2–10 Court Street

Houses damaged in an air raid in 1941 were rebuilt as single-storey shops | Part of 2–10 Court Street

the manorial Court House
Contributed by Survey of London on Jan. 3, 2018

Stepney’s manorial Court House was a modest building on Ducking Pond Row (now Durward Street) at the north-east corner of Court Street. Generally known as Whitechapel Court or Manor Court, it was present by 1623 when ‘Lord Wentworth’s Jayle within White Chapell’ was mentioned in John Taylor’s poem ‘The Praise and Vertue of a Jayle and Jaylers’. In 1703 it was referred to as ‘the Prison House and the Court of Record called the King’s Court of Record for the Manors of Stepney and Hackney’.1 Perhaps established in the late sixteenth century to oversee disputes and settlements between the Lord of the Manor and tenants and to imprison debtors, it also provided accommodation for the Steward of the Manor and the Chief Bailiff. In the early eighteenth century the prison, said to have been capable of holding about a hundred people, was overcrowded with debtors, many owing very small sums or victims of false testimony. Its use declined, especially after an Act of 1779 removed the power of arrest on mesne process, and it was empty in 1800. Before then the premises seem to have doubled up as a Freemasons’ lodge and a public house. Thereafter, the courthouse was adapted to residential use until it was replaced in the mid nineteenth century, its last recorded mention in 1838 being as ‘tenements late Court House’.2

  1. London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), M/93/138 

  2. LMA, THCS/464: Land Tax returns: M. Dorothy George, London Life in the Eighteenth Century, 1925 (edn 1964), pp. 300,307–9: John Rocque's map, 1746: Richard Horwood's maps, 1799 and 1813