In 1807 the London Hospital’s governors resolved to open their estate east of New Road to building development, the west side of New Road having been built up on the hospital estate's behalf by Thomas Barnes in the 1790s. The initial east-side focus was on the southern stretch of New Road from Commercial Road to Walden Street, offered as three plots. Ninety-nine-year leases that ran from Christmas 1807 were generally executed after John Walters, the hospital’s surveyor, granted certificates of completion. New Road’s east side was built up gradually, with the earliest houses completed around 1810. Until 1863 it was known as Somerset Place (the west side being Gloucester Terrace) as far as Mount Place, at the north on City land.
The early row between Nelson Street and Varden Street (Nos 8–20) is mostly intact, tucked away from the expansion of the hospital and the development pressures of Commercial Road. Nos 8–12 were completed by 1810, when leases were taken by Peter Grose, Thomas Spurway and James Spurway. The corner with Varden Street had been built up by 1812, when a lease was granted to William Harrison for Nos 18–20. John Murray agreed to complete the intervening houses at Nos 14–16 in 1831. By this time Somerset Place was peppered with shops and businesses, including that of Thomas Turner, a stonemason who had a yard behind the corner with Nelson Street. No. 12 was occupied by William Gardner, a mathematical instrument maker, prior to 1859 when the premises were taken by Walter S. Burrows, a surgeon-dentist, who was probably responsible for the showy stucco façade. By this time, No. 20 was in use as a beer-shop known as the Somerset Arms, which continued to trade until around 1913. An interloper in the row is No. 18, built around 1907 with a shaped parapet and copious red- brick bands.1
Ingrid Roscoe et al, A Biographical Dictionary of Sculptors in Britain, 1660–1851, 2009, p. 1287: East London Observer, 8 Oct 1859; 21 Jan 1860: London County Council Minutes, 22 Jan 1907, p. 84: Morning Advertiser, 2 Feb 1858: Shoreditch Observer, 18 May 1912: Post Office Directories ↩