Until the middle of the eighteenth century, Whitechapel’s ‘field gate’ marked an edge of the built-up district at the west end of a footpath that led across fields to Stepney, a route the other end of which was to become Stepney Way. Once this path had been bisected by the New Road in 1754–6 its west end was less rural and ripe for development. Buildings followed in two phases, reflecting two landholdings. The western section, haphazardly built up from 1759 was initially called Baynes Street, after Edward Baynes, the landowner. But he sold up a decade later and it soon came to be known as Fieldgate Street through the older association. The eastern stretch was built up from 1787 as Charlotte Street, part of the London Hospital estate and named in honour of the Queen. In 1894 the whole road was unified and renumbered as Fieldgate Street.
By 1620 Thomas Pierrepoint had the western of the two estates with a long manorial lease. The holding extended along the south sides of Whitechapel Road properties east of the ‘field gate’ junction, but most of it lay further west, along Whitechapel Road as far as the parish churchyard. In 1720 this property passed to the Rev. Edward Baynes of Galway in Ireland, who by 1727 had moved to Castlebar, County Mayo. He was the only grandson and heir of Mary Bull (née Pierrepoint).1 Its eastern part comprised three acres to the east of the present line of Plumber’s Row, including the site of the western part of Fieldgate Street as far as Orange Row (a relic of which is the open ground between the Maryam Centre and Brunning House) and Greenfield Road.
The Rev. Edward Baynes died in 1766 and his son, also Edward and a lawyer, was admitted to the whole 4.5-acre copyhold property. Tenure now became complicated. The younger Baynes mortgaged the land through Laetitia Powell (1741–1801, née Clark) before taking up residence at the Tower of London and then decamping to the Continent in 1769. A year later Arthur Baynes, surgeon- major to the Gibraltar garrison, oversaw the sale of the estate to Anthony Forman (1725–1802), the Board of Ordnance’s chief clerk at the Tower and from a family of Leicestershire ironmasters. His brother, Richard Forman (1733–94), who had married a Mary Baines in 1761, and who was also an Ordnance clerk at the Tower, acted as Edward Baynes’s attorney. Sir George Colebrooke, lord of Stepney manor, allowed Anthony Forman to purchase the freehold. The land later came into the possession of John Clark Powell (1763–1847), Laetitia’s son. He ended up as Governor of the London Assurance Corporation.2
By the 1650s there was a windmill on the Whitechapel Road corner north of the ‘field gate’. It stood into the eighteenth century and the land around was called Windmill Field.3 The ‘field gate’ was a place name applied to the vicinity, as is demonstrated by the record of Benjamin Kenton’s baptism in 1719, where his address is given as ‘by ye Field Gate’. Kenton, incidentally, grew up to high standing as a vintner. His introduction to the trade might have been in a pub called the Cock and Windmill in the Fields in 1730, later the Black Horse and Windmill, close to the ‘field gate’ on a site now occupied by the south part of Mosque Tower (1 Fieldgate Street).4
The Prince of Orange’s Head public house, held by Barnabas Holbeck (or Holbeach), a cooper, from 1730, was further east on the north side of the field path, standing on its own on the site of the south-east corner of the Maryam Centre. Orange Row was formed to its east around 1800 and it was soon overshadowed from behind by Henry Eggers’s sugar refinery. That expanded under James and Edward Friend and William Boden, and then Sidney Bryant Hodge, for whom enlargement replaced the pub, destroyed by fire in 1862. In its later years, the Prince of Orange, as it had become, had a sequence of German managers, Henry Wintzen, followed by John Gerhold, then Ludwig Meier.
Sugar refining, which continued here to 1879, was not new to the locale in the nineteenth century. A sugar-refiner called Walter Leith (or Leigh) had a 60ft frontage on the south side of the field path at its west end from 1735. William Baker, carpenter, and John Lewitt, gardener, built houses (probably of timber) to its east in the late 1730s. Arthur Granger, cowkeeper, then had the field to the south.5
The line of Plumber’s Row was a footpath (Church Path) alongside a ropewalk on its east side by the 1730s. This ropery was run by Paul Johnson, who married Catherine Lester, sister of the proprietor of the bell foundry. By the 1750s Thomas Glazebrook had a parallel rope walk immediatealy to the east. Johnson and Glazebrook both had houses fronting what was not yet Baynes Street, possibly those built in the 1730s. By 1765 Leith’s sugarhouse, adjoining Johnson’s house to the west, was occupied by one of the sugar-refining Dirs brothers (Carsten Dirs of Wellclose Square, or Court Henry Dirs of Pennington Street).
In 1759 the Rev. Edward Baynes advertised the south side of his now intended eponymous road as building ground. A 20ft gap was left for what was to be Greenfield Street. Glazbrook took a 21-year lease of a field to the south, but by 1767 he was dead and John Trapp had taken over his ropewalk. Trapp was assigned Glazbrook’s field property and granted a 58-year lease of much of it in 1773 by Anthony Forman. Matthias Meacham, a Westminster pastry cook, leased property on the south side of Baynes Street to the east of the intended (Greenfield) road and opposite the Prince of Orange in 1761–2. He built another large public house at his east corner (on the site of 42 Fieldgate Street), again initially with 21-year leases, also securing a 58-year lease from Forman in 1773 in consideration of his spending on ‘buildings and accommodations for the Entertainment of Company’. Meacham’s premises were or became the King’s Arms public house, with grounds laid out as tea gardens, boasting skittle alleys, arbours and alcoves. Edward Meacham succeeded, and a concert room was added in 1855 when Johan Jochin Gerken was the proprietor. Richard Whiteshead, a coachmaker on Whitechapel Road (see p.xx), was given a 61-year lease in 1764 for building a brick house (the first so specified) on Baynes Street west of the Greenfield Street corner. On the north side, a row of nine brick houses went up west of the Prince of Orange, on a site that was later 21–37 Fieldgate Street, after 1766 when Baynes granted 61-year leases to George Twitchings, bricklayer, and Thomas Ffrum and William Cock, carpenters.6
Greenfield Street’s name is not topographically descriptive, rather it derives from the Forman family. Anthony and Richard’s sister Jane had married John Greenfield. It first occurs in 1772 when Richard Brinckley, a builder moving here from North Audley Street in Mayfair, began to build small houses at its north end on 59-year leases. He also built eight adjoining houses on the south side of what was still being called Baynes Street. By 1773 Brinckley was also working on New (later Yalford) Street and the connecting White Hart Court. Thomas Dodson and William Petty, carpenters, were substantially involved and fifteen houses were up and for sale in 1774. In the early 1780s the paving of Greenfield Street and what was now being called Fieldgate Street was taken in hand and John Holloway began to develop to the west of Plumber’s Row. The building of more than seventy houses in all along Greenfield Street continued to 1787, with a number of other builders involved. William Roper and Charles Wilmot had some involvement as surveyors, and Luke Flood as a painter, Wilmot and Flood also being owners of multiple houses. Trapp held on to the ropewalk to the west, consolidated with what had been Johnson’s for Mary Exeter by 1812. The Prince of Hesse public house established itself at the west end of Fieldgate Street’s south side by 1825.7
London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), M93/001, pp.98–102; M/93/024, p. 194; M/93/026, pp. 401–2; M/93/028, pp. 51, 311; M/93/030, pp. 158,202–3; M/93/031, pp. 165–7: Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives (THLHLA), Map 233, Baynes Estate, 1729; P/SLC/2/16/7 ↩
LMA, M93/037, pp.263–4; M93/038, pp. 244–51: THLHLA, P/SLC/2/16/16–17; P/MIS/94: The National Archives (TNA), PROB11/1245/241; PROB11/1383/35; PROB11/2058/129: Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 95, May 1804, p. 411: Grace’s Guide to British Industrial History for Forman ↩
Faithorne and Newcourt’s map of London, 1658: Joel Gascoyne’s map of Stepney, 1703 ↩
LMA, MR/LV/05/026; M93/030, p. 158; Land Tax returns: THLHLA, Map 233: P/SLC/2/16/7; P/BSA/1/5/4/3: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and Ancestry for Kenton ↩
LMA, M93/028, p. 51: THLHLA, P/SLC/2/16/5–6; Map 233; cuttings 022: Bryan Mawer's online sugar refiners database: Post Office Directories (POD) ↩
LMA, M93/037, pp. 160–5: MR/L/MD/0650: THLHLA, P/SLC/2/16/9–15, 19–20, 26, 29; P/HLC/1/14/12: POD ↩
THLHLA, P/SLC/2/16/22–33; P/SLC/2/7/1–30; L/SMW/C/3/1; P/SLC/1/22/1: LMA, CLC/B192/F/001/MS1936/397/626942–4; Tower Hamlets Commissioners of Sewers ratebooks: TNA, PROB11/1601/95 ↩
The Prince of Hesse public house on Fieldgate Street's Plumber’s Row corner was rebuilt in 1891–2 with blocks of dwellings with upper-storey workshops adjoining on both sides, all by Abraham Davis. These buildings were cleared in the mid 1960s and the site was thereafter used as a car park. By 1856 John Frederick Brinjes was at the next site to the east, later 14 Fieldgate Street. Brinjes was an engineer, millwright and ironfounder, who moved here from Backchurch Lane, and in 1858 patented an apparatus for making animal charcoal (calcined bones), used in sugar refining. His works extended to the south and the business continued into the twentieth century as Brinjes and Goodwin, engineers and ironfounders. The site was redeveloped with a long steel-framed two-storey workshop range in 1933–4 for S. & J. H. Tym & Sons, ladies’ underclothing manufacturers of Whitechapel High Street. A succession of different garment-making, textile and fur-trade firms kept this factory going and it stood into the twenty-first century.1
The Curve, so named for its bulky profile to Whitechapel Road, is a student- housing block of 2010–12. It was a Chancerygate and Bridges development, designed by Burland TM Ltd, architects, and is operated by CRM Ltd. Clad in grey brick and metal grilles, it has nine storeys for 339 student rooms and nine private flats above a supermarket.2
London Metropolitan Archives, District Surveyor's Returns: Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives, Building Control file 40633: https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/John_Frederick_Brinjes: Post Office Directories: Ordnance Survey maps: Goad insurance maps, 1953 and 1968: Historic England Archive, NMR 21763/2023 ↩
Tower Hamlets online planning applications ↩