St Boniface German Church, 47 Adler Street

1959-60, Roman Catholic church

Giles Kinchin and the Mulberry Garden
Contributed by marion on June 10, 2017

My ancestor, Giles Kinchin, gardener of Ratcliff, acquired the lease to the Mulberry Garden, Mile End Old Town, in about 1679. No deed survives, but from the baptisms and burials of his children at St Dunstan, Stepney, and St Mary, Whitechapel it is apparent that Giles and his wife moved to Mile End Old Town at around that date.

Two generations of the Kinchin family lived and worked at the Mulberry Garden until 1729, and were members of the Clothworkers' Company, in whose records can be found details of at least ten apprentices that were bound to them in that period.1

The tax return of 1693/4 or ‘ Four Shillings in the Pound Aid’, records Giles 'Kinchen’s' property as having a rental value of £34 to be taxed at £6.8s.2 This is in contrast to the extensive nursery ground just north of the Whitechapel Road of William Gurle, son of Leonard Gurle, valued at £25 and taxed at £5.

The lease of the Mulberry Garden passed to John Martyr (who had been apprenticed to Giles) when he married Ann, his master's widow, in 1705. An increasing number of Kinchin family members and their apprentices were dependent on the four-acre Mulberry Garden for their living. By 1732, they numbered five adults, three children, and three apprentices. As silk production appears not to have succeeded in England at this time, owing to silkworms not thriving in the cold climate, it is likely that the Garden was used as a market garden, and that in the early period, the Kinchin family benefited from the demand for food from London's expanding population.

John Martyr worked the Mulberry Garden for 18 years until his death in 1723, leaving the lease to his stepson William Kinchin.3 On 13 May 1725, William insured the house for £150, and goods and merchandise at the garden for a further £150, with the Sun Insurance Company.4

By 1728, however, the Garden had failed, and William sold the lease to his brother-in-law, Rowland Stagg.5 With only poor relief as a means of support, William went to New England probably as an indentured labourer. Rowland Stagg gave testimony in 1734 for the gardener's apprentice, Richard Hastings, that his master, William Kinchin 'about three years and a half since being in low circumstances went to Boston in New England and hath lived there ever since'.6 William died in Boston in 1746.7 Rowland Stagg, who ran a successful cooperage at Great Stone Stairs, Ratcliff, sold the lease of the Mulberry Garden a few years later.

It may have been a fall in the price of fruit and vegetables that secured the fate of the Mulberry Garden. Increased pollution from coal fires may also have meant that the exhausted soil was no longer productive. The land was eventually sold for development, and the Kinchin family entered the East London maritime trades.


  1. www.londonroll.org 

  2. http://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/london-4s-pound/1693-4 /middlesex-windmill-alley 

  3. London Metropolitan Aarchives (LMA), MS9172/121, will  no 156 

  4. LMA, Sun Insurance Policy no. 35798.Sun11936. Vol 20. page 70. 

  5. LMA, Middlesex Deeds Register 29 March 1728/9.1728 book 1. memorial 462. 

  6. London Freedom of the City Admission papers 1734 Aug-1735 Feb. Richard Hastings 

  7. New England Historic Genealogical Society: Boston Church Records, page 543, 26 April 1746. 

The Mulberry Gardens
Contributed by Survey of London on Aug. 26, 2016

An approximately four-acre quadrilateral of ground lying west of present-day Plumbers Row and extending south from the Pierrepoint/Baynes Estate to what is now Commercial Road was a mulberry garden, densely planted as if an orchard and laid out with paths in a grid. It might once have extended further east; its origins remain obscure. Mulberries had been introduced to London by the Romans and were commonly used for making medieval ‘murrey’ (sweet pottage) as well as for medicinal purposes, but such a neatly planned grove may have arisen from James I’s attempt to establish native silk production in 1607–9 when around ten thousand saplings were imported and distributed by William Stallenge and François Verton through local officials at six shillings for a hundred plants, less for packets of seeds. Mulberry gardens thus came about across England, mirrors of the King’s own of four acres in the grounds of St James’s (now Buckingham) Palace. The commercial project failed, black mulberries (Morus nigra) having been acquired rather than the white (Morus alba) that silkworms tend to favour, somewhat mysteriously as this choice cannot have been made in ignorance. There was a second mulberry garden close by, across Whitechapel Road in Mile End New Town, north of what is now Old Montague Street and east of Greatorex (formerly Great Garden) Street, and land to the east of that south of Old Montague Street appears to have been similarly planted. Spitalfields was already at the beginning of the seventeenth century a centre of silk throwing and weaving.1

Whitechapel’s so-designated mulberry garden, like that at the palace, eventually fell to use as a pleasure ground after a period as a market garden held on a copyhold lease from about 1679 by Giles Kinchin and his indirect descendants up to around 1750 (see separate contribution). After the garden's failure as a commercial venture in the 1720s it appears that Rowland Stagg adapted the premises to be a pleasure ground. There was a garden house near the north end and recreational use continued up to at least 1760, the arrest then of four young gamblers by Sir John Fielding’s runners indicating anxieties about the presence of vice. The garden was untenanted by 1772 when John Holloway, a Goodman’s Fields cooper, acquired the property and adjoining lands (about 4.5 acres in all) with a handful of houses from Sir George Colebrook for building.2


  1. Joel Gascoyne, Map of Stepney, 1703: John Rocque's map of London, 1746: Richard Horwood's maps of London, 1799 and 1813: Peter Coles, ‘A Brief History of London’s Mulberries’, Spitalfields Life blog, 29 June 2016: Linda Levy Peck, Consuming Splendor: Society and Culture in Seventeenth-Century England, 2005, pp.85–99: Post Office Directories: information kindly supplied by Peter Coles. 

  2. London Metropolitan Archives, O/009/055: Daily Register of Commerce and Intelligence, 15 Sept 1760. 

Developments from 1784
Contributed by Survey of London on Aug. 26, 2016

Under Holloway’s ownership streets were laid out from 1784 with more than 150 small two- and three-storey houses, up by the 1790s on leases of from 61 to 81 years. Union (Adler) Street was formed where Windmill Alley had branched from Whitechapel Road. What had been Johnson’s rope walk to the east, then Baynes Passage, became Plumber’s Row, probably because a property at the north end of its west side pertained to Alderman Sir William Plomer. Great Holloway Street and Little Holloway Street ran east–west on the present line of Coke Street, and Mulberry Street crossed as what is now Weyhill Road continuing north to a small open space that John Prier laid out as Sion Square in 1788–9. Greater density was interposed with the formation from 1788 of Chapel Court between Union Street and Mulberry Street; that finished up in the twentieth century as Synagogue Place.1

Sion and Chapel have their explanation in the adaptation of an attempt to sustain the allures of the place as a pleasure ground. A large site on the east side of Union Street, 100ft by 160ft, was taken in June 1785 with an 81-year lease by George Jones, a ‘riding master’, with James Jones in partnership. They built a ‘riding school’ that incorporated ‘scenery and machinery’.2 This early circus opened in April 1786 as ‘Jones’s Equestrian Amphitheatre’. It had a copper-covered dome, its ceiling perhaps decorated with ‘painted palm-trees and other forms’,3 atop a circle of about 100ft diameter with galleries on a ring of columns for a capacity of 3,000 to witness the display of ‘a great variety of incomparable horsemanship, and various other feats of manly activity’.4With William Parker, George Jones also held the other side of Union Row (present-day Mulberry Street) including the Union Flag public house. The circus venture folded in April 1788 with a send-off that included non-equestrian acts from Sadler’s Wells and Philip Astley’s Royal Grove. Astley’s Riding School and Charles Hughes’s rival Royal Circus, Equestrian and Philharmonic Academy, both close to Westminster Bridge on the Surrey side, had probably inspired if not actually produced the Joneses in the first place.5

At its closure the amphitheatre had been let for conversion to use as a chapel for the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion. Founded in 1783 as a dissenting denomination, the Connexion had already converted another circular pleasure pavilion, the Spa Fields Pantheon in Clerkenwell. The Union Street building became the Sion (or Zion) Methodist Chapel, a stronghold of Calvinistic Methodism that had its own school.6

Elsewhere on what had been Mulberry Gardens the Mulberry Tree public house stood on the north side of Little Holloway Street. The south end of Holloway’s estate, where the road frontage to White Horse Lane became the west end of Commercial Road, was by 1794 the site of Severn, King and Co., substantial sugar-bakers. Their property was extensively developed with a new 71-year lease granted to Benjamin Severn and Frederick Benjamin King in 1816. The sugar house burnt down in 1819 and the insurers refused to pay the loss, a cause célèbre. Rebuilding of a fireproof character ensued along the lines of a Mr Howard’s patent. But bankruptcy followed in 1829; the property was taken on by Fairrie Brothers and Co. by the time Holloway’s estate as a whole was sold off at auction in 1839.7 The refinery passed to Candler & Sons in the 1860s and was used for sugar and other warehousing up to the 1920s. There was then rebuilding for garages that included a petrol station to the west.8

This locality was for most of the twentieth century an important centre of Jewish institutions, notably two venerable synagogues displaced from the City that were constituents of the United Synagogue. The east side of Union Street south of Holloway Street was redeveloped in 1897-9 for the New Hambro Synagogue. This Jewish congregation, one of London’s oldest, moved from the City of London under Chief Rabbi Dr Hermann Adler (1839–1911), the son of and successor to Chief Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler, founder of the United Synagogue. Lewis Solomon was the architect of a substantial and outwardly four-square Italianate building, with two entrances for men and one for women facing Union Street. The uppermost storey housed a committee room and caretaker’s flat. The interior seated 370 and had an unusual arrangement, with flights of stairs rising either side of the Bimah to reach the gallery at the Ark or east end for overflow male seating. The ladies gallery was to the west.9

The street was renamed Adler Street in 1913 and the property extended round to Mulberry Street for a Jewish Court to the south. The district had become predominantly Jewish, with some Germans still present. Booth’s survey noted tailors and bootmakers as prevalent in 1898, registering general good repair and ‘the constant whirr of the sewing machine or tap of the hammer as you pass through the streets’, as well as ‘the feeling as of being in a foreign town’.10 By the 1930s many of Mulberry Street’s houses were being condemned as dangerous structures and the synagogue closed in 1936. The London Mosque Fund attempted unsuccessfully to buy it in 1938–9 before securing property on Commercial Road.11

On the north side of the Adler Street/Holloway Street corner, the Grand Order of Israel Friendly Society built the Adler Assembly Hall in 1924–5, with F. J. Cornford as architect. This, which came to be called Adler House, was a neat three-storey polychrome-brick building with a Star of David between the upper storeys on a setback at the site’s corner. Its upper floor had a meeting room and a billiard room. Around 1931 it became the Regina Ballrooms and a boxing licence was approved in 1934.12

Heavy bomb damage in the Second World War led to the clearance of almost everything east of Mulberry Street, all but three houses on Plumber’s Row, and five houses and the Mulberry Tree pub on Mulberry Street. Plumber’s Row was entirely cleared and widened in 1962. The synagogue survived into the 1950s for use by the displaced Court and as a Jewish Reading Room, which transferred into Adler House. That had seen temporary war-time use as a synagogue and The Folkhouse (Beth-Am), then briefly in 1946–7 as the New Yiddish Theatre, before supporting a further range of Jewish community uses. Finally, from 1958 to 1977, synagogue use returned for the much-diminished Great Synagogue (Duke’s Place), bombed and then sold out of its historic Aldgate home. After a short period of commercial use Adler House was demolished around 1990.13


  1. London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), O/009/055–6: British Library, Crace Port.16.22. 

  2. LMA, MDR 1787/3/495; 1788/6/319–20; O/009/056. 

  3. The Builder, 4 Oct 1862, p.713. 

  4. Morning Herald, 20 April 1786. 

  5. LMA, MDR 1787/4/174: The World, 8 April 1788. 

  6. Survey of London: vol. 47, Northern Clerkenwell and Pentonville, 2008, p.57: John Coulter, Squares of London, 2016, pp.441–2. 

  7. LMA, O/009/056: Mawer: The Times, 12–14 April 1820, pp. 3, 14 Dec 1820, p.3; 29 Oct 1829, p. 4. 

  8. The Builder, 12 Dec 1874, p. 1042: Post Office Directories. 

  9. http://www.jewishgen.org/jcr-uk/London/hambro/index.htm: Jewish Chronicle, 11 Aug 1899, p.13; 1 Sept 1899, pp.12-13: A, 6 Nov 1903, p.296: LMA, SC/PHL/02/1219: Sharman Kadish, The Synagogues of Britain and Ireland: An Architectural and Social History, 2011, pp. 128, 152­­-3, 340 

  10. London School of Economics Library, BOOTH/B/351, pp.35–7,49 

  11. Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives (THLHLA), L/THL/D/2/14/14; L/SMB/D/4/14: Ordnance Survey maps: Fatima Gailani, The Mosques of London, 2000, p.35. 

  12. LMA, GLC/AR/BR/07/3285. 

  13. Ordnance Survey maps: THLHLA, L/THL/D/1/1/224: LMA, GLC/AR/BR/07/3285: London County Council Minutes, 6 Feb 1962, pp.120–1: Jewish Chronicle, 19 Nov 1976: http://www.jewishgen.org/jcr-uk/London/city_gsduke/: Historic England Archives, aerial photographs: Tower Hamlets planning applications. 

The German Roman Catholic Church of St Boniface, Adler Street
Contributed by Survey of London on Aug. 26, 2016

London’s German Catholic Mission acquired Lady Huntingdon’s Sion Chapel in 1861. This congregation had its origins at the Virginia Street Chapel, just south of Whitechapel in Wapping, in 1808 when there were thousands of German Catholics in the area, largely employed in sugar refining. A year later the mission moved to premises in the City that were dedicated to SS Peter and Paul and Boniface, the last (born Wynfrid) appropriate as having been an English missionary in Germany.

In 1862 there was a thorough refit of the former circus building in a Romanesque style, overseen by F. Sang. It included an 18ft-wide Caen stone altar. A section of the building east of the amphitheatre was maintained or adapted for the mission’s school. At the opening the Rev. Dr Henry Edward Manning preached and Cardinal Wiseman blessed the new church. But in May 1873 it suffered a spectacular collapse of its domical ceiling and had to be cleared. Manning helped Father V. Fick to raise funds for a replacement building. A German Gothic scheme by E. W. Pugin (who had prepared plans for a building for the Mission in 1859–60) was superseded by a design from John Young for a loosely Romanesque building, a style preferred by Manning who attended the opening in 1875. A basilican brick structure, its square west tower incorporated a mosaic of 1887 showing St Boniface preaching. Set well back from the street, the church gradually came to be enclosed by later structures. Young oversaw the addition of a presbytery to the south-east in 1877, a school in 1879, and, through Father Henry Volk with justification on grounds of a growing immigrant congregation, eastwards extension of the church with an apse and enhanced interior decoration in 1882. Stained-glass windows and wooden Stations of the Cross were of German origin.1 There were further works in 1885, when bells made in Whitechapel were added to the tower. In 1897 Father Joseph Verres gained approval for the formation of a covered playground below a schoolroom and sanitary block to the north-east. More improvements and an extension of this block followed in 1907–8 and 1912–13.2

Dispersal and expulsion of members of the congregation aside, the German church suffered heavily the consequences of wars with Germany. It was slightly damaged in a Zeppelin raid in 1917. Having been confiscated as enemy property, ownership passed in 1919 to the Catholic Archdiocese of Westminster. Consecration followed in 1925 when Father Joseph Simml was installed as priest. Then the church was entirely destroyed in September 1940 by a high- explosive bomb. Simml, an opponent of Fascism, stayed through the war, sometimes preaching in the open air. The congregation retreated to the easterly school buildings which with the presbytery were all that survived.3

Rebuilding was pursued despite the loss of much of the congregation to more salubrious parts of London. Some remained willing to travel to Whitechapel, and from 1949 there were also new immigrants, predominantly women, many from East Germany drawn to work in factories, hospitals and homes, for education or through marriage, sometimes to British soldiers of the post-war occupation. Some prisoners of war also stayed on. War-damage assessment was handled for the Archdiocese by Plaskett Marshall & Son, architects, who prepared a first conservatively historicist scheme for a new church in 1947. Without funding this was premature, but on archdiocesan advice the firm was kept on. Upon the death of the senior partner, his son, Donald Plaskett Marshall, took control through Plaskett Marshall & Partners.

From 1952 the rebuilding was pursued by Father Felix Leushacke (1913–97), thinking big in anticipation of future growth and working with Simml, who was said to have brought a liking for Bavarian Baroque to the project. Alongside war-damage compensation there was to be financial help from the West German government. The first plans for the new building disappointed Leushacke so in 1954 he involved a German architect and friend, Toni Hermanns of Cleves (Leushacke’s birthplace). Hermanns visited the site, prepared numerous possibilities in sketches and then presented worked-up plans and a model that were photographed and published. The model and preliminary sketches survive at the church. Hermanns, a powerfully imaginative architect best known for the Liebfrauenkirche in Duisburg of 1958–60, proposed a cuboid block, to be lit by numerous small round windows in a radiating pattern on its long west (liturgical south) elevation. The Archdiocese vetoed the scheme ­– Leushacke quoted its response as ‘Never!’, upon which Plaskett Marshall said (an assertion that he was to remain in control in Leushacke’s view), ‘And now you leave the dirty work to me!’4 Plaskett Marshall worked up revised plans in close if fraught consultation with Leushacke in 1955–6, encountering many more objections from Bishop George Craven at Westminster. The scheme was settled with approval from the newly installed Archbishop William Godfrey in 1957 after debate over the cubic or auditory nature of the main space, progressively non-processional for a Catholic congregation at this date. Higgs & Hill Ltd undertook construction beginning in November 1959 and the new Church of St Boniface opened in November 1960, Cardinal Godfrey being present at both the start of work and the opening. A building of some architectural panache, the Church of St Boniface is unlike other work by Plaskett Marshall and does seem in significant measure to reflect Hermann’s approach and aesthetic, though Hermanns was not involved after 1954. Wynfrid House, adjoining and also by Plaskett Marshall, supplies telling comparative evidence.

The presbytery to the rear on Adler Street was ready by 1962. There were seatings for 200 in the nave and 60 in the gallery, within a concrete-cased steel portal-frame structure. The main walls are of hand-made dark-brown bricks rising to a clerestorey above which concrete eaves cast (unusually) on plastic-lined shuttering for a coffered effect underlie a copper roof supplied by the Ruberoid Co. Ltd. A Westwerk houses a timber-lined narthex and has small coloured-glass cross windows in square patterning to its upper-storey façade. The south-west tower rises 130ft with concrete slabs faced with grey- scale patterning in ceramic mosaics. At its top an open belfry houses salvaged Victorian bells. This slender and prominent tower was chosen in preference to central heating, toilets and a vestry room, prestige trumping comfort. The building as a whole is remarkable for the richness, originality and elegance of its decoration. The plain three-storey presbytery to the south facing Adler Street contrasts with ochre two-inch bricks.

The church interior is spacious and light, generally white in its surfaces setting off fittings and stained glass of distinction. The high altar, Lady Altar, tabernacle plinth, and a quasi-triangular font are all of a dark green marble, with a chancel floor of white Sicilian marble, enlarged after Vatican II. On the south (liturgical east) wall there is a large sgrafitto mural of Christ in Glory above St Boniface preaching to the faithful, made by Heribert Reul of Kevelaer, near Cleves. Figurative and decorative wrought iron is by Reginald Lloyd of Bideford, Devon – four panels (altar rails resited as a kind of reredos) and a gallery front depicting the Crucifixion with the Nativity and the Resurrection. An ambo or pulpit front depicting the parable of the sower has been removed since 2003. There is a lectern of 1980, made by Lloyd to mark the 13th centenary of St Boniface’s birth in Devon. The font has a bronze cover commemorating Simml (d.1976), also by Reul. To the north (liturgical west) the gallery front has the Stations of the Cross, relief carvings from Oberammergau (by Georg Lang selig Erben), eleven of fourteen dating from 1912 and reused from the old church. The organ of 1965 was made by Romanus Seifert & Sohn. A spectacular stained-glass window by Lloyd above the gallery depicts Pentecost.5 The congregation began to disperse and dwindle and since the 1970s the church has been shared with a Maltese community.


  1. The Builder, 4 Oct 1862, p.713; 10 May 1873, p.371; 24 March 1877, p.306; 5 April 1879, p.388; 1 April 1882, p. 408: Felix Leushacke, ‘Memorandum über Damalige Umstände beim Wiederaufbau des Anwesens der deutschen katholischen Mission in den Jahren 1958/60 für St Bonifatius-Kirche und Pfarrhaus und 1968/70 für das Gemeindezentrum Wynfrid-Haus in London Whitechapel’, 1993, t/s, p.1: Alexander Rottmann, London Catholic Churches: A Historical & Artistic Record, 1926, pp.182–6. 

  2. The Builder, 21 Feb 1885, p.289: London County Council Minutes, 30 Nov 1897, p.1310; 5 Feb and 7 May 1907, pp.208,995; 29 Oct 1907, p.880; 28–29 July 1908, p.343; 12 March and 18 June 1912, pp.616,1461; 3 June 1913, p.1238. 

  3. Leushacke, pp.1–2: Pfarrarchiv St Bonifatius, London, folder 190: Ordnance Survey maps. 

  4. Leushacke, p.3: Pfarrarchiv St Bonifatius, London, folders 156, 189, 191–2: www.monumente-online.de/de/ausgaben/2011/6/liebfrauen-mit-neuem- kleid.php#.V7MdePkrK70. 

  5. Leushacke, pp.1–5: Denis Evinson, Catholic Churches of London, 1998, p.230: East End News, 15 Jan 1960: East London Advertiser, 19 Nov 1976: Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives, Building Control file 40032: Johanna Roethe, The Architectural History Practice, report for Historic England and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster, see http://taking- stock.org.uk/Home/Dioceses/Archdiocese-of-Westminster/German-Church-St- Boniface

Memories of World War II from the Family Gilford
Contributed by Sarah Milne, Survey of London on June 8, 2017

Tony Gilford recalls his family's connection to St Boniface focusing on what it was like during World War II:

I was just 130 days old on 3 September 1939 and probably with my Dad (1912) and Mum (1910) at the start of the 11 o'clock high mass at the St Boniface German Catholic Mission Church in Aldgate, London E1. At 11.15am in this very hour, history records, the primeminister Neville Chamberlain was making his BBC Home Service radio broadcast speech to the nation declaring war on Germany. Of course I do not recall this event personally.

Every Sunday the St Boniface Church was a friendly meeting place for the Anglo-German catholic community in London: butchers, bakers, hairdressers, jewellers, waiters, wine merchants, domestic staff, musicians, au-pairs, etc. Some were born in England but with one or both parents of German lineage. Some, especially the older generation like my grandparents, born in Germany but had emigrated to England and taken up British naturalisation before 1939. Some were recent German migrants staying with families to learn English, find employment, perhaps a new homeland. My parents, Peter and Lily Gilford, had a corner back street shop and bakery at 72 Marmont Road in Peckham SE15. A ride across Tower Bridge on a 78 bus and a short walk along Whitechapel Road led to St Boniface Church in Adler St.

Our paternal grandparents, Peter and Monika Gilsdorf, originally lived in a small village, Nagelsberg, Wurttemberg, south Germany, before emigrating. My own Mum and Dad were born in London before WWI, spent their childhood as refugees repatriated to Germany, and came back to London in the late twenties. Master bakers and butchers were exempted from military service but many of the St Boniface young men volunteered or were conscripted.

St Boniface RC Church in 2004, view to south (liturgical east)
Contributed by Survey of London

Toni Hermann's model for St Boniface, Whitechapel, in 2017
Contributed by St Boniface Roman Catholic church, Whitechapel

St Boniface RC Church in 2004, view to north (liturgical west)
Contributed by Survey of London

St Boniface RC Church, service in 1960
Contributed by St Boniface Roman Catholic church, Whitechapel

St Boniface RC Church, July 2014
Contributed by Chris Redgrave

Toni Hermanns's model for St Boniface, Whitechapel, 1954
Contributed by TU Dortmund

Toni Hermann's model for St Boniface, Whitechapel, 1954, showing lit interior
Contributed by TU Dortmund

Marriage of Denis and Carmel Kelland in St Boniface, 16 July 1961
Contributed by Sarah Milne, Survey of London