This was the site of Dr Barnardo's Shelter for women and infants in the nineteenth century. A few Toynbee Hall residents in their investigation of local shelters, provided this critical description of the institution:
"Accommodation for 30, nearly always full. Here there is no investigation and no payment. The inmates are not supposed to remain more than three nights out of ten, but the rule is not strictly enforced. A pint of cocoa and a piece of bread and butter, which varies according to the age of applicant and number of infants, is also given. The Shelter is open nominally from 9 p.m. till midnight, but cases are admitted at any hour. No efforts are made to follow up and find work for cases."
"Shelters: Their use and abuse," The Toynbee Record, v. iv, no. 2, November 1891, p. 25.
The west side of Dock Street has little architectural quality. Recent blocks of flats and a data centre bookend an interwar Truman’s pub. Other forms of commerce and manufacturing have long gone. In the late nineteenth century there were numerous outfitters or clothiers along here in three-storey shophouses, close to the Sailors’ Home and serving seamen. Abraham Cohen at 2 Dock Street had the freehold of Nos 4–10, Joel Davis was at No. 6 and Solomon Siegenberg at No. 14 in the 1880s. At No. 12 Samuel Froomberg was a beer retailer in the 1870s and a shipping agent a decade later, giving way to Dr Barnardo's Shelter for women and infants from around 1888 to 1904. The Shipping Federation, an employers’ association formed in 1890 to counter trade unionism in response to the London dock strike of 1889, was next door at No. 14 from the 1890s, running a seamen’s registry office immediately opposite the Sailors’ Home, later extending into No. 12, and continuing up to about 1960. The three-storey nineteenth-century building at 10–14 Dock Street was demolished in 2017.1
Further south at the site that became 16–20 Dock Street there was a brewery from the seventeenth century.This was held by James Stutter in the 1770s and leased in 1802 to Anthony Calvert of the Wapping-based victuallers, Camden, Calvert and King. The property was made a rice mill around 1850 for William Henry Castle & Co.. This was converted by 1881 to be a pepper and spice mill for Drysdale, Wallis & Dennison, who rebuilt on a larger scale in 1883–4 to either side of Shorter’s Rents (Flank Street from 1912), and continued until about 1950.2
The spice mill was adapted to office use and in 1999 a scheme for a seven- storey office building on its site was approved. This was superseded by plans for the larger site at 10–20 Dock Street. In 2004 Purple Property Holdings Ltd and Squire and Partners, architects, put forward a scheme for two blocks either side of Flank Street, seven storeys to the south, rising to twelve to the north, for 95 flats above shops. This was opposed by Tower Hamlets Council, with support from English Heritage, on grounds of inappropriate height, impact on the streetscape and the setting of the listed buildings opposite, and because only ten per cent of the flats were to be affordable. However, the Planning Inspectorate granted an appeal in 2006, with the number of flats then reduced to 89. Mansell Construction Services Ltd and IDOM UK (engineers and architects) took the scheme forward. The former spice mill was demolished but works that were set to commence in 2008 were held in abeyance, doubtless on account of the financial crisis at that time. Further revisions were made in 2011 and the project finally went ahead in 2017–19 as The Ordnance Building, also marketed as The Lofts at Ordnance.3
London Metropolitan Archives, District Surveyors Returns (DSR): Post Office Directories (POD): Goad insurance map, 1887 ↩
Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives (THLHLA), P/MMD/1/4 and 7; P/MMD/2/2; P02649: The Builder, 22 Sept. 1883, p. 405: Goad 1887: DSR: POD: Derek Morris and Ken Cozens, Wapping 1600-1800, 2009, pp. 52-55 ↩
THLHLA, Building Control files 87703, 88359: Tower Hamlets planning applications online ↩
I was in Dock Street this morning (25 August) leading a tour. I can confirm that this building has now been demolished. I didn't think that would happen, but sadly it has. Finally they are developing the land next door, which has been empty for some time.