Part of a natural watercourse known as the Black Ditch that flowed through Stepney from Shoreditch to Limehouse formed the irregular northernmost boundary to this part of the parish of Whitechapel. This was canalised as a common sewer that turned south outside the parish to the east (across what became the Albion Brewery site), and was used as part of a burial ground during the plague of 1665. origins of Whitechapel’s Ducking Pond, so called by 1715 when it was leased to Joseph Gosden (John Bosley took it for 90 years in 1739), may have to do with this watercourse. The pond has been associated with punishments, as by see-saw and as connected to witch-trials, and it was close to the manorial court and a pound that stood to the east beyond Mile End Gate. However, it is more likely that its name derives from the sport of setting dogs on ducks, as with other sites of the same name on London’s margins in Clerkenwell and Mayfair. Even so, it was a sufficient body of water for women twice to be found drowned therein, in 1753 and 1798. In 1768 it was resorted to by rebellious silk-weavers, known as ‘cutters’, for the destruction of cloth produced below piecework rates. The Ducking Pond was perhaps a casualty of water extraction for distilling, carried out on a large scale to the north from the 1760s. Its site was built over in the early years of the nineteenth century when what survives in part as Winthrop Street was formed as Watson’s Buildings. The name Buck’s Row was in use by 1780 and had wholly superseded Ducking Pond Row by the 1840s.1
From the manorial Court House on the corner with what is now Court Street eastwards, the south side of Ducking Pond Row was densely built up by the 1740s. Development behind the present site of 287–293 Whitechapel Road can be traced back to Henry Allam, a Whitechapel blacksmith and gunner, who leased the land in 1591. At the beginning of the eighteenth century ownership passed to Edward Elderton, a grazier and butcher who held lands south of Whitechapel Road. In 1722, when this property to the west of Yorkshire Court was taken by John White, a tallow chandler, there were two new houses. Among the buildings on Ducking Pond Row was White’s melting house, a forerunner of a slaughterhouse on land that became part of the Spencer Phillips estate.2
The road that is now Brady Street (previously Ducking Pond Lane, then extended as North Street and again renamed in 1875) was a 40ft-wide cart- or horse-way in the 1670s leading to meadows owned by Ralph Thickens and tenanted by Abraham Carnal (or Carnell), a brick-maker. West of his property a 60ft frontage on the north side of Ducking Pond Row was leased from the manor for 500 years in 1672 by Thomas Blakesley, a Whitechapel weaver. Ducking Pond Lane’s frontages south of Ducking Pond Row were thickly built up by the 1740s, incorporating to the west a court of eight small houses known as Pratt’s Rents. From 1761 there was a Jewish cemetery to the north, across the parish boundary in Bethnal Green.3
Whitechapel Distillery aside there was a lot more noxious land use in the area to either side of 1800. Matthew Horne had a bone house on Ducking Pond Lane in the 1770s, and Thomas Whitwell, probably another distiller, was near White’s Row in the eighteenth century. George Monks, a night-man, took a large plot of land on what was to become the west side of North Street in 1797 for the dumping of night soil. William Monk had at least some of this as a bone ground by 1822 when this corner of the parish was ‘wholly occupied by Horse Slaughterers, Nightmen and Bone Choppers’.4 Monk also held what had been the tallow chandler’s site on the south side of Watson’s Buildings west of what was now Nelson Court. By 1833 his slaughterhouse there had been taken by William Barber. It kept going as one of Harrison Barber & Co.’s seven London slaughter depots, with redevelopment in 1901–2, only closing around 1950 (see Lily Austin's memories alongside this account).5
The wedge of land between Buck’s Row and Watson’s Buildings (Little North Street by 1850, then Winthrop Street from 1883), which had been taken as an extension of the distillery in 1829, was solidly built up with terraces of sixty almost back-to-back two-storey houses following a lease of 1861 to George Torr who ran a manure works to the north. Building on Little North Street continued into the 1870s and the houses stood into the 1970s. Buildings along Brady Street including the Roebuck public house at No. 27 on the Durward Street corner stood until 1996.6 Winthrop Street itself retained nineteenth-century granite setts.
Joel Gascoyne’s maps, 1703: Drapers' Company Archives, Pemel's Trust, O10: London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), M/93/138; M/93/272; E/PHI/75a: Read’s Weekly Journal, 26 May 1753: Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, 23 Nov 1769: Mirror of the Times, 1–8 Sept 1798: Richard Horwood's maps, 1799 and 1813 ↩
Transport for London Group Archives (TfLGA), LT000555/617/1–8: LMA, E/PHI/39,54–55,62–63 ↩
TfLGA, LT002051/1077, 2407: John Rocque's map, 1746: LMA, E/PHI/75A-B ↩
LMA, M/93/333 ↩
LMA, E/PHI/397–9: London County Council Minutes, 8 Oct 1901, pp. 1189,1195: District Surveyors Returns: Goad maps, 1890: William John Gordon, The Horse-World of London, 1893, pp.183–9: Post Office Directories ↩
TfLGA, LT002009/451: District Surveyors Returns: Post Office Directories ↩
From 1972 to 1988 there were plans for a large shopping mall to the north of Whitechapel Road and Whitechapel Station. These were initiated by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, which owned land north of Durward Street and was in the process of acquiring Greater London Council owned property, and planned co-operatively with London Transport, which owned most of what lay to the south of Durward Street. A first scheme incorporated substantial office and residential elements and proposed building above the railway line. The factories north of Durward Street and the housing between Durward Street and Winthrop Street were cleared in the early 1970s, leaving just the coal-drop viaduct, Rosenbergers and Brady House on Durward Street, Brady Street Dwellings, and a garage immediately south of the Jewish Burial Ground in Bethnal Green.
The Shankland Cox Partnership put forward four development options in 1975, soon reduced to three, ranging in extent from just the east side of Whitechapel Station to Brady Street, to all the way to Vallance Road in the west. Redevelopment planning extended well northwards into Spitalfields and Bethnal Green. Abbott Howard, architects, took forward a preferred scheme before 1979 when the Council briefed Sam Chippindale Development Services to prepare a plan for almost fourteen acres ‘loosely based on a Brent Cross/Arndale theme’; Chippindale, a founder of Arndale, had not previously been active in London.1 Through Trip and Wakeham Partnership, architects, this had become a huge project (larger in fact than Brent’s Cross) extending to the northern boundary of the parish, intending 800,000 square feet of retail including six or seven department stores, 300,000 square feet of office space, flats and parking for 1800 cars and a bus station.
There was perceived competition from Surrey Docks, but all seemed set to go ahead in 1983. However, two big retailers pulled out and Chippindale, voicing doubt (the project ‘hadn’t got a cat in hell’s chance of succeeding’2), was sacked in 1985. The scheme’s commercial viability was further questioned, but concerned at being the only London borough both not to have a large retail centre and expecting a population increase in the 1980s, the Council issued a new development brief. Competing proposals included a scheme by Inner City Enterprises submitted with the Tower Hamlets Environment Trust on behalf of the Whitechapel Development Trust. This became known as ‘the community plan’; its architects were CZWG. A more commercial rival (more offices and parking, less residential) from Pengap Securities Ltd working with Chapman Taylor Partners was favoured. Pengap was taken over by the Burton Group in 1987 and the project was passed around, to former Pengap directors as Wingate Property and Investment, then to Chase Property Holdings and on to Trafalgar House with Consortium Commercial. The scheme they submitted and gained permission to build in 1988 would have had a large domical central feature and a nine-storey tower on Brady Street. It would also have meant clearance of 235–245 and 287–317 Whitechapel Road. But negotiations unravelled and by the end of the year the project had died, its abandonment said to be connected to proposals for the Grand Metropolitan owned Albion Brewery site. Meanwhile there had been vast quantities of fly-tipping on the empty land, to a depth of 2–3m.3
What had been the Kearley & Tonge site south of Vallance Gardens was used for car auctions, as a lorry park and as a Sunday market for second-hand goods in the 1980s and 90s. A spin-off from Brick Lane’s then gentrifying market, this was misleadingly referred to as Whitechapel Waste, and more accurately described as the 'kalo' (Bengali for black) market.4
Transport for London Group Archives (TfLGA), LT000682/089 ↩
East London Advertiser, 1 Nov 1985 ↩
TfLGA, LT000682/089: Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives (THLHLA), cuttings and pamphlets 022: The Spitalfields Trust newsletter, 1990 ↩
THLHLA, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Whitechapel Shopping Centre Development Brief, 1986: http://philmaxwell.org/?p=13334: Juber Hussain at https://surveyoflondon.org/map/feature/616/detail/ ↩
Kempton Court (2 Durward Street and 7–23 Brady Street) was an early project by Sean Mulryan’s Ballymore Properties Ltd, previously Kempton Homes (London) Ltd. Built in 1996, the development comprises 110 flats with ground-floor shop and office units on Brady Street that have since 2004 housed The Haven, an NHS and Metropolitan Police sexual-assault referral centre. Plain, even austere, the long four-storey brick elevations are punctuated by gables over recessed bays with balconettes. The street ranges conceal an inner block aligned with the railway cutting. The estate has been gated since 2005 following complaints from residents about security.1
Tower Hamlets planning applications online ↩