United Standard House

mid 1960s former office building, demolished 2017–18, on the site of the Elizabethan Boar's Head playhouse | Part of Cromlech House and United Standard House

Clay pipe kiln
Contributed by david2 on Nov. 29, 2019

During archaeological excavations of the "Boar's Head Playhouse" (an Elizabethan theatre, most of which is preserved and protected) I was a "relief supervisor" on this site, popping in on occasions that the archaeologist in charge (Heather Knight) had to attend to other duties.  So it was that I ended up supervising people digging up this 18th-century clay pipe kiln. It dates to the period after the theatre had closed and when the area was becoming a warren of small enterprises. In over thirty years digging, I haven't seen so complete a clay pipe kiln. They're mostly small backyard affairs and pipe makers would buy in china clay, and then sell on pipes, as small family businesses. This 3D model, with notes, gives a good impression of the sort of multiphase sites we have in London, with later 19th-c brickwork left in place too.  Anyway, here's a link to the model   https://skfb.ly/6OBMD

Animation of the Boar's Head playhouse stage
Contributed by Survey of London on Feb. 21, 2019

The Boar's Head playhouse was built in 1599 within the yard of the Boar's Head inn, just to the south of the site of United Standard House. This animation, link below, was created to assess the likely height of the stage, and shows the general disposition of the stage within the yard.


United Standard House
Contributed by ewan on Oct. 19, 2018

Designed by J. Ockwell, an associate with R. Seifert & Partners. c.1960.

Cromlech House and United Standard House
Contributed by Survey of London on June 5, 2019

The site of the Travelodge London City was cleared after the Second World War of the bomb-damaged portion of Brunswick Buildings, Goulston Street, the 1880s warehouses at 16 to 36 Middlesex Street, a single very large warehouse at 8 to 14 built in 1886-7 for Hollington Bros, wholesale clothiers, and 140 to 145 Whitechapel High Street, cleared later and rebuilt with single-storey shops demolished c1990.1 The site behind the High Street was in use as a car park by 1947, and by market stalls on Sundays. The first rebuilding was a solitary four-storey showroom and workshop building at 16-20 Middlesex Street in 1954-5.

Shortly after the war Petticoat Lane Rentals had taken a lease of the cleared site between Goulston Street and Middlesex Street as a car park and as a site for market stalls on a Sunday. By 1952 the site was scheduled under the Stepney comprehensive development plan for a warehouse and office building, but it was not until 1961 that the developer City and Country Properties Ltd secured outline planning. The scheme, designed by G. A. Crockett, architect, was for a double-height sunken market hall with gallery at street level for more stalls, in plan fanned out towards the north end, with a delicate Festival of Britain diamond-patterned glass roof. To the south was a tower of offices in a similar style, with a zig-zag profile roof of concrete shell with two double-pitches and oversailing up-pitched eaves. It had seventeen storeys of offices above first-floor restaurant and ground-floor shops, all curtain glazed around a lift core. On the Middlesex Street frontage of the market hall was a three-storey curtain-glazed building with showrooms on its upper levels. To the south of the tower was to be a sunken garden and access to basement parking, with a loading bay on the Goulston Street side of the market hall.2 A revised scheme received planning permission for the new owner, Cromlech Property Company Ltd, and construction began in 1964, when the 80-year covenant imposed by the Metropolitan Board of Works when they sold the Goulston Street frontage on which James Hartnoll built Brunswick Buildings restricting the site to flats for the ‘industrial classes’ expired.

The conjoined buildings that went up – United Standard House to the south and Cromlech House to the north - to the designs of J. Ockell of Richard Seifert Associates, architects, was more typical of the 1960s than Crockett’s more elegant design of 1961. The office portion, United Standard House, was in a slab block, six storeys over a three-storey and four-storey podium covering the entire site (leaving a light well behind the 1955 building at 16 to 22 Middlesex Street), faced in yellow brick like the side of the slab block, with continuous high-level strip glazing. The ground floor was mostly open beneath the podium, space for car parking and market-stall storage, the exception being the base of the tower.

The tower’s principal tenant was United Standard Insurance Co. Ltd, and with other insurance companies and, in the 1960s and 1970s, shipping agents predominating, reflecting Whitechapel’s status at the period as ‘the centre of the commercial marine business in Britain’.3 Cromlech House was more typical of commercial Whitechapel, with Daylin shirt manufacturers in the 1960s and 1970s, L. Frankenberg, warehousemen - who sold their Houndsditch headquarters in 1971 and moved to Cromlech House - and in the final days, Pemberman’s caterers.4

Petticoat Lane Rentals were wound up in 2008 and United Standard and Cromlech Houses were empty for 10 years pending redevelopment, which was completed in two phases, starting at the north end with Cromlech House, site of the Travelodge.5

  1. London Metropolitan Archives, District Surveyor's Returns: Post Office Directories (POD): East London Observer, 29 Oct 1887, p. 5 

  2. Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives, Building Control file 15911: The Times, 15 June 1961, p. 8: Paul B. Fairest, ‘Planning Permission and Existing Uses – Enforcement Notices', Cambridge Law Journal, vol.29/2, Nov 1971, pp. 201-03 

  3. POD: https://surveyoflondon.org/map/feature/31/detail/#story 

  4. POD: https://www.bizdb.co.uk/company/pembermans-catering-ltd-08342753/: Financial Times, 26 Nov 1971, p. 30 

  5. Tower Hamlets planning applications online: http://www.downwell.co.uk/projects/middlesex-st-phase-1/: https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/00613900 

Demolition - looking west (into the City)
Contributed by david2

United Standard House from the southwest in 2016
Contributed by Derek Kendall

United Standard House and Cromlech House with market stall frames on Goulston Street in 2016
Contributed by Derek Kendall

Shutters on Middlesex Street in 2016
Contributed by Derek Kendall

United Standard House, southwest corner on Middlesex Street in 2016
Contributed by Derek Kendall

United Standard House, entrance on Middlesex Street in 2016
Contributed by Derek Kendall

United Standard House and Cromlech House from the southeast on Goulston Street in 2016
Contributed by Derek Kendall

United Standard House, detail on Goulston Street in 2016
Contributed by Derek Kendall

United Standard House and Cromlech House from the northeast in 2016
Contributed by Derek Kendall

Inside - dubious quote attributed to "K. Marx" graffiti on fitting
Contributed by david2