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 

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