an upper-storey tiered lecture room being preserved. The Centre’s Chair was Manuhar Ali and Adam Lazarus was its Development Worker. First use was as a youth club and for computer training, welfare advice, trade-union offices and meetings in the assembly hall. There was no reliable source of revenue so the hall had to be advertised for hire and the centre opened as a music venue in 1990.

    View to the back of the Davenant Centre’s front building in 2017. (Photograph by Shahed Saleem for the Survey of London)

    The Davenant Centre could not sustain itself. Led by Aliur Rahman it was obliged to instigate a further conversion in 2002. Carried out in 2005–6 through ESA Architects (Nic Sampson, job architect), Peter Brett Associates, consulting engineers, and Killby & Gayford, contractors, this introduced much more lettable office use, retaining space for a youth club on the west part of the front block’s ground floor. To maximise floor space a mezzanine floor was inserted, the loft was converted, and a glazed staircase in a ‘cylindrical pod’ was added to the rear. The 1890s hall was also adapted for office use, the interior retained. Despite debts and with support from Tower Hamlets Council the complex continued as the Davenant Centre up to 2017 when, rents having increased, it was obliged to close.

    1. Bridget Cherry, Charles O’Brien and Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England, London 5: East, 2005, p. 400.

    2. ‘Davenant Foundation Grammar School’, Survey of London Whitechapel, July 2017.

    The Davenant Centre, 179–181 Whitechapel Road: part one

    By the Survey of London, on 2 March 2018

    An undemonstrative road-side building of 1818 and a showy but concealed rear addition of 1895 are all that is left standing in Whitechapel to represent a significant educational history. This spans more than three centuries and a site that extended from Whitechapel Road to Davenant Street and Old Montague Street. Until 2017 this history was sustained by a youth centre that perpetuated the name Davenant. Its closure in 2017 leaves the future of the two listed buildings uncertain. The history of the Davenant School in Whitechapel will be presented here in a two-part blog post.

    First Davenant School

    Ralph Davenant was the Rector of Whitechapel from 1668 who oversaw the rebuilding of the parish church of St Mary Matfelon in the 1670s. He was a fellow of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and a descendant of Bishop John Davenant, a moderate Calvinist who had represented the English church at the synod of Dort in 1618; he was also a cousin to the historian Thomas Fuller. Planning for a school for the poor children of Whitechapel began in earnest in 1680, possibly following up an idea conceived by Davenant’s predecessor and father-in-law John Johnson. Johnson’s daughters, Mary Davenant (Ralph’s wife) and Sarah Gullifer, endowed two of three shares of an estate in Essex (Sandon, near Great Baddow) to be overseen by a newly formed body of trustees to maintain the school. When Davenant died in 1681 his will directed that £200 he was owed go directly to the building of the school, and that his goods be sold after his wife’s death to raise money to see the plan through.

    Mary Davenant lived on and the trustees struggled at first to find a site. However, the easterly stretches of Whitechapel Road were not fully built up in the 1680s and the parish held a large plot on the north side to the east of present-day Davenant Street for almshouses and a burial ground. The easternmost part of this land, a frontage of 50ft, was given up for the school in 1686 and building work ensued. Endowments proved insufficient and in 1701 an anonymous benefactor gave £1000 to clothe as well as educate the children at the ‘School House of Whitechappel Town’s End’. In 1705 the Rev. Richard Welton invested this money in Thames-side land at East Tilbury.

    The first Davenant School of the 1680s. (From Robert Wilkinson’s Londina Illustrata, 1819)

    The school building of the 1680s was a brick range with a seven-bay front, a single full storey with pairs of hipped dormers in a hipped roof flanking a pedimental centrepiece, all set behind a forecourt garden and enclosing brick wall. The main room on the west side was for the teaching of forty boys, that on the east for thirty girls, above were living spaces for the master and mistress. A single central doorway gave on to an open passage through to a garden at the back, the schoolrooms evidently entered from the sides of this passage. An aedicular niche above the main entrance rising up to the open pediment is said to have stood empty until the late eighteenth century, awaiting a figure of Davenant for which funds never stretched. Samuel Hawkins, the school’s Treasurer, then acquired and saw to the painting of a scrapped wooden statue of a figure in clerical dress to make up the deficit. There were further benefactions and by the 1790s the premises, already enlarged westwards after 1767, had been extended at the back.

    In early 1806 the Trustees decided to double the number of children and a shed and ‘dust-bin’ behind the school were converted to form an additional schoolroom. Anticipating the increased attendance, one of the Trustees, William Davis (1767–1854), the co-proprietor of a sugarhouse on Rupert Street who was to found the Gower’s Walk ‘school of industry’ in 1807–8, saw to it that the Rev. Andrew Bell was invited to Whitechapel to introduce his monitorial (Madras) system of education which had as yet made limited impact. Bell attended the school daily in September 1806 and with Davis’s fervent support and the employment of a trained assistant (Louis Warren, age 13), and then of a schoolmaster (a Mr Gover), both from Bell’s base in Swanage, they successfully established a showpiece in Whitechapel for wider evangelisation of the benefits of Bell’s monitorial system. This gained influential Anglican support and led in late 1811 to the foundation of the National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church in England and Wales. The episode has caused the Davenant School to be hailed as the cradle of England’s ‘National’ schools.

    Block plan showing Davenant and related school buildings and principal nearby sites as in 1953 (buildings of 2016 in grey), drawing by Helen Jones for the Survey of London. Please click on the picture for a larger view. 

    St Mary Street School

    There followed in September 1812 the formation of the Whitechapel Society for the Education of the Poor, as a branch of the National Society. Daniel Mathias, Whitechapel’s Rector since 1807, headed this initiative towards educating more of Whitechapel’s poor children. A survey of the parish had uncovered 5,161 children under the age of seven and 3,204 above that age. Of the latter, 991 attended the thirty-two schools already in the parish, leaving 2,213 uneducated. Few parents attended church, providing an additional motive for the evangelical Society. A scheme coalesced for the establishment of a new school with a hall large enough for 1,000 to be taught on Bell’s (National Society) principles; it would also be used for religious service on Sundays. The first thought was to procure an adaptable building, but by early 1813 there were plans to build on land to the north of the 1680s school and a lease was agreed. In the event the Society decided to use this land to extend the parish’s burial ground eastwards and to build the school on the west part of the burial ground to face the recently formed St Mary (now Davenant) Street. The Vestry gave up the land and the Bishop of London approved the project in the summer of 1813. However, funds were wanting; despite a grant of £300 from the National Society, the building fund was more than £1,000 short of its target of £2,500. The Duke of Cambridge laid a foundation stone on 12 October 1813 in an opulent ceremony said to have been attended by thousands; that brought in £677 11 6 in donations. Completed in 1815, the building was among the earliest purpose-built National schools. It was also, as Nikolaus Pevsner had it in an unconscious recognition of the intended secondary use, ‘like a chapel’. [1]

    Davenant (formerly St Mary) Street in 1973, showing the National School of 1813-15. (Photograph by Dan Cruickshank at Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives)

    Its architect remains unknown, though for circumstantial reasons Samuel Page is a candidate, as will be explained. It was a single-storey stock-brick barn of about 80ft by 120ft. Its round-headed window openings, some very tall, had cast-iron Gothic tracery. There were porches at both ends and a western clock turret. The main square room to the west was for the teaching of 600 boys, with a half-sized room beyond for 400 girls, all convertible into a single space. Two rows of square timber posts helped support a vast queen-post truss timber roof. There was a hot-air heating system, devised and paid for by Davis with John Craven, another Goodman’s Fields sugar-baker. Tom Flood Cutbush (the son-in-law of Luke Flood, see below) procured an organ, which he played himself, also arranging performances of oratorios in the 1820s.

    In 1844–5 the Rev. William Weldon Champneys oversaw reconfiguration of the east end, the girls’ room reduced, raised and given a railed balcony to create space below for an infants’ school, with living rooms for the master and mistress. Other subdivision for classrooms in the western corners followed in 1868–9 with G. H. Simmonds as architect.

    Ordnance Survey map, 1873, showing the Davenant and St Mary Street schools.

    The west porch was lost when St Mary Street was widened in 1881–2. George Lansbury, an alumnus around 1870, recalled ‘what a school-building! No classrooms, one huge room with classes in each corner and one in the middle.’ [2] The east part of the burial ground, disused from 1853, was taken for a playground from 1862. This was shared with the Davenant School as well as the Whitechapel Union, for which a disinfecting house was inserted in the ground’s north-east corner at the south end of Eagle Place in 1871. This workhouse shed gained notoriety as the mortuary to which some of the victims of ‘Jack the Ripper’ were taken in 1888. It was thereafter replaced. The National School was also known as the Whitechapel Society’s School, St Mary’s School or St Mary Street School. In 1874, 360 children were presented for examinations, a decade later 443. It had less cachet than the Davenant School, which, to Lansbury, was for ‘“charity sprats” – girls and boys dressed in ridiculous uniforms’. [3] After administrative changes there were adaptations in 1889–90, including the addition of a caretaker’s house to the north. The school continued under London County Council maintenance as Davenant Elementary Schools, its roll gradually declining from 784 in 1900 to 300 in 1938. It closed in 1939. After post-war use as a second-hand clothing warehouse and despite calls for its preservation, the building was demolished in 1975.

    St Mary Street School in course of demolition in 1975. (Photograph by Michael Apted, courtesy of Historic England Archive)

    Davenant School rebuilt

    Rebuilding of the original schools of the 1680s by the Charity School Trustees followed hard on the heels of the opening of the National School. Larger premises were wanted to accommodate 100 boys and 100 girls, again for the application of Bell’s system. The funding of this project had been given a start by Samuel Hawkins, who had donated £600 in 1808 for building a new school, and a coachbuilder called Lewis (possibly Thomas Lewis, a coach-master of 45 Leman Street), who gave £500 in 1817. Mathias was still the Rector and the Treasurer for the trustees was Luke Flood (1738–1818), a painter, corn chandler and corrupt magistrate and commissioner of sewers who had premises on Whitechapel Road (on the site of No. 57). Flood left £1,000 to the school when he died in February 1818; this was the most munificent of the period’s gifts. Flood’s son-in-law was the architect Samuel Page who had been acting as a surveyor for the parish since at least 1807. Around 1813 Page was also involved in securing an improved endowment for the school. It seems likely that he was charged with designing the school building; it is a characteristically sub-Soanian work. He was probably working with Thomas Barnes, the local bricklayer and house-builder, another trustee and commissioner of sewers who contributed £100 to the fund in 1818. Major Rohde, a Leman Street sugar refiner, was also a trustee. Another was William Davis, who succeeded Flood as Treasurer. The foundation stone was laid in June 1818 by the Duke of York; completion evidently followed quickly.

    The Davenant School’s front building of 1818, photographed as the Davenant Centre in 2017, by Derek Kendall for the Survey of London.

    The two-storey and basement five-bay yellow stock-brick building, roughly square on plan, was laid out to align with the workhouse. It originally had steps up to a raised ground floor at its central entrance arch, with a deeper railed area in front of the basement, and a dedicatory stone plaque in a blind arch above the entrance. There was a central staircase and a single classroom to each side on each of the main storeys. In the 1860s, after outbuildings to the west were given up, two blocks were built in the yard for boys, the front range being given over to girls. The plaque had been taken down before major changes in the mid 1890s that were part of a thorough reformation (of which more in the second post). The steps and the staircase were removed with the railings pushed back for a ground floor at pavement level for improved access to new buildings behind – a return to the open passage arrangement of the 1680s. The tympanum of the entrance arch gained a foliate terracotta panel (lost around 1980) and the legend above was changed from DAVENANT-SCHOOL to THE FOUNDATION SCHOOL in 1896, retaining WHITECHAPEL SCHOOL on the central blocking-course parapet above. The schoolrooms were converted in the 1890s to be a chemical laboratory and two workshops, a lecture room, library and dining room, with caretaker’s quarters.

    To be continued.

    Do you have any memories of the Davenant School? The Survey of London has launched a collaborative website titled ‘Histories of Whitechapel’ and welcomes contributions. Please visit: https://surveyoflondon.org/map/feature/452/detail/#story.

    References

    1 – Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London except the Cities of London and Westminster, 1952, p. 426.

    2 – As quoted in Roland Reynolds, The History of the Davenant Foundation Grammar School, 1966, p.51.

    3 – Ibid.

    The Survey of London, December 2017

    By the Survey of London, on 29 December 2017

    Recently we have been looking through our archive on the history of the Survey of London, which traces its beginnings to the 1890s. These large cloth-bound boxes brimming with letters, newspaper cuttings, photographs and pamphlets include detailed reports on the progress of the Survey.

    A pamphlet recording the progress of the London Survey Committee, as the Survey was formerly known, at Midsummer 1929.

    As it is customary during the festive season to reflect on recent achievements, current research, and plans for the future, we think it might be timely to share an update on the current progress of the Survey. 2017 has been an important year for the Survey of London, marked by the publication of Volumes 51 and 52 on South-East Marylebone by Yale University Press, supported by the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art. We are delighted that these volumes, which document a rich and varied part of the capital, have been received with glowing reviews:

    • “Superbly researched, well written and comprehensively illustrated…” – John Martin Robinson, Country Life, October 2017.
    • “These two [volumes] cover a chunk of the historic West End in unrivalled detail following years of rigorous research…” – Robert Bevan, Evening Standard, December 2017.

    The draft chapters for these volumes have been made freely available online via our website.

    Covers of Volumes 51 and 52 of the Survey of London on South-East Marylebone, published in Autumn 2017. 

    The Survey is following up its two volumes on South-East Marylebone with a study of South-West Marylebone, covering the area west of the boundary of the previous volumes as far as Edgware Road. A comprehensive study of Oxford Street is also underway to produce a volume covering both sides of the street from Tottenham Court Road to Marble Arch. As the longest continuous shopping street in Europe since the eighteenth century, Oxford Street is a unique phenomenon. Though it has witnessed almost continuous change, it has never lost its popularity. The traffic, the crowds and the modes of transport will be an equal part of the Survey’s study along with the buildings and shops of Oxford Street. Publication date is estimated as 2019.

    View of Oxford Circus taken from the roof of Spirella House, 266270 Regent Street, looking north-west. (© Survey of London, Lucy Millson-Watkins)

    Research is continuing in Whitechapel, an area with a multifaceted history that is currently in the throes of intense change. In Autumn 2016 the Survey launched a public collaborative website, ‘Histories of Whitechapel’, with the involvement of the Bartlett Centre of Advanced Spatial Analysis at UCL and supported by a grant from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. This ongoing project is an experiment in the public co-production of research, which during the last year has encompassed oral-history interviews, walking tours, exhibitions, and film viewings, all in addition to the combination of rigorous research, field investigation and architectural drawings that is the mainstay of the Survey of London series.

    View of Whitechapel Road in 2015, looking east towards the City. (© Survey of London, Derek Kendall)

    As many of our readers will know, the Survey has been based at the UCL Bartlett School of Architecture since 2013. Research has recently begun towards an in-depth study of University College London for the Survey’s monograph series, which is devoted to buildings and sites of particular note. The forthcoming monograph will focus on UCL’s Bloomsbury campus, the historic core of the university’s estate. Publication date is intended as 2026, to coincide with celebrations for the bicentenary of the university’s foundation.

    View of UCL’s main quadrangle from Gower Street, looking east towards the dignified Corinthian portico of the Wilkins Building. (© UCL Creative Media Services, Mary Hinkley)

    Areas covered by the Survey of London in 2017, including current studies in Oxford Street, Whitechapel and South-West Marylebone. Please click to extend the map and view a list of volumes.

    The Survey of London’s favourite festive photographs

    By the Survey of London, on 21 December 2017

    Thank you for taking the time to read the Survey of London’s blog posts over the last year. Here follows a selection of our favourite festive photographs from our past and current studies of the capital’s built environment. Happy Christmas and all good wishes for the New Year.

    Oxford Street

    The character of Oxford Street is defined above all by its shops, and Christmas is its busiest time of the year. In 2015 we asked Lucy Millson-Watkins to photograph the lights, sights and decorations of Christmas on Oxford Street. Here is a selection of the photographs that she took, first published online in a blog post which considered the festive season on Oxford Street and its enduring traditions.

    Oxford Street at dusk, looking east. (© Survey of London, Lucy Millson-Watkins)

    Christmas bauble decorations strung across Oxford Street in December 2015. (© Survey of London, Lucy Millson-Watkins)

    Boots, with understated decoration. (© Survey of London, Lucy Millson-Watkins)

    Whitechapel

    Last December it was announced that the Whitechapel Bell Foundry would close in May 2017, and this year has witnessed its closure and the end of what has been a remarkable story. Business cards claim the bell foundry as ‘Britain’s oldest manufacturing company’ and ‘the world’s most famous bell foundry’ – the first not readily contradicted, the second unverifiable but plausible. The business, principally the making of church bells, had operated continuously in Whitechapel since at least the 1570s. It had been on its present site with the existing house and office buildings since the mid 1740s. Derek Kendall’s wintry photographs of the bell foundry in 2010 provide an insight into its historic buildings and the preservation of traditional craftsmanship until its closure. If you would like to read the Survey’s full account, please click here to find the draft text on the Survey’s ‘Histories of Whitechapel’ website.

    Shopfront at the east end of 32–34 Whitechapel Road in 2010. (© Historic England Archive, photographed by Derek Kendall)

    Inner yard of the bell foundry, looking north-west in 2010. (© Historic England Archive, photographed by Derek Kendall)

    Tuning shop in 2010. (© Historic England Archive, photographed by Derek Kendall)

    University College London

    There is a Survey of London monograph on University College London in the offing. UCL’s first architectural expression was the grand neoclassical building constructed in 1827–9 to designs by William Wilkins, its portico and dome a prominent statement. Only the central range of this scheme was completed, yet successive wing extensions have formed a dignified quadrangle in Gower Street.

    The Corinthian portico and dome of the Wilkins Building is instantly recognizable and has been adopted by UCL as its logo. (© UCL Creative Media Services, Mary Hinkley)

    View of the Wilkins Building from Gower Street, looking east. (© UCL Creative Media Services, Mary Hinkley)

    Even the railings in front of the Cruciform Building, formerly University College Hospital, received a generous helping of snow in February 2009. Alfred and Paul Waterhouse’s triumphant red-brick and terracotta hospital was built on a cruciform plan in 1896–1906. (© UCL Creative Media Services, photographed in 2009 by Mary Hinkley)

    Battersea

    Clapham Common is one of London’s most-prized public spaces, notable for its wide-open character and the clear sense of definition and urbanity imposed by its boundaries. An essentially triangular and uniform area of some 220 acres, it has lost less ground to development than most metropolitan commons. Archery was a popular pastime in the eighteenth century, as were boxing and hopping matches, and occasional fairs which attracted larger gatherings. Today the common boasts a mixture of formal and informal planting, tree-lined roads, sports facilities, play areas, and broad open spaces. The ponds and the bandstand (1890) are notable remnants of improvements effected in the nineteenth century, when cricket, football, tennis, golf, horse riding, model yachting and bathing were all enjoyed on the common. If you would like to read the Survey’s full account of Clapham Common from the Battersea volumes (published in 2013), please click here to download the draft chapter on ‘Parks and Open Spaces’ from our website.

    Clapham Common, the north-western panhandle under snow in 2013. St Barnabas’s Church on Clapham Common North Side is within view in the distance, its pitched roofs adorned by a dusting of snow. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    Sledging on Clapham Common in 2013. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    Clapham Common under snow in 2013, view towards Clapham Common North Side. (© Historic Englnad, Chris Redgrave)

    South-East Marylebone

    The brick church and lofty spire of All Saints, together with the twin clergy and parish buildings that front it towards Margaret Street, comprise a renowned monument to Victorian religion and architecture. Exuberant and compact, the group was built in 1850–2 by John Kelk to designs by William Butterfield, yet the interior of the church with its painted reredos by William Dyce was not completed and opened till 1859. Butterfield continued to embellish and alter All Saints throughout his lifetime, and it is always regarded as his masterpiece. Among decorative changes to the interior since his death, the foremost were those made by Ninian Comper between 1909 and 1916. Recent restorations have reinforced Butterfield’s original vision of strength, experimental colour and sublimity. A full account of this astonishing church has been published in the Survey’s volumes on South-East Marylebone, published in 2017. Please click here to read the account of All Saints’ Church in the Survey’s draft chapter on Margaret Street.

    View of All Saints’ Church, Margaret Street from the west. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    North aisle, looking north-east. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    Nativity scene on the wall of the north aisle. The tilework at All Saints was designed by Butterfield, painted by Alexander Gibbs and executed by Henry Poole & Sons in 1875–6. (© Historic England, Chris Redgrave)

    The Royal London Hospital Estate: a self-guided walk in Whitechapel

    By the Survey of London, on 3 November 2017

    The Survey of London would like to share a self-guided walk around the eastern portion of the Royal London Hospital’s estate, bounded roughly by Whitechapel Road north, Cavell Street east, Commercial Road south, and New Road west. Download our route map and guide for a fuller introduction to the history of the hospital and its estate: Guide to a walking tour of the Royal London Hospital Estate

    The Royal London Hospital traces its origins to a charitable infirmary established in 1740 for the working poor of east London. Initially based in converted terraced houses in Moorgate and Prescot Street, the institution secured a permanent home with the construction of a purpose-built hospital (1751–78) in open fields on the south side of Whitechapel Road.

    The hospital was built on the rectangular field east of Whitechapel Mount, an artificial hill formed as part of the fortifications built round London in the 1640s. It was bounded by open fields to the south belonging to the Red Lion Farm. (Extract from John Rocque’s map of London c.1746)

    The hospital was built on the rectangular field east of Whitechapel Mount, an artificial hill formed as part of the fortifications built round London in the 1640s. It was bounded by open fields to the south belonging to the Red Lion Farm. (Extract from John Rocque’s map of London c.1746)

    One of the attractions of the site acquired by the hospital was its healthy location, bounded to the south by meadows and pastures belonging to the Red Lion Farm on Mile End Green. The medical staff promoted the virtues of fresh air and ventilation around the hospital for the recovery of patients. By 1772 the hospital had acquired roughly thirty acres of fields on the south side of Whitechapel Road, stretching as far south as the present course of the Commercial Road. This large swathe of land protected the hospital from the threat of unwanted encroachment and presented an opportunity to raise funds through building development.

    The hospital began to offer land on building leases in the 1780s. Building development was initially confined to the west side of New Road, which had been laid out in the 1750s. The eastern portion of the hospital’s estate was developed in the first half of the nineteenth century in an orderly grid of wide, airy streets. Surviving rows of brick-built terraced houses in Walden Street, Nelson Street, Varden Street and Turner Street point to the tension between the hospital’s estate development and the watchful eye which the medical staff exerted over its vicinity to preserve ventilation.

    Aerial view of the London Hospital in the 1930s.

    Aerial view of the London Hospital in the 1930s.

    Many of the nineteenth-century terraces built to secure an income for the hospital have been sacrificed for its expansion and success, with the construction of an assortment of medical buildings such as the Outpatients Department (1900–2) and the adjacent Outpatients Annexe (1935–6) in Stepney Way. A remarkable acquisition is the former St Philip’s Church (1888–92), which was converted into a medical and dental library in the 1980s. Despite the concentration of buildings associated with the Royal London Hospital in the area, there are a few interlopers, including the bulky East London Mail Centre (1970), the Good Samaritan Public House (1937–8), and Gwynne House (1937–8). The south end of the estate has resisted the march of medical buildings, and the Nelson Street Synagogue and a former Baptist chapel in Varden Street testify to Whitechapel’s diverse patterns of immigration.

    The following photographs give an impression of the Survey’s self-guided walking tour, which is available to download here. These photographs were taken around the hospital’s estate by Derek Kendall in 2016–7; their captions include links to the Survey’s participative ‘Histories of Whitechapel’ website, https://surveyoflondon.org.

    Survey of London - Whitechapel Volume The Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel Road, Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets, London. Central entrance block View from north west.

    The former Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel Road. In the nineteenth century, the Georgian core of the hospital was concealed by a number of extensions. The Alexandra Wing (west) opened in 1866 and the Grocers’ Company’s Wing (east and donated by the Grocers’ Company) was opened by Queen Victoria in 1876; both were designed by Charles Barry Jr. Further extensions were overseen by Rowland Plumbe, the hospital’s surveyor, in the years around 1900. (© Derek Kendall)

    Survey of London - Whitechapel Volume Philpot Street, view from east.

    1840s terraced houses at 57–69 Philpot Street. This wide, airy thoroughfare extending from the rear of the hospital to Commercial Road was planned c.1818. It was first known as St Vincent Street in honour of the Earl St Vincent, a vice-president of the hospital. Between 1820 and 1845 the street was gradually laid out with large brick-built terraced houses with round-arched windows and recesses. (© Derek Kendall)

    Survey of London - Whitechapel Volume London Hospital Students Hostel Philpot Street. View from south west.

    Terraced houses on the east side of Philpot Street were sacrificed in the 1930s for a students’ hostel for the London Hospital Medical College, a neat brick-built block designed by Edward Maufe. The Princess Alexandra School of Nursing was built in the 1960s to designs by T. P. Bennett & Son, incorporating a distinctive circular lecture theatre faced with concrete. Today the Royal London Hospital’s modern block dominates Philpot Street’s northern aspect, rising to seventeen storeys. (© Derek Kendall)

    Gwynne House from the south-east. (© Derek Kendall)

    Gwynne House, Turner Street. Built in 1937–8 to designs by H. Victor Kerr, the architect of a number of interwar buildings in east London. Of his surviving works in Whitechapel, Gwynne House is the most assertive expression of the Modernist style. The block provided twenty ‘minimum’ flats designed to attract students, social workers and professional people in east London. Gwynne House was swiftly identified as a convenient base for medical practitioners, nurses and students. By the 1980s, it had been acquired for the hospital as rented staff accommodation. The flats are now privately owned. (© Derek Kendall)

    Survey of London - Whitechapel Volume Buildings on north side of Ashfield Street, view from south.

    The Yvonne Carter Building, Ashfield Street, built in 1975–7 as laboratories in character with the stock-brick terraced houses built on eastern side of the hospital’s estate in the nineteenth century. It stands opposite the Blizard Building, a sleek glass-fronted block constructed in 2003–5 by AMEC to designs by Will Alsop as teaching and research facilities for the School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London. (© Derek Kendall)

    Survey of London - Whitechapel Volume The Good Samaritan Public House, 87 Turner Street, view from south east.

    The Good Samaritan Public House, 87 Turner Street. This public house probably owes its name to the London Hospital, which incorporated a representation of the City of London as a Good Samaritan on its official seal of 1757. The earliest record of the Good Samaritan dates to 1827, yet the present building was raised in 1937–8 to designs by A. E. Sewell, chief architect to Truman’s. Soon after its completion, it was assessed by the brewery’s surveyors as a ‘nice small house, well done’. Its continuing association with the London Hospital and its medical college is commemorated by characterful street signs decorated with busts of white-coated doctors. (© Derek Kendall)

    Survey of London - Whitechapel Volume Royal London Hospital Outpatients Annexe block. New Road, View from north west.

    The former Outpatients Annexe, New Road. This substantial block was built in 1935–6 to designs by Adams, Holden & Pearson to secure a centre for the hospital’s Department of Physical Medicine and a newly established School of Physiotherapy. The building has been vacant since the building moved to new premises in 2012, and redevelopment seems likely. (© Derek Kendall)

    Survey of London - Whitechapel Volume Whitechapel Library in former Church of St Augustine with St Philip, Newark Street. View from south west.

    Whitechapel Library (formerly the Church of St Philip with St Augustine), Newark Street. A former red-brick church of 1888–92 built to designs by Arthur Cawston. The quality of the church culminates in its magnificent vaulted interior, deemed to be an ‘architectural masterpiece’ by the Gothic revivalist Stephen Dykes Bower. The church was converted into a medical and dental library for the London Hospital Medical Library in 1985–8 to plans by Fenner & Sibley. Following the assimilation of the college into Queen Mary University of London in 1995, the building continues in use as a medical and dental library. (© Derek Kendall)

    Project; Survey of London - Whitechapel. Site; Garrod Building - London Hospital Medical College, Turner Street, Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets, London. Exterior, view from south west.

    The former London Hospital Medical College, Turner Street. The hospital’s medical college has been based at its present site since 1854, yet the building has undergone successive alterations spurred by a rising volume of students and the need to modernise teaching facilities. Its principal elevation was built in 1886–7 by Rowland Plumbe, the hospital’s surveyor. Now known as the Garrod Building, it continues in educational use as part of Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry. (© Derek Kendall)

    (© Derek Kendall)

    In 2012 the Royal London Hospital transferred to an assertive purpose-built block designed by HOK, located behind its historic base in Whitechapel Road. The former hospital is set to be converted into a new civic centre for Tower Hamlets Council. (© Derek Kendall)

    Maersk (formerly Beagle) House

    By the Survey of London, on 30 June 2017

    Beagle House opened in January 1974, constructed on a site long connected to the shipping and haulage industry located at the northern end of Leman Street, Whitechapel. Frustrated by difficulties in obtaining planning permission for previous designs, the architect Col. Richard Seifert had been engaged by developer Wharf Holdings to push through a successful outcome for the nine-story office block on account of his well-known fluency in the planning codes. Capitalising on London’s booming market for speculative office developments, Seifert and Partners had grown from twelve employees in 1955 to three hundred in 1969 and Colonel Seifert estimated that his practice was responsible for over 700 office blocks. He remembered of London ‘you only had to lay the first stone and the office was let. The demand was difficult to satisfy.’ [1] Yet while other Seifert buildings such as Centre Point and Space House remained controversially empty years after their opening, Beagle House’s immediate tenancy was sure. Overseas Containers Ltd (OCL) was made up of a consortium of four shipping companies, formed to take advantage of the new opportunities presented by containerisation in the mid-1960s. As the initial excitement associated with OCL’s establishment waned, the move to Beagle House was designed to endear employees to stay with the company. The Board considered that ‘provision of an optimum working environment for all levels of staff [is] the overriding objective.’ [2]

    Survey of London - Whitechapel Volume Maersk House, (Formerly Beagle House,) Braham Street, Whitechapel, Tower Hamlets, London. Leman Street/Braham Park elevation, view from north east.

    Maersk (formerly Beagle) House from Leman Street, looking south-west. Photographed for the Survey of London by Derek Kendall, December 2016 © Derek Kendall.

    As headquarters for OCL, Beagle House was designed to accommodate 900 staff, with rooftop services concealed behind an extension of the angular faceted panels that enveloped its exterior. Some described the building’s unusual plan as lozenge shaped, others ship shaped. The project architect for Beagle House was Henry Grovners, who was also the lead architect on Corinthian House in Croydon. Despite assertions from Seifert’s staff that there was no ‘house-style’, repeated motifs such as angled pilotis, expressive facades and rhythmic concrete panelling are evident in Beagle House as well as in many of the firm’s designs from this period. Ideas and technical details were carried over from one building to the next along with engineers and other design team members.

    Facade detail of Maersk (formerly Beagle) House. Photographed for the Survey of London by Derek Kendall, 2017 © Derek Kendall.

    Façade detail of Maersk (formerly Beagle) House. Photographed for the Survey of London by Derek Kendall, 2017 © Derek Kendall.

    However, rather than utilise Seifert’s in-house team, OCL appointed their own interior designers, husband and wife consultancy Ward Associates. The Wards were favoured designers of passenger-ship interiors in the 1970s, proving themselves capable of considerable creativity in confined spaces. As a result of these ship interiors, Neville Ward was awarded the title of Royal Designer for Industry in 1971. The couple shared a London office with Wyndham Goodden, Professor of Textiles at the Royal College of Art, who designed the Chairman’s office at Beagle House.

    Chairman's office designed by Wyndham Goodden. Photographed by Millar & Harris c. 1974 © Historic England Archive, bb036029

    Chairman’s office designed by Wyndham Goodden. Photographed by Millar & Harris c.1974 © Historic England Archive

    The building’s peculiar shape made provision of individual offices difficult, only a handful were designed, those clinging to the outer corners of the building. The open-plan interior was at first regarded as a six-month experiment in part, to ease anxiety from middle-level managers about the shift away from traditional layouts.

    Ward Associates' design for a typical open-plan office floor. Photographed by Millar & Harris c. 1974 © Historic England, bb036033

    Ward Associates’ design for a typical open-plan office floor. Photographed by Millar & Harris c.1974 © Historic England Archive

    The top floor however was exclusively dedicated to upper-level management and company directors, each of whom was afforded the privileges of a separate office illuminated by plastic-domed roof lights and access to a serviced dining room reserved for their use.

    Bar area for directors on the eight floor. Photographed by Millar & Harris c. 1974 © Historic England Archive, bb036022

    Bar area for directors on the eight floor. Photographed by Millar & Harris c.1974 © Historic England Archive

    Deep storage units divided each pair of offices leaving the open-plan central space to be occupied by secretaries.

    Typical director's office on the eighth floor. Photographed by Millar & Harris c. 1974 © Historic England Archive, bb036024

    Typical director’s office on the eighth floor. Photographed by Millar & Harris c.1974 © Historic England Archive

    Addressing the concerns of managers on the lower floors who were uneasy about the loss of visual and acoustic privacy, Ward Associates carefully fashioned smaller enclosures using screens, planting and storage cabinets.

    Storage cabinets and plants defined spaces within the open-plan layouts. Photographed by Millar & Harris c. 1974 © Historic England Archive, bb036027

    Storage cabinets and plants defined spaces within the open-plan layouts. Photographed by Millar & Harris c.1974 © Historic England Archive

    Outside Beagle was skeletal and grey, while the interior was decorated in trendy hues of brown, orange and blue, each floor differentiated by a unique colour scheme. Floor-to-ceiling length curtains lined exterior walls and defined meeting spaces. There were coffee areas, a lounge, snack bar and the licensed subsidised canteen, while conference rooms were fitted with well-stocked bars, all intended to provide OCL workers with a palpable sense of home comfort.

    Typical communal lounge area on open-plan floors. Photographed by Millar & Harris c. 1974 © Historic England Archive, bb036037

    Typical communal lounge area on open-plan floors. Photographed by Millar & Harris c.1974 © Historic England Archive

    As computers and machines increasingly invaded the office environment, the interior-design press claimed that the general introduction of plants to interiors compensated for ‘the ever increasing emergence of soulless concrete edifices all too common today.’ They noted that ‘where a plant will survive so an office-worker’. The entrance hall was graced with a wall-mounted model ship and an interior fish pond. [3]

    At this time interior designers were increasingly engaged in office designs that prioritised the comfort of workers and new mechanisms for climate control also worked to humanise working environments. Reflecting the forward-looking spirit of OCL, the new Beagle House claimed its own technological innovations in this respect. Writing in 1975, Interior Design regarded it as ‘London’s first privately developed Integrated Environmental Design (IED) office building…without a doubt, one of the most advanced buildings in the country’. [4] Suspended ceilings throughout Beagle House provided air-conditioning to all spaces powered by a roof-top plant. A resident engineer, responsible for the system’s ongoing maintenance, was allocated a first-floor flat in the building.

    Following a number of corporate take-overs, Beagle House was renamed Maersk House in 2005. Standing aloof on pedestrianised Braham Street (since 2012 known as Braham Park), Seifert’s building faces imminent demolition in March 2017. ‘One Braham’, a glassy eighteen-storey office block with commercial units to the ground floor, was scheduled for completion in 2018 but Brexit has reportedly caused American developers, Starwood, to re-assess their involvement in the scheme, leaving Maersk House to languish in uncertainty.

    If you would like to read more about the history of this site, or submit a personal memory of Maersk House, please access the Survey of London, Whitechapel, found here.

    [1] BL, National Life Stories Collection: Architects’ Lives, Richard Seifert, 1996

    [2] Caird Library and Archive, PON/1/3/10

    [3] Interior Design, Jan 1975, p. 33, p. 36

    [4] Ibid.