Camperdown House

Data centre, former office block of 1983, designed by Trehearne & Norman, Preston & Partners, site of former Camperdown House and sugarhouse

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 

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