Camperdown House, 6 Braham Street

1982–3 offices/data centre, Trehearne & Norman, Preston & Partners, architects, site of Camperdown House (1912–13) and sugarhouse (1726)

A unique footprint
Contributed by Bryan Mawer on April 11, 2018

Tucked away in the archive of the late Bristol sugar researcher Mr I. V. Hall at Bristol Archives is a simple plan, dated 1856, of the sugarhouse generally listed as 27 Great Alie Street.1 For the most part it was owned by the Craven and Bowman families and was built among the other refineries in Alie Street, Duncan Street and Buckle Street (where my 4xgt grandfather learnt his trade), all packed in around St George's German Lutheran Church.2

Owing to its unique shape, the footprint of the establishment, then named Craven & Co., is easily spotted on the Horwood map of the 1790s.3 Many London sugarhouses had accommodation for the owner, or the manager, as well as for some of the men (useful in case of fire at night). While the refinery itself was usually a series of large, tall, rectangular buildings, the owner/manager's dwelling varied both in shape and location. In this case the dwelling had a prominent semicircular dining room.

The ground plan shows: the main refinery site 129ft x 143ft; centrally two adjoined refining buildings, the original about 40ft x 30ft, the new one about 40ft square; a raw-sugar warehouse and a smiths' shop; the owner's/manager's dwelling with semicircular dining room, drawing room and hall, along with sample room and counting house, all attached to the original refining building; about 20ft to the south two warehouses, and a scum house.4 Immediately south, and outside the main area, was a water tank, and south of that the four houses nos. 30, 31, 32, 33 on Great Alie Street, which are marked as belonging to the Craven estate and may have been occupied by workers.

The sugarhouse would appear to have been built around 1785 and was still refining in 1865, though under different ownership. The 1851 census shows it employing 170 men.

The sales notice in The Times in 1867 informs us that the refinery comprised a sugarhouse of six working floors, fill house and pan room, strongly timbered and supported by iron columns, two stoves, sugar warehouse, retort house, two chimneys, engine and boiler houses, yard, charcoal room, brewery, men's dwelling house, detached offices, manager's residence, three dwelling houses at 28 and 29 Great Alie Street and 16 Somerset Street, and a deep well giving a constant supply of pure water.5 But the end was in sight for sugar refining in the East End and the auctioneers wrote: 'The premises are well arranged as a sugar refinery, but the large area covered by the property, and the scarcity of freehold land in so central a situation, lead to the conclusion that, by the clearance of the site and the erection of warehouses or buildings suited to the modern requirements of trade, a very profitable return for the investment of capital would be ensured.'

  1. BRO 36772 Box 6, Bristol Archives 

  2. Mawer, Sugar Refiners & Sugarbakers: 

  3. Horwood's Plan of London 1792-9 

  4. Mawer, Sugar Refiners & Sugarbakers: .html#crav 

  5. The Times, 6 July 1867 

From Buckle Street to Camperdown Street and sugar refining to a data centre
Contributed by Survey of London on May 6, 2020

Alie Street’s northern hinterland back to what is now Braham Street, all densely built up from the first years of the eighteenth century, was a place that long maintained an industrial and working-class character. What is now Camperdown Street was formed as the west end of Buckle Street, linking through to Half Moon Alley and named after Edward Buckley (1656–1730), a wealthy citizen brewer whose business was in Old Street and who had residences in St Giles Cripplegate, St Margaret’s Westminster, and Putney. He was one of several brewers to invest in Nicholas Barbon’s Fire Office around 1681, he acquired an estate in St Margaret’s in 1682 where he became entangled with Barbon’s development of Charles Street and Duke Street. He inherited both the brewery and the Whitechapel property from his father, also Edward Buckley, in 1683. He had bought the Whitechapel estate from Thomas Neale a year earlier, Neale having initiated and then backed out of developing what had been garden land. Some work might have started under Neale, but it was the younger Buckley who oversaw the laying out a grid of roads including Buckley (soon corrupted to Buckle) Street and Colchester Street (later Braham Street) and saw to it that the area was drained and built up by the 1690s. Buckley granted long leases, including of ninety-nine years, as to Timothy Salter, a Whitechapel bricklayer.

In 1789 Buckley’s son, Edward Pery Buckley, sold the estate to James Green (anglicised from Laverdure), an enterprising Brick Lane bricklayer, who held the property jointly with Matthew Darby and William Darby, the sons of Vice Admiral George Darby (_c._1720–1790). By the end of the 1790s, Buckle Street was known as Duncan Street, probably in homage to First Viscount Duncan (1731–1804), ennobled for his famous victory at the Battle of Camperdown in 1797. As Captain Adam Duncan he had from at least 1779 served alongside George Darby. The street was renumbered and renamed Camperdown Street in 1921. Further north on the present line of Braham Street, Quiet Row or Were Row was a short westwards continuation of Colchester Street that was renamed Nelson Street around 1810, then Beagle Street in 1893, and much enlarged as Braham Street when the Gardiner’s Corner gyratory system was formed in the 1960s.1

Sugarhouses and other early buildings

A cluster of sugarhouses took shape around the west end of Buckle Street in the eighteenth century. The most significant of these refineries was on the west side of Half Moon Passage, standing free amid open space with a deep well and a good water supply. The site is now that of 6 Braham Street.Thomas Budgen (1705–1772), of a Surrey landed family yet apprenticed into the London sugar trade in 1719, appears to have established this sugarhouse in 1726 in which year he would have completed his apprenticeship. A year later he married Penelope Smith, the heiress of Daniel Smith (d. 1722), who had been Lieutenant Governor of the Island of Nevis. Budgen held onto West Indies sugar plantations until his death and amassed significant wealth. He commissioned a self-congratulatory portrait by Joseph Highmore in 1735, by when others were managing the Whitechapel sugarhouse. By the time Budgen became an MP in 1751 he had sold up and extricated himself from Whitechapel. From 1750 to 1784 the Half Moon Alley sugarhouse was owned by George Crosby, who ran it in a sequence of partnerships. Its local dominance seems indicated by the temporary renaming of Half Moon Passage as Crosby Passage during this period.2 John Craven acquired a lease from Crosby in 1787, then around 1800 purchased the copyhold of the land. By this date, if not long before, the sugarhouse had seven storeys. Attached to its east side since at least the 1740s was a large dwelling house that by the 1790s had three storeys and a prominent north- facing bow window. This property passed between the Craven and Bowman families until at least 1856. For a short time in the 1860s it was in the hands of Thomas Kirkpatrick and associates.3The Cravens and Bowmans were closely linked through marriage and by other local ventures, entering into other partnerships at sugarhouses on Duncan Street and Nelson Street. Most of the south side of Duncan Street had been redeveloped by the 1790s as a three- storey refinery that was associated with the Cravens and Bowmans from at least 1806. These premises, which came to rise five storeys and to be known as Bowman’s Russia or Russian Sugar House, for reasons unknown, consisted of a fill house (in which semi-conical sugarloaf moulds were filled), a bastard house (bastard sugar being light-brown sugar), a scum fill house, a cooling room, and a filtering or clarifying room. They were destroyed by fire in December 1838.

The buildings were replaced in the early 1840s by a row of nine modest two- storey houses. In 1881 Charles Wollrauch, an Alie Street builder–developer, put up a row of workshops to the rear behind small yards. He returned in 1886 to add steep attics, perhaps also for workshop use. The row housed families of mixed Jewish, German and English origins. Further east, three early houses were replaced around 1820 by a warehouse with an arched vault. By 1844 this building was partly in use by John Leigh of Leman Street as a gun factory. By 1900 it was Cunningham and De Fourier’s meat-paste factory. It came down in the 1960s and the houses followed around 1980.4

Opposite, on the north side of Duncan Street, there was a further sugarhouse, also present by the 1790s. Largely destroyed by fire in 1819 when it pertained to Craven and Shutte, it was rebuilt and, as described in 1834, it rose seven storeys with a three-storey warehouse adjacent. Yet another sugarhouse went up at the west end of what was soon to become Nelson Street around 1800. It was destroyed by fire in 1847 when it was held by Craven and Lucas.5 The oldest sugarhouse, that on the west side of Half Moon Passage, was sold in 1867 and converted for use as a gun factory, occupied until 1908 by John Edward Barnett & Sons, established local gun-makers who had prospered as suppliers of the Confederacy during the American Civil War. The attached large house was separately held and used as a hotel.

To the north on the west side of Half Moon Passage, Joseph Geiger & Co. had established a cigar factory around 1840 in a move from Leman Street. This was taken over by Barnard Morris (1796–1880), a German immigrant, around 1847. A son, Philip Morris (1835–1873), launched cigarette brands under his name while the factory continued as B. Morris & Sons. It was rebuilt after a fire in 1882, to plans by John Hudson, and the premises extended further west almost to Mansell Street. Leopold Morris, Philip’s younger brother, established Philip Morris & Co. Ltd, which was incorporated in New York in 1902. The firm later became Philip Morris International, one of the world’s largest tobacco companies. The Half Moon Passage tobacco factory was rebuilt again in 1910 to plans by Deakin & Cameron, but within a decade it had closed. 6

Camperdown House and 6 Braham Street

The Jewish Lads’ Brigade was formed in 1895 on the model of the Boys’ Brigade with the aim of productively channelling the energies of teenage working-class Jewish boys, pursuing an agenda of ‘social work and social control’.7 In endeavouring to engage the children of poor immigrants in edifying leisure pursuits, the Jewish Lads’ Brigade was one of a number of youth groups that were said to have ‘unmistakeably coloured … the whole tone and character’ of Whitechapel.8 Its first decade saw expansion in both membership and curriculum so that, by 1910, the Brigade had outgrown its shared premises in Bucklersbury.

Determining that purpose-built headquarters would best serve the Brigade’s needs, Max J. Bonn, a banker and philanthropist, commissioned Ernest Joseph, the architect of other Jewish youth clubs in London, to find a suitable site on which to build a spacious modern institute. Joseph recommended the acquisition of the Half Moon Passage site that Barnett & Sons had vacated in 1908 and set about designing a Jewish youth centre. Camperdown House was built in 1912–13 by Dove Brothers and W. Laurence & Son and opened by Viscount Milner. It was a large complex with a grandly classical façade to Half Moon Passage and a footprint roughly consistent with that of the preceding factory and hotel to provide spaces for physical recreation, meetings and other social activities. It proved to be a template for later Jewish social and sports clubs such as the Maccabi Centres. The main or front block housed a large common room and offices on the ground floor. The first floor accommodated games rooms, a library, committee room, dining rooms and more offices, while the second floor consisted of a small hall, a band room, dressing room and sitting rooms. To the rear a second block extended westwards, abutting factories but with its north and south elevations sufficiently freestanding to light a large barrel-vaulted auditorium with a capacity of 970. Two further halls, a rifle range, a gymnasium and other games rooms were in the basement. Taking the view that physical cleanliness encouraged moral purity, the Brigade ensured that ample washing and toilet facilities were spread throughout the building. Given its impressive size and facilities, Camperdown House was never intended solely for use by the Jewish Lads’ Brigade and rooms were let to a number of associated ventures, including the Lads’ Employment Committee, the Hutchison Club, and the Association for Jewish Youth.9

The First World War took a heavy toll on the membership and funds of the Brigade, and early optimism dissipated quickly. A proposal to convert the assembly hall into a large boxing venue was accepted at the third time of asking in 1933. The hall was also used for dances, as it had been previously, and to show films. The Auxiliary Fire Brigade requisitioned Camperdown House in 1939, and Stepney Borough Council took occupation of some offices in 1940. Though the building was seen as the head and the heart of the Jewish Lads’ Brigade, the organisation did not return to its Whitechapel headquarters after the war, many members having migrated out of the East End.Instead, in 1952 the Territorial Army took a lease of the property, only vacating in 1973 after the formation of Braham Street had exposed the north flank and when redevelopment was envisaged. It was replaced in 1982–3 by a faceless shiny glass-box office block designed by Trehearne and Norman, Preston and Partners, and built by Wimpey Construction (UK) Ltd for Wingate Property Investments PLC and the Norwich Union Insurance Group. For a time this building was known as Frank B. Hall House, after the investment company that was its primary occupier. Converted into a data centre in 1999 and operated by Level 3 Communications, the building hosts trading platforms for financial institutions and brokers as 6 Braham Street.10

  1. The National Archives (TNA), C8/40/37; PROB11/638/2; PROB11/374/202: London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), ACC/0349/301: Joseph Morgan, The New Political State of Great Britain, 1730, p. 326: Ancestry: Frank Kelsall and Timothy Walker, Nicholas Barbon 1640–1698, forthcoming 2021, pre-publication typescript: Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives (THLHLA), P/CRV/6; P/MIS/413/1/1/1: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography sub Darby and Duncan: Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 49, Sept. 1779, p. 438: Richard Horwood's maps: London County Council Minutes, 25 July 1893, p. 825 

  2. History of Parliament online, sub Budgen: LMA, CLA/047/LR/02/04/028/003/1343; Land Tax Returns (LT): TNA, PROB11/978/132: excess: Joseph Highmore, Thomas Budgen, Esq, MP for Surrey 1751–61, 1735, oil painting, Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū: THLHLA, P/CRV/9–10: London City Press, 27 July 1867, p. 8: Bryan Mawer's sugar database: Ancestry 

  3. LMA, CLC/B/192/F/001/MS11936/418/700757; /MS11936/348/535605; MDR1739/2/493: THLHLA, P/MIS/434/1/1/1–2; P/CRV/9, P/CRV/2–3: 

  4. THLHLA, P/CRV/6; P/CRV/7; P/CRV/8; P/CRV/9, P/CRV/11, P/CRV/13: Bell's New Weekly Messenger, 23 Dec 1838, p.5: Horwood: Ordnance Survey maps: Census: LMA, District Surveyors' Returns (DSR): Goad insurance maps 

  5. Bell's Weekly Messenger, 2 Aug 1819, p.6: The Times, 22 July 1834, p. 8: Shipping and Mercantile Gazette, 26 Aug 1847, p. 1: Horwood 

  6. Goad: Post Office Directories (POD):  Census: Ancestry: DSR: The Builder, 16 and 23 Dec 1882, pp. 797,828: LMA, CLC/B/192/F/001/MS11936/557/1250800; /582/1376482: 

  7. Sharman Kadish, A Good Jew and a Good Englishman: The Jewish Lads’ and Girls’ Brigade, 1995, p. 38 

  8. Camperdown House, opening brochure, 16 Dec 1913, p. 3 

  9. Kadish, pp. 34–5, 68: DSR: A. B. Levy, East End Story, 1948, p. 39: LMA, GLC/AR/BR/7/2645; GLC/AR/BR/19/2645; GLC/AR/BR/36/003582 

  10. Kadish, pp. 92, 142–3, 167: Levy, p. 39: Tower Hamlets planning applications online: London Gazette, 29 Jan 1988, p. 1108: /data-centre/level-3-braham-street/: street/ 

Hutchison House Club and Camperdown House
Contributed by Survey of London on Dec. 13, 2018

Yoel Sheridan grew up in Goodman's Fields in the 1930s and 40s and has written about the experiences of his family at this time in a book called 'From Here to Obscurity' (Tenterbooks, 2001).

"Although one could not generally see silent films in the many cinemas, private clubs would show them to members. One such place was the Hutchison House Club of which Yulus's athletic twenty one year old diamond mounter brother was a member. One some Saturday evenings, after Shabbas, his brother would take Yulus to a silent film show in Camperdown House in Half Moon Passage. The hall, that was utilised for all types of physical and social activities, had a polished wooden floor. One wall was lined with wall-bars up which athletes could climb and lift and stretch themselves in all directions. In one corner, a vaulting horse and other athletic equipment had been placed to clear the centre of the hall for rows of chairs and wooden benches. A cinema projector stood on a raised table at the back of the hall and the projectionist was focusing the strong white light onto the silver screen at the other end of the hall. The screen was secured by cords stretching from its four corners to two upright posts on either side. Classic silent films were shown. These included Charlie Chaplin, Our Gang, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and other comedies, serious dramas, and Cowboy and Indian films. Sometimes there was piano accompaniment but on most occasions the audience provided the music by singing whatever song they thought was appropriate for the scene being displayed. Members of the audience might shout out some comment at a crucial moment such as, Look out behind you, when a hero was being stalked by his enemy or make some amusing remark that would cause the audience to break out into laughter. In some ways silent films had an advantage over talkies, because going to the silents was like going to a social gathering."

Photos and notes on data centres
Contributed by Survey of London on Sept. 4, 2017

See more photos here:

Camperdown House (right), north elevation in context with Maersk House (left)
Contributed by Derek Kendall

1982 view of Beagle House across Braham Street with Camperdown House being rebuilt next door
Contributed by Sarah Milne, Survey of London

Camperdown House in 1913
Contributed by Survey of London

Sugarhouse complex on the west side of Half Moon Passage, site plan in 1856
Contributed by Survey of London

Proposal for a new church, c.1712, redrawn from Lambeth Palace Library MS 2750/68
Contributed by Survey of London