102 to 105 Whitechapel High Street and 2 Commercial Street

1909-10 rebuilding of part of T. Venables & Son drapers and furnishers

The site of 102 to 105 Whitechapel High Street before 1700
Contributed by Survey of London on July 13, 2018

The history of the site between Tewkesbury Buildings and Commercial Street (formerly Catherine Wheel Alley/Essex Street) is known from the sixteenth century and is significant as it included the Whitechapel bell foundry from, at latest, 1631, until it moved to its site in Whitechapel Road in the 1740s.

The rest of the site is unusually well recorded in a series of seventeenth-, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century deeds which demonstrate a process that must have occurred all along the High Street: the development in the sixteenth century of alleys northwards along what were originally narrow burgage plots behind relatively modest earlier street-side houses, followed in the seventeenth century by the gradual reduction in number by amalgamation and rebuilding of both these alley cottages, and of the street-side houses, and the eventual elimination by building-over of the alleys and yet further amalgamation/rebuilding of street-side houses into larger buildings, in the eighteenth century and beyond.1

The site of Nos 102-105, along with No. 101, included two alleys: Bell Alley, to the west of Tewkesbury Church Alley, on the site of the warehouse built by Mead and Powell behind Nos 101 and 102 in the 1840s; and Bolt and Tun Alley, later site of No. 103, to the west of Bell Alley. Nos 104-05, a single large building from 1786 to 1909, covered a site originally of three smaller houses, a silk-twisting ground and other smaller properties on the east side of Catherine Wheel Alley.

The site of the bell foundry was on the eastern part of the block of land, somewhere on the hinterland of the later 101 and 102 High Street. Connected with this was the purchase in 1627 by Thomas Bartlett, bellfounder, from William Hewson, Citizen and Skinner, for £240 of the freehold of two houses on the High Street, by then divided into four tenements, the price reflecting the size of the sites which stretched north roughly 130ft to Sugar Loaf Alley, later Commercial Place.2.

Richard Hewson, William Hewson’s father, had acquired them in 1564 from Lawrence Bradshaw (d. 1581), citizen and carpenter, who had been Surveyor of the Royal Works from 1547 to 1560.3 Possibly Bradshaw had been the builder/designer of the High Street houses, as he was also apparently building houses, half a mile away, in (Great) Tower Street near the Tower, in the 1560s, when, as Mark Girouard has argued, he may have been designing Cecil House in the Strand for Sir Robert Cecil.4  The retrospectively bathetic implausibility of Bradshaw building in Whitechapel High Street is perhaps deceptive: as Surveyor of the Royal Works his income fluctuated enormously, with a retainer of only 2s a day. Such property speculation may have been a financial imperative.5 The occupants of Richard Hewson’s two houses in 1564 were Henry Beard, apparently another sometime servant of the Court, described in 1627 as ‘yeoman trumpeter of the late Queen Elizabeth’, and Lawrence Clark, barber-surgeon, probably the Lawrence Clark, who gave evidence in 1539 against John Harrydance, a Whitechapel bricklayer,  called to account by the authorities for preaching across his garden fence while Clark was attempting to enjoy a quiet game of bowls, and also from his window on ‘the King’s Highway’ (ie, the High Street), for several hours at a time late at night.6

Richard Hewson died in 1587, leaving the rental of a house in St Mary (at) Hill, to his wife, and his own house, also in St Dunstan in the East, along with, in Whitechapel, four ‘new-built’ houses ‘at the Horseshoe’ (ie, off Petticoat Lane), to his son William, then a minor, and four other houses in Whitechapel to his four daughters.7 As the four daughters were parties to William Hewson’s sale of the two houses to Thomas Bartlett in 1627, it may be inferred, these two houses were among the four not ‘at the Horseshoe’. By the time of that sale the two were divided into four tenements, and by indentures of 1609 and 1620 one each leased to Edward Franckton, citizen and grocer, and Christopher Hewett, citizen and glazier, who were perhaps responsible for the subdivision of each house, as they had both previously occupied a part each; one of the others was Henry Sacheverell, possibly the Whitechapel vintner indicted in 1613 for refusing to work on or pay for the King’s Highway.8. In 1627 Hewett and Franckton surrendered their underleases to Bartlett, the then-occupants of the four tenements being John Potterton, gentlemant, Peter Wheeler, a silk weaver, and Robert Gray, a farrier. It appears from later transactions that the property Bartlett acquired had been assembled by the Hewsons and was located on either side of the Bolt and Tun/Pomegranate site, that is on the sites of both 101 and 102 High Street, and 104 and parts of 105.

Thomas Bartlett died in 1631, four years after he acquired the houses from William Hewson, leaving the houses in trust for his wife Ellen, so long as she remained a widow, and thence to his daughter Mary Cape, and son Anthony, also a bellfounder.9

In 1631 Bartlett left his house ‘by the sign of the three bells’, plus the ‘back buildings thereto belonging’ (including, presumably, the foundry) to his son Anthony, also a bellfounder.10 He also left three other houses to his wife Ellen, so long as she remained a widow, so when she remarried in 1632, these passed to Anthony Bartlett, and his sister, Mary Cape. One of these was the single house between the site of the foundry, ie, Bell Alley, and Bolt and Tun Alley, which was later numbered No. 102, probably that then occupied by Edward Symes (d. 1632), probably the man of that name fined in 1618 for ‘tippling without licence’.11 The other two, one behind the other separated by a small yard were ‘one away from Catherine Wheel Alley’, ie, site of No. 104, to the west of Bolt and Tun Alley.

Anthony Bartlett, while he retained the foundry, sold or leased some of the property accumulated by his father on the High Street. In 1659 he was involved in a Chancery case with Anthony Cass, bricklayer and tiler of St Botolph Aldgate (cousin of Thomas Cass, the father of the celebrated Sir John Cass), involving the small house fronting the High Street between Bell and Bolt and Tun Alleys, whose freehold Cass’s son sold on in 1678. Occupied in 1659 by a cordwainer, John Bourne, it sat on a plot less than 42ft deep (presumably as Bartlett had retained the rest of the site for his foundry), with a 10ft frontage to the street, its rear 12ft ‘below the stairs’ and 14ft above the stairs, suggesting typical sixteenth-century timber-jettied construction. It included a cellar below a shop, with two chambers above and a kitchen behind with another little chamber. The house passed through many owners, the timber- framed house rebuilt c. 1702 presumably in brick.

Bartlett’s other property, on the site of 104 High Street, included two houses small houses, 10ft wide, one behind the other, on a site that included the large stretch of open ground behind evident on the Ogilby and Morgan map. By 1638 (and probably earlier, under the Hewsons, when one of the tenants, was a weaver, Peter Wheeler), the year he sold it to James Best, a silk throwster, this was ‘used for a twisting place’, that is for preparing thread for weaving, part of the throwing process.

The front house was then occupied by Richard Choppin, a strongwater man, or seller of spirits, the rear by Peter Houghtropp or Hewtrop, a weaver. By 1680 part of the twisting ground had been built over with a small house by John Kidvill, a relative of Bartlett, and the High Street property was occupied by Theodosius Lanphere (sometimes Lamphere), tin-plate worker.

The final property on the site developed by Venables in the 19th century, lay between the Bartlett’s two holdings, on the site of the later 103 High Street. Bolt and Tun Alley is known by 1616 when it was described as ‘lately purchased’ by the testator Daniel Swarts, or Swartes, of St Andrew Holborn, possibly the non-juring cordwainer of that name recorded in 1578.12 The property consisted in 1616 of two conjoined houses on the High Street known by the signs of the Pomegranate and the Bolt and Tun, possibly inns but by the later 17th century apparently in other use, and eighteen small houses in an alley running north between them.13.

Swarts described the property then as ‘lately purchased’ of one Philipp Demaryne, perhaps the Phillip Demarine buried at St Mary Matfelon in 1609.14 By 1680 the eighteen houses had been ‘reduced to fewer’, which fits with the 1666 Hearth Tax which recorded thirteen houses of between none and three hearths, with seven houses empty, and the 1674-5 Hearth Tax which records nine houses (two empty) of one to three hearths, and Ogilby & Morgan’s map of 1676 which shows an alley with, at its south end, four houses on the west side, then a slight dogleg as the four next houses are to the east and at the north end a slightly larger house. Fronting the High Street, either side of Bolt and Tun Alley, were the Pomegranate and the Bolt and Tun. The whole site passed by inheritance through the family of John Wilkinson, of Lenham, Kent, till the 1690s.

  1. Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives (THLHLA), Uncatalogued deeds, TH/8770 

  2. THLHLA, TH/8770 

  3. History of the King’s Works, vol 4, London 1963 

  4. Jill Husselby and Paula Henderson, ‘Location! Location! Location!', Architectural History, 45 (2002), pp. 159-93 (pp. 168, 170, 190): 'Inquisitions: 1586', in Abstracts of Inquisitiones Post Mortem For the City of London: Part 3, ed. E. A. Fry, London 1908, pp. 84-99 (p. 92) 

  5. Wyatt Papworth, ‘On the Superintendents of English Buildings in the Middle Ages; with Special Reference to William of Wykeham’, Papers Read at the Royal Institute of British Architects, Session 1859-60, London 1860, pp.38-51 (p. 40) 

  6. G.R. Elton, Policy and Police: The Enforcement of the Reformation in the Age of Thomas Cromwell, Cambridge 1985, pp. 162-4: James Gairdner and R.H. Brodie, eds, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII, XIV/ii, London 1895, pp. 12-13 

  7. The National Archives (TNA), PROB 11/71/112 

  8. 'Sessions, 1613: 28 and 30 June', in County of Middlesex. Calendar To the Sessions Records: New Series, Volume 1, 1612-14, ed. William Le Hardy, London 1935, pp. 117-154 

  9. Ancestry 

  10. London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), DL/C/B/008/MS09172/040, no 203 

  11. 'Sessions, 1617: 13 and 16 January', in County of Middlesex. Calendar To the Sessions Records: New Series, Volume 4, 1616-18, ed. William Le Hardy, London 1941, pp. 85-96 

  12. The Publications of the Huguenot Society of London, X/ii: Returns of Aliens Dwelling in the City and Suburbs of London from the Reign of Henry VIII to that of James I, ed. R.E.G. Kirk and Ernest F. Kirk, London 1902, p. 214 

  13. TNA, PROB 11/129/420 

  14. Ancestry: LMA, P93/MRY1/001 

The sites of 102-105 High Street from 1700 till the advent of Venables
Contributed by Survey of London on July 13, 2018

While No. 102 had been rebuilt around 1702 and, hemmed in by the foundry site, occupied in the eighteenth century as in the seventeenth, by a cordwainer (Henry Pedley), The Bolt and Tun and Pomegranate houses were still separate in 1737. In 1709 William Chadsey, by 1712 apparently the landlord of the Seven Stars on the High Street west of Catherine Wheel Alley, was described as living ‘by Bolt & Tun Alley’, so one or other of the Bolt and Tun and the Pomegranate, probably the Bolt & Tun as the named persisted longer, was still an inn.1 Both houses were, from 1737, in the occupation of Nicholas Miller (d. 1765), a grocer and tea dealer, who appears to have rebuilt them as a single building in 1749; ‘premises behind’ may have been the vestiges of the Bolt and Tun Alley houses, or storage built on their site.2 Miller’s daughter Sarah and her husband, George Pindar, sold the building and the ‘premises’ in 1784, by then occupied by another grocer, Thomas Henry, and known by the sign of the Tea Canister. The buyer was a pawnbroker and silversmith, William Windsor (d. 1817). He probably refronted No. 103 as, at the same time, he acquired the house next west that Anthony Bartlett had sold to James Best in 1638, which from a description in 1764 appears to have changed little since the sixteenth century, both houses of three storeys, that to the street also with garrets, and presumably of timber- frame construction.

Windsor rebuilt these old houses and the neighbour at the corner, No. 105, as substantial premises and house for himself, with coachhouse behind, and had added four new houses on the old twisting ground, on Catherine Wheel Alley, by the time of his death.3 No. 103 remained a wholesale grocers, Joshua and David Hill (later Joshua and John Hill), till the Venableses took over the building around 1827 (though the Hills appear to have retained premises to the rear fronting Essex Street for a few more years), and Nos 104-05 also remained a pawnbrokers (Thomas and James Fleming, associates of Windsor, later George Bonham, who then moved to No. 88) till swallowed up by the Venables empire (see below) in 1846.4 Windsor had been building his own empire, having also, in 1806, acquired the tiny No. 102, from the daughter of the hosier James Backhouse, who had occupied it since c. 1749. Already presumably brick- built, it was not rebuilt again till 1847, remaining as a hosier and shirtmaker’s till the 1860s when it was a milliners, then from the early 1870s another branch of Asher Cruley, bootmaker, till Venables took it over in 1885.5

  1. Ancestry 

  2. London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), Land Tax returns (LT:) The National Archives (TNA), PROB 11/090/438: Ancestry: Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives, Uncatalogued deeds, TH/8770 

  3. Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, 7 May 1817, p. 4 

  4. LT: Post Office Directories (POD) 

  5. POD 

T. Venables & Sons Ltd buildings, 102 to 105 Whitechapel High Street
Contributed by Survey of London on July 13, 2018

This corner building was erected in 1909 as part of T. Venables & Sons Ltd, general drapers and furnishers. Apart from Gardiner's on the opposite side of the road, Venables was the largest store that ever graced the High Street. Although it began as a typical linen drapers and silk mercers, by 1858 it had become a proto-department store. The stress was always on ‘extraordinarily low prices’.1 From small beginnings at No. 103 in 1825, over the next fifty years the firm expanded greatly on this corner site and into other buildings on Commercial Street and the High Street before finally being wound up in 1927.

The business started in 1825 when the two young sons of Cornelius Venables (1773-1841), a mercer and linen draper in Whitchurch, Shropshire, set up in London. They were William (b. 1799, fl. 1851) and Thomas (1800-1875) Venables, who first appear briefly in 1825 as ‘silk mercers of 234 Whitechapel Road' (the building adjoining Meggs’s almshouses, giving access to Hampshire Court and later deployed to give access to the Earl of Effingham theatre), though with no evidence they had a shop there, and ‘of’ 134 High Street the same year.2

By 1827 W. & T. Venables had opened a shop at the more central High Street site at No. 103, near the corner with Essex Street, formerly Catherine Wheel Alley, later Commercial Street.3 They dissolved their partnership in 1830 when William went off to set up his own less-than-successful venture in Lamb’s Conduit Street in Holborn (bankrupt by 1834, and sentenced to four months’ imprisonment for giving an unsatisfactory account of his losses).4. Thomas was then joined in partnership by a younger brother, John (1803-79). The Whitechapel shop at No. 103 appears, from a description during a court case in 1842, to have been predictably domestic in scale, with a separate ‘bonnet room’ at the rear.5 Although only four storeys high, including the shop, in 1841 the building accommodated Thomas Venables, his wife and young son, another younger brother Charles (1815-77), who soon returned to Shropshire, and twenty-three shop assistants, mostly men in their early twenties, living in presumably cramped dormitory conditions, with five servants, to cater for both the family and assistants.6

There were a further half dozen assistants and servants living in 1841, along with John and Robert Venables, at No. 106 High Street, on the west corner with Essex Street, where the family had opened another shop in 1837. They had to give it up in 1843 for the widening of Essex Street into Commercial Street, instead decamping to 132 High Street, between Old Castle Street and Goulston Street, and seeking a lavish £4,000 compensation (knocked down to £1,300) from the Commissioners of Woods and Forests for the loss of the advantageous corner site - one which may have been chosen, one ventures, given the brief sojourn there of the business, with a view to the compensation in the long-projected new street.7

An opportunity to expand on a single site came in 1846 when Venables gave up No. 132 and took over the building that adjoined No. 103, on the east corner with Commercial Street. The new premises, formerly 104 and 105, were already a substantial building three windows wide, soon to be renamed ‘Commerce House’.8

The same year the Venables brothers had taken over a bankrupt drapers at 34 Aldgate High Street. The two businesses, although each brother was a partner in both, were separate companies and different in character, the Aldgate shop, run by John and another brother, Robert (1817-80), described as ‘woollen drapers’ and the Whitechapel shop, run by Thomas, as ‘silk mercers’ and ‘Manchester warehouse’ (ie, cotton goods).9

In 1854 the partnerships were dissolved and the businesses separated and Thomas Venables was joined in Whitechapel in 1858 by his two sons, Thomas Glascott (1830-1903) and Charles (1832-92).10 The infusion of young blood saw a major expansion of Venables business, with carpets augmenting the drapery business, by 1858, ‘the largest and cheapest stock in the kingdom’.11 The stress on low prices in a poor area had perhaps predictable consequences: on a number of occasions in the 1820s and 1830s one or other Venables had been called as a witness in court cases where they had purchased at a suspiciously low price goods later discovered to have been stolen; as the business expanded, however, they were more likely to be the victims of shoplifting, swindles and staff pilfering.12

By 1861 Thomas Venables senior and his two sons were living in large houses in East and West Ham, but the Whitechapel shops still housed around thirty assistants and servants.13 In 1862 a substantial range of buildings was put up along the slow-to-develop Commercial Street – Nos 2 to 16, later numbered 2, 4, 6 and 8 - adjoining the rear of Venables’ corner building at 104-5 High Street.14

The handsome four-storey range in stock brick was to the designs of the City architect Isaac Clarke (1800-85), a friend of the Venableses since the early 1850s.15 It featured Italianate stucco surrounds to the windows (similar being added to the existing High Street frontage, as a stab at visual uniformity), those on the first floor tall and round-headed. It was probably at this time that the prominent flank wall of No. 105 at the corner was fully rendered and a sign added the full height of the building with incised lettering: ‘VENABLES Estabd. 1825 FURNITURE CARPETS SILKS DRAPERY.’, signifying Venables’ expansion into commercial and domestic contract carpeting, and furniture.16 A reflection of this was the opening in 1873 of an extensive new furniture department in one of the deep new warehouses (No. 16, later No. 29) on the opposite side of Commercial Street, north of the Baptist church,  complete with a wall-crane and loading doors at first and second floors.17

They further extended the Commercial Street block to nearly 170ft, matching Clarke’s design, taking in Nos 10-12 (now No. 4) and the sites of two small houses on the south side of Commercial Place, in 1874.18 By then Thomas Venables Senior was retired to a large house in Wanstead and by 1881 ninety- seven men and women were employed in the business.19 That year the furniture warehouse at No. 29 closed, though perhaps only because its location was some distance from the main shop, as further expansion on the main site took place in 1885, when 102 High Street was absorbed.20 By 1891, with both the younger Venables brothers retired, and no further generations involved in the trade, T. Venables & Sons became a limited company, with Thomas Eagle Bye (1854-1932) as managing director by 1894 till at least 1914, though the Venables family retained the freehold of the building.21

Venables’ final expansion, in 1894, compensated for the loss of the furniture outlet, when they occupied 10,000 sq ft of premises at 115 High Street as a furniture outlet (see xx). Its acquisition freed up space at the main corner site for expanded displays of china, electroplate, glass and ironmongery, and a full house-furnishing service, including furniture, floor coverings of all kinds, china, electroplate, glass, and carpet-laying was available: ‘Houses furnished throughout at London’s lowest prices’.22 House removals and funerals were also offered, which may account for the firm’s stable yard on the east side of Back Church Lane, corner of Batty’s Gardens, south of Commercial Road, in the 1890s.23

By the early 20th century, Nos 102-05 were showing their age, and were demolished and rebuilt by C.R. Price of Bishopsgate in 1909, probably to the designs of John Wallis Chapman (1843-1915), as a single building, with the Commercial Street premises brought up to LCC standards with a new concrete staircase at the north end.24 The staff accommodation was improved, with the second floor of the whole premises devoted to women assistants’ rooms, the third to men’s; in 1911 the 36 assistants had 26 rooms, including a dining room each for the men and women 25 The new building at 102-05 High Street, which also took in the first four bays of the 1860s Commercial Street building, is still extant. It is of orange-red brick to second and third floors, the plain windows with thin raised stone keystones, the first floor fully faced in cream faience with large shallow canted-bay display windows set within semi-circular arches. The canted corner of the building has a bulls-eye window set in a stone plaque topped with a pediment to the second floor, and originally had a prominent semi-circular oriel to the first floor, destroyed in the Second World War.

Venables finally went out of business in 1928, remaining at No. 115 (see below) for a year after F.W. Woolworth acquired the whole building at 102-05, making various alterations in 1928-30 and 1939, including an island vitrine in the canted corner. 26 The building was severely damaged during the war, the 1862 Commercial Street building burnt out and its frontage partly destroyed but Woolworth’s remained trading on the ground and first floors of the 1909 building.27

Essential repairs were carried out in 1948-51, and the upper floors of the 1862 building rebuilt and the frontage reinstated in 1955.28 Woolworth’s offered the lease of their premises for sale in 1954 and moved out of 102-05 High Street in 1960 when their purpose-built store at 114-18 High Street opened.29

The shop has since been a shoe shop, a knitwear shop, and for the past ten years sportswear, currently a branch of Sports Direct. The upper floors, known after the war as Fairholt House, housed shipping and freight agencies, though by 1970 the former drapers’ assistants’ floors had become the students’ union of City of London Polytechnic; in 1972 the building was owned by Eastern Avenue Investments, largely taken over by Guardian Properties (Holdings) Ltd that year.30 In 2001 another property firm, Valson International, converted the student union floors to offices, though educational use returned in 2010 with the opening there of the Al Ashraaf secondary school, which appears to have closed recently (chk) following unfavourable Ofsted inspection in 2017.31 Other current/recent occupants and users include the College of Advanced Studies, latterly operating only for venue hire, ‘Now Believe Glory Time’, community of street evangelists, the Al-Awaal language school, Eynsford College tutors and the chambers of barrister Anis Rahman, OBE.32 In April 2018 South Street Asset Management revealed a radical outline proposal to demolish the 1860s and 1890s buildings at 2-6 Commercial Street, and replace the whole site with 40,000 sq ft of offices in a 12- to 19--storey glass building, the altered façade of the 1909 building retained at the corner. The proposal includes landscaping the car park on the site of Spread Eagle Yard as a public garden.33

  1. East London Observer (ELO), 13 Jan 1883, p. 7 

  2. London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), MS 11936/500/1033104; Post Office Directories (POD): LMA, Land Tax returns (LT) 

  3. POD: Census: LMA, CLC/B/192/F/001/MS11936/500/1033104 

  4. The London Gazette, 1830, p. 1223: LMA, MS 11936/541/1175486 

  5. Trial of Elizabeth Jackson, 13 June 1842 

  6. Census 

  7. Morning Post, 26 June 1843, p. 7 

  8. London Daily News, 28 May 1851, p. 8 

  9. The Champion, 7 May 1837, p. 24: POD 

  10. London Daily News, 28 May 1851, p. 8: The London Gazette, 15 Sept 1854, p. 2855: POD: Ancestry 

  11. Morning Advertiser, 2 Dec 1858, p. 1: Illustrated London News, 1 Jan 1859, p.15 

  12. Morning Advertiser, 1 Nov 1826, p. 3: Daily News, 14 March 1828, p. 4: Morning Post, 29 April 1839, p. 7: Bell’s New Weekly Messenger, 11 Oct 1840, p. 7: Morning Post, 29 May 1855, p. 7: ELO, 10 April 1858, p. 4: Lloyd’s Weekly London Newspaper, 5 Feb 1860, p. 4 

  13. Census 

  14. POD 

  15. The Builder (B), 4 Feb 1860, p.80: Census 

  16. Illustrated Weekly News, 31 May 1862, p. 15 

  17. POD: Don Juan: A Twofold Journey with Manifold Purposes, London 1874, advertisement pages, p. X 

  18. POD 

  19. Census 

  20. POD 

  21. The National Archives (TNA), BT 31/15191/35136; BT 34/2632/35136; IR58/84809/2680: Chelmsford Chronicle, 9 Nov 1894, p. 5 

  22. Tower Hamlets Independent, 8 Dec 1894, p. 8: ELO, 17 Nov 1894, p. 2: Essex Chronicle, 9 April 1897, p. 6 

  23. Goad insurance plans 

  24. London County Council (LCC) Minutes (Mins), 13 July 1909, p. 159 

  25. TNA, IR58/84809/2680: Census: DSR 

  26. DSR 

  27. information Eric Shorter 

  28. Tower Hamlets planning applications online (THP) 

  29. The Times, 27 May 1954, p. 8 

  30. The Guardian, 18 April 1972, p. 25; 11 Oct 1979, p. 9: POD 

  31. https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/inspection-reports/find-inspection- report/provider/ELS/138980 

  32. THP: http://www.anisrahmanchambers.co.uk/: https://www.alawwal.co.uk/ : [https://www.facebook.com/events/164331568265628^33]: 7/ ](https://www.facebook.com/events/1643315682656287/) 

  33. http://www.101whs.co.uk/ 

Contributed by eric on Nov. 28, 2016

I lived  near to this building (in nearby Gower's Walk, in fact) when I was aged 10 onwards, in 1946 or thereabouts. At that time it was a Woolworths, and I was aware of it having two floors. For a lad, both floors were good to explore and spend pennies in. I was also aware that there was another floor, to which the staircase was closed off: I think that the stairs led down to a basement. At a later time the basement floor was opened up, so there was yet more pleasure for a young lad. _  _

Contributed by martin2 on March 24, 2017

This site was a Woolworth store when I returned from evacuation after World War 2, and I was led into minor crime by local lads. On Saturdays we would visit this Woolworth and steal every kind of item just for the hell of it, but later the visits served a purpose as we became cycle owners - old second-hand bikes that needed maintenance. Not having money we stole anything we required like "Japanese Lacquer" small tins of quality paint, oil, brake blocks, cables and many other items. On one forever memorable day, as we were stupidly checking we had all we required outside the store, suddenly an adult asked if we had paid for our ill-gotten gains? We, of course, responded we had. He then stated we would return to the store to check if the young lady remembered us paying, and with that being a gent he walked to the doors and as he opened them we ran, and I mean ran & ran until my legs could no longer move. We knew all the back doubles and alleys so were home and free, but I think it was the end to our visits. I admit I would have followed him into the store had Boy Boy not shouted RUN RUN !

2 Commercial Street from the northwest in 2018
Contributed by Derek Kendall

2 Commercial Street from the west in 2018
Contributed by Derek Kendall

102–105 Whitechapel High Street and 2 Commercial Street in 2018
Contributed by Derek Kendall