91 Durward Street

2000-3, house | Part of Whitechapel West

Whitechapel West
Contributed by Survey of London on Jan. 4, 2018

Following the failure of shopping-mall schemes, plans for developing the five- acre area north of the east end of Durward Street were advanced in 1991 by the Spitalfields Development Group, headed by Michael Bear with John Miller and Partners as architects, proposing 118 low-rent flats (58) and houses (60) and a public leisure centre with two swimming pools, a leisure pool having been part of the shopping-mall scheme from 1986. This ‘community benefit package’ was put forward as part of a deal for the redevelopment of the Spitalfields Market site.1

A second scheme that was submitted in 1995 led to the building of the Whitechapel Sports Centre, but the housing project was not resolved until 2000 when plans by MEPK Architects (led by Marcus Nelson) were approved, working with Alan McEwan and Associates, engineers. Building proceeded and the Tower Hamlets Community Housing estate opened in 2003 as Whitechapel West. It comprises terraces of two- and three-storey stock-brick and faintly neo- Georgian houses, with intermingled blocks of flats, distinguished by the incorporation of red-brick spandrel panels, at 57–71 Durward Street, 22–30 Vallance Road (with shops), 3–71 Wodeham Gardens (with a community room at the Vallance Road corner), and 1–15 and 26–40 Trahorn Close. There is a small railed circular garden in Trahorn Close.2


  1. East London Advertiser, 27 Sept. 1991: Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives, London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Whitechapel Shopping Centre Development Brief, 1986] 

  2. Tower Hamlets planning applications online 

Early development
Contributed by Survey of London on Jan. 3, 2018

In 1796–7 Thomas Barnes, Whitechapel’s leading builder, took a large plot of land north of Ducking Pond Row between the Liptraps' Whitechapel Distillery and Thomas Street and up to the parish boundary on a building agreement and lease from the Rev. Charles Phillips, undertaking to spend £1000 on building houses within five years. He duly laid out John Street (to the east and erased in the 1860s), Queen Ann Street and Cross Street and built about 100 small houses using available land for brickmaking during the process.1

At this time Barnes was one of the Tower Hamlets Commissioners of Sewers, a committee chaired by the notoriously corrupt Joseph Merceron, under whom ratebook fraud was widespread. It is notable, therefore, that entries in a sewer commissioners’ ratebook from 1803 that record the Liptraps and Barnes on successive lines as holding property valued respectively at 12 shillings and £9 were overwritten and reversed in January 1804, a marginal note claiming an error. The Liptraps' struggle with bankruptcy in 1804 was perhaps not unrelated.2

Further west, by 1803 Samuel Special had a slaughterhouse and there was a varnish factory on White’s Row by 1838. Joseph and William Lescher, starch manufacturers, were on the west side of the north end of Thomas Street by 1803 and as Lescher Son & Co. were building extensively in 1847–9.3

The starch factory site on the west side of Thomas Street was replaced around 1890 by Blackwall Buildings, 156 dwellings in four ranges built by and for the Great Eastern Railway Company. They were sold in 1933 and cleared around 1970.4  To serve some of this population a corrugated-iron mission hall was built at the north end of Thomas Street's east side in 1893, to plans by H. O. Ellis, architect. It was extended with a clubroom in 1902 and cleared after war damage.5 The Sir John Barleycorn public house was further south on the east side of Thomas Street.6

Thomas Street was renamed Fulbourne Street in 1904, after Hugh de Fulbourne, the earliest known rector of Whitechapel. In 1912 Queen Ann Street was renamed Wodeham Street and Cross Street Trahorn Street (after Whitechapel vicars). Queen Ann Street had been noted in Booth’s survey as having some of the area’s worst housing in 1898, with ‘all english’ as opposed to Jewish occupancy. The Pemberton-Barnes Estate still owned many of the Barnes-built houses in the 1930s and the last remnants of replacement housing survived into the 1970s. The streets have gone, but their secondary names have been recycled.7


  1. London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), E/PHI/76A; THCS/289,338: Morning Advertiser, 7 March 1810 

  2. LMA, THCS/289, p.64 

  3. LMA, M/93/321; /333; /412; /418; Land Tax returns; Tower Hamlets Commissioners of Sewers ratebooks; District Surveyors Returns (DSR) 

  4. The Builder, 20 April 1889, p. 305: Goad map, 1890: DSR: London School of Economics Library (LSE), Booth/B/351, p. 239: Estates Gazette, 4 Feb. 1933, p. 1 

  5. DSR: London County Council Minutes, 28 Feb 1893, p. 205 

  6. LMA, M/93/159/1 

  7. DSR: LSE, Booth/B/351, p. 245 

Shopping-mall schemes
Contributed by Survey of London on Jan. 4, 2018

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


  1. Transport for London Group Archives (TfLGA), LT000682/089 

  2. East London Advertiser, 1 Nov 1985 

  3. TfLGA, LT000682/089: Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives (THLHLA), cuttings and pamphlets 022: The Spitalfields Trust newsletter, 1990 

  4. 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/ 

Themes