11–29 Back Church Lane

1988–90, stock-brick block of maisonettes, with separate entrances, part of the Hooper Square development | Part of Hooper Square

Back Church Lane area: development to the 1880s
Contributed by Survey of London on May 7, 2020

On Back Church Lane building began at the south end, spreading from Rosemary Lane. By 1656, William Trinder, a tallow chandler, had property here that included his own substantial house in Rosemary Lane and several one- to three- hearth houses on Back Church Lane. John Stonyer (1616–82), a shipwright born in Lincolnshire, lived here from the 1640s to his death, with six hearths by 1674. The landholding passed by inheritance to Mary Huskens, Trinder’s great- niece, and then to John Huskens Bayles and, by the 1770s, Mary Trinder Bayles. It embraced the Sun and Sword inn, which was at Back Church Lane’s corner with Rosemary Lane by 1711, possibly much earlier. Around 1735 Bayles (or Bails) Court, thirteen tiny houses, went up behind the corner beside the Sun and Sword. This was on a site that had been an exchange associated with Rag Fair, probably in fact the Old Exchange, mis-labelled the New Exchange on Rocque’s map. Bayles’s houses were already ruinous by the 1760s, though the court persisted into the nineteenth century.1

A long frontage on Back Church Lane north of Trinder’s was held in 1685 by Sampson Shelton Broughton, of the Middle Temple and sometime attorney general of the province of New York where he died in 1705. In 1685 Broughton granted a sixty-one-year lease of a 70ft stretch of frontage some way up the lane to Robert Wyrill, a ‘bone chopper’, which tenure passed on his death in 1709 to his son Thomas Wyrill. The Wyrills maintained a yard for the commercial rendering of animal bones, not a graveyard, as has sometimes been supposed, that continued through the eighteenth century.2

A larger holding between Wyrill’s and Trinder’s, possibly a 340ft frontage offered for building in 1725, was leased by Broughton’s successor to William Jackson (1659–1741). By 1733 three small closes of houses running westwards had been built. The most northerly, Crown Court, adjoined the Rose and Crown public house, whose landlord, a beneficiary of Jackson’s will, was Thomas Henege. All Jackson’s leases had passed to Henege’s widow, Mary Dukey, by her death in 1765. Her grandson William Freeman, abetted and largely supplanted by her grandson-in-law William Everard (1752/3–1821), developed the hinterland, using Crown Court for access. A north–south terrace of about twenty houses called Everard Place went up from around 1779.3

The northern half of Whitechapel’s Back Church Lane frontage was held by Captain Benjamin Masters before his death in 1720, possibly having been acquired from Thomas Trinder, who had inherited part of this property in the 1680s. Of a seafaring family from Poole in Dorset, Masters had bought the nearby Physick Garden in 1703. His Back Church Lane frontage included an inn, the Cherry Tree, ‘famous for the original Scurvy Grass Ale’. Partly of timber construction, the Cherry Tree can probably be identified as one of only two buildings to be depicted on this northern stretch of Back Church Lane in 1682. By 1720 Masters had built some small houses ‘down the step’ to the north of the Cherry Tree on Back Church Lane, and another house that he leased with garden ground to Jonathan Keeling (d. 1732), a gardener. At Masters’ death Keeling’s property was left, along with considerable other property in other parishes, to Masters’ son Ninyon (1685–1731).4

Between Wyrill’s bone yard and the Cherry Tree was the last large undeveloped stretch of Back Church Lane’s west side. It apparently formed part of Benjamin Masters’s landholding as it was in the same ownership as the Cherry Tree. The pub and the land were offered for sale together on one lease in 1776, by when the land had become a burial ground leased jointly by the churchwardens of St Botolph, Aldgate, and St Mary, Whitechapel. Whitechapel’s overflow burial ground on the north side of Whitechapel Road, in use from 1615, was reduced in size in the late 1760s. In anticipation the Vestry resolved in 1765 to find another ground as a temporary measure. The Back Church Lane parochial burial ground was used only until 1796 when the Whitechapel Road ground was enlarged.5 Finds on this Back Church Lane site have been misinterpreted as evidence of a ‘pest pit’, and confused with Sheen’s burial ground to the north, as well as with the adjoining bone yard. Confusion has also arisen over Cain’s (or Caines’) burial ground on the east side of Back Church Lane in the last decades of the eighteenth century.6

The former parish burial ground on the lane’s west side seems to have come into the ownership of the carpenter John Restall (d. 1838). By 1813 it had been developed with a row of houses facing Back Church Lane with a warehouse at the south end. Davis’s Buildings followed to the rear, off Gower’s Walk as part of William Davis’s endowment of Gower’s Walk Free School. Another yard of small houses further south, probably developed by John Harris, had a small mission hall on its south side by 1875.7  These buildings were demolished in the 1880s and 1890s for Browne and Eagle’s wool warehouses and Charles Kinloch’s wine warehouse.

The copyhold of the Broughton land further south had passed to the Rev. Peirce Dod (d. 1797), probably from his father, Dr Peirce Dod (d. 1754), who also held property further north in Whitechapel. This holding passed on to Sir Nathaniel Conant (1745–1822), a magistrate.8 By 1797 the small estate consisted of three-quarters of an acre on which there were thirty houses and twenty-three cottages, most on Everard Place and Back Church Lane from the south corner up to the former parish burial ground, but excluding the Sun and Sword and Bayles Court. Conant’s Place, another slum-in-waiting, was added to the north of Everard Place. All of this was destroyed in the 1830s and 1880s for railway developments. The Back Church Lane frontage north of the burial ground also filled up with low-status housing and small-scale industry, with Brunswick Place laid out behind from around 1815. This was nearly all demolished in the 1890s, the exception being Mundy’s Place, a court of two- storey houses which survived until 1937.9

  1. Ancestry: Hearth Tax returns, 1666 and 1674–5: Art Institute of Chicago, 1959.337: Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives (THLHLA), P/SLC/2/16/34: The National Archives (TNA), PROB11/370/392: London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), Land Tax Returns (LT): Richard Horwood's maps 

  2. THLHLA, P/SLC/2/16/34: ‘Law in Colonial New York: The Legal System of 1691’, Harvard Law Review, vol. 80/8, 1967, pp. 1757–72: Ancestry, LMA, London wills, 1507–1858: Horwood 

  3. Daily Courant, 20 July 1725: TNA. PROB11/906/203: LT: Ancestry 

  4. THLHLA, P/SLC/2/16/34: Morgan map, 1682: LMA, Hand-in-Hand MS8674, vol. 106, 74650, 1767: TNA, PROB11/575/70 

  5. LMA, LT; P93/MRY1/090: Daily Advertiser, 20 May 1776: Bruce Watson, The Burial Grounds of Back Church Lane, Whitechapel’, East London Record, vol. 17, 1994–5, pp. 35–41: London Archaeologist, vol. 6/3, 1989, p. 79 

  6. W. R. MacDonell, ‘A Study of the Variation and Correlation of the Human Skull, with Special Reference to English Crania’, Biometrika, vol. 3/2–3, March to July, 1904, pp. 191–245 (197–9): Michael Henderson, Adrian Miles and Don Walker (eds), Museum of London Archaeology Monograph 64: ‘He Being Dead Yet Speaketh’: Excavations at Three Post-Medieval Burial Grounds in Tower Hamlets, East London, 2004–10, 2013, pp. 53, 60–3: LMA, GLC/AR/BR/22/BA/6524: Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 17 June 1777: Morning Chronicle, 21 Aug 1804, p. 4: LT: Ancestry: Horwood: Watson, ‘Whitechapel’, p. 39 

  7. LT: Horwood: Ordnance Survey maps 

  8. TNA, PROB11/810/305; PROB11/1384/222: LMA, M/93/322: _Oxford Dictionary of National Biography sub _Dod 

  9. Morning Advertiser, 1 Sept 1797, p. 4: Horwood: TNA, IR58/84817/3439–48: Goad insurance map 1887: OS 1873: Post Office Directories: Census: Daily Herald, 6 March 1937, p. 13 

Hooper Square
Contributed by Survey of London on June 5, 2020

South of Hooper Street late twentieth-century redevelopment was delayed long after the National Westminster Bank had built to the north in the 1970s, probably in part at least because of the costs and technical challenges of removing an extensive array of railway vaults. Tower Hamlets Council had permitted NatWest’s Management Services Centre on the basis that sixty per cent of the larger site would be made available for housing, which imposed a presumed use for the land south of Hooper Street. The Greater London Council was considering its suitability for low-rise housing in 1977 when NatWest appears to have disposed of the property. Development plans did not surface until 1986 when the site’s owners were Countryside Properties Ltd, an Essex- based developer, working here in association with Abbey Housing, part of the Abbey National Building Society. At the end of 1987 permission was given for the erection of a development of 129 flats and maisonettes, studios to three- bedroomed, in blocks of four to six storeys, most arranged in a square around an acre of landscaped communal garden, flanked west by Bowman Mews (named after the sugar refiners on the site) and south by Conant Mews (after the nineteenth-century landowners). The vaults were cleared in 1988 and the estate had been built by 1990.

The architects were Darbourne & Darke. Hooper Square was less ground- breaking than their Lillington Gardens development of 1961–73, but it shares the firm’s emphases on private outside space, variety of outline, intelligent flat planning, and generous landscaping. It resembles more their housing- association estate at Queen’s Road, Richmond, where building began in 1978. Many flats have their own doors to Back Church Lane or Hooper Street, some raised over parking with first-floor terraces. As at Queen’s Road, and as was widespread in the years around 1990, there is a canted corner, to the north- east, which led to the laying out of hexagonal studio flats. The estate is faced in beige stock brick, contextual deference to nearby listed buildings that has not been sustained by newer neighbours. Elevations are simply enlivened with soldier courses and shallow arches of dark-grey engineering brick, and rooflines are broken by small gables. The property market crash of 1989 meant that flats were still being sold, at reduced prices, in 1993. The estate is collectively managed by its leaseholders as the Hooper Square Residents’ Association. Pump House Mews, two two-storey blocks, one of two semi-detached houses, the other of maisonettes, was built to the west of Bowman Mews in 2000 for Hilden Homes to designs by Barker Shorten, architects, effectively completing a subsidiary square the north side of which is the renovated Pump House.1

  1. Tower Hamlets planning applications online: hoopersquare.com: Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives, Building Control files 22103, 22105, 22123; P03892–9: Built Environment, Aug 1973, pp. 432–3: Financial Times, 18 June 1986, p. 24; 18 June 1987, p. 26; 10 Jan 1990, p. 29; 15 April 1992, p. 15: Daily Mail, 17 Jan 1988, p. 29; 13 Dec 1991, p. 45; 21 May 1993, p. 65: The Times, 12 Feb 1990, p. 22; 20 June 1990, p. 35; 14 July 1990, p. 46: historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list- entry/1400339www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/dec/20/geoffrey- darke