Dryden Building, 37 Commercial Road

1999-2000, block of flats with shops | Part of Aldgate Triangle

The site's early history
Contributed by Survey of London on Nov. 16, 2016

This site was the south end of a mulberry garden from the seventeenth century (see under the Church of St Boniface). Use as a pleasure ground was wound up when John Holloway acquired the property in 1772. Development was deferred into the 1780s and by 1794 the road frontage to White Horse Lane (what later became the west end of Commercial Road) was the site of Severn, King and Company's substantial sugar house or refinery. The property was extensively redeveloped with a new 71-year lease granted to Benjamin Severn and Frederick Benjamin King in 1816. The refinery burnt down in 1819 and the insurers refused to pay the loss, a cause célèbre. Rebuilding as two seven-storey ranges of a fireproof character ensued, evidently incorporating structural iron and jack arching and innovations to a Mr Howard’s patent. But bankruptcy followed in 1829. Holloway’s estate as a whole was sold off at auction in 1839 by when the refinery had been taken by Fairrie Brothers and Co., whose processes were extensively described in George Dodd’s Days at the Factories of 1843.1 In the 1860s the refinery passed to Candler & Sons who used it for sugar and other warehousing up to the 1920s. There was then rebuilding for garages that included a petrol station to the west.2

This site was for most of the twentieth century an important location for Jewish institutions, notably two venerable synagogues displaced from the City that were constituents of the United Synagogue. The east side of Union Street south of Holloway Street was redeveloped in 1897-9 for the New Hambro Synagogue. This Jewish congregation, one of London’s oldest, moved from the City of London under Chief Rabbi Dr Hermann Adler (1839–1911), the son of and successor to Chief Rabbi Nathan Marcus Adler, founder of the United Synagogue. Lewis Solomon was the architect of a substantial and outwardly four-square Italianate building, with two entrances for men and one for women facing Union Street. The uppermost storey housed a committee room and caretaker’s flat. The interior seated 370 and had an unusual arrangement, with flights of stairs rising either side of the Bimah to reach the gallery at the Ark or east end for overflow male seating. The ladies gallery was to the west.3

The property was extended round to Mulberry Street in 1905 for an institute to house the Chief Rabbi’s office, a Jewish Court, and a large top-floor library and reading room with, to the south, a house called Court Lodge. The district had become predominantly Jewish, with some Germans still present. Booth’s survey noted tailors and bootmakers as prevalent in 1898, registering general good repair and ‘the constant whirr of the sewing machine or tap of the hammer as you pass through the streets’, as well as ‘the feeling as of being in a foreign town’.4 Union Street was renamed Adler Street in 1913. By the 1930s many of Mulberry Street’s houses were being condemned as dangerous structures and the synagogue closed in 1936. The London Mosque Fund attempted unsuccessfully to buy it in 1938–9 before securing property on Commercial Road.5

On the north side of the Adler Street/Holloway Street corner, the Grand Order of Israel Friendly Society built the Adler Assembly Hall in 1924–5, with F. J. Cornford as architect. This, which came to be called Adler House, was a neat three-storey polychrome-brick building with a Star of David between the upper storeys on a setback at the site’s corner. Its upper floor had a meeting room and a billiard room. Around 1931 it became the Regina Ballrooms and a boxing licence was approved in 1934.6

Heavy bomb damage in the Second World War led to the clearance of almost everything east of Mulberry Street, all but three houses on Plumber’s Row, and five houses and the Mulberry Tree pub on Mulberry Street. Plumber’s Row was entirely cleared and widened in 1962. The synagogue survived into the 1950s for use by the displaced Court and as a Jewish Reading Room, which transferred into Adler House. That had seen temporary war-time use as a synagogue and The Folkhouse (Beth-Am), then briefly in 1946–7 as the New Yiddish Theatre, before supporting a further range of Jewish community uses. Finally, from 1958 to 1977, synagogue use returned for the much-diminished Great Synagogue (Duke’s Place), bombed and then sold out of its historic Aldgate home. After a short period of commercial use Adler House was demolished around 1990.7


  1. London Metropolitan Archives, O/009/056: Bryan Mawer, Sugar Refiners & Sugarbakers website - http://www.mawer.clara.net/: The Times, 12–14 April 1820, p.3; 14 Dec 1820, p.3; 29 Oct 1829, p.4: George Dodd, Days at the Factories, 1843, pp.89–110 

  2. The Builder, 12 Dec 1874, p.1042: Post Office Directories 

  3. http://www.jewishgen.org/jcr- uk/London/hambro/index.htm: The Architect, 6 Nov 1903, p.296: Jewish Chronicle, 11 Aug 1899, p.13; 1 Sept 1899, pp.12-13: A, 6 Nov 1903, p.296: LMA, SC/PHL/02/1219: Sharman Kadish, The Synagogues of Britain and Ireland: An Architectural and Social History, 2011, pp. 128, 152­­-3, 340 

  4. London School of Economics Library, BOOTH/B/351, pp.35–7,49 

  5. Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives, L/THL/D/2/14/14; L/SMB/D/4/14: Ordnance Survey maps: Fatima Gailani, The Mosques of London, 2000, p.35 

  6. LMA, GLC/AR/BR/07/3285 

  7. Ordnance Survey: THLHLA, L/THL/D/1/1/224: LMA, GLC/AR/BR/07/3285; ACC/2712/GTS/008: LCC Mins, 6 Feb 1962, pp.120–1: Jewish Chronicle, 19 Nov 1976: http://www.jewishgen.org/jcr-uk/London/city_gsduke/: Historic England Aerial Photographs: Tower Hamlets Planning 

Aldgate Triangle
Contributed by Survey of London on Aug. 26, 2016

Holloway Street became a westwards extension of Coke Street in the 1960s, its margins largely empty. By the 1990s land here was wholly clear and used for car parking. In 2000 Ballymore Properties developed sites north and south as Aldgate Triangle, initially two large residential blocks incorporating shops, offices, car parking and a gymnasium. The Dryden Building (south) and Cornell Building (north) were designed by CZWG Architects, with Rex Wilkinson as designer and Sanjiv M. Gohil as job architect. Housing 233 flats they have plain monolithic elevations of yellow brick above rusticated ground floors of polished concrete blockwork punctuated with pyramidal precast concrete studs. The Dryden Building has a similarly treated Postmodern frieze around its upper (ninth) storey, and a central seven-storey recess topped by a precast arch breaks up its Commercial Road façade. The decorative frieze now seen only on the ninth storey originally also spanned around the building on the ground floor. The details were however removed after completion to appease tenants of the retail units. Drawing on motifs from Louis Sullivan's North American warehouses, the architect planned an accentuated cornice to top the Dryden Building but this was scaled back during the design process. A circus reminiscent of the same firm’s more spectacular Circle on Shad Thames of ten years earlier was formed across the west end of Coke Street. Beyond there is a small raised garden between the blocks of the Cornell Building. Across Plumbers Row, Ballymore completed the project in association with the Spitalfields Housing Association with the Colefax Building in 2001–2, containing fifty-five more flats. This block, architecturally similar if more subdued, was designed by Llewelyn-Davies.1


  1. Historic England Archives, aerial photographs: Tower Hamlets planning applications: The Independent, 14 Jan 2000: Sanjiv Gohil and Rex Wilkinson (CZWG Architects) in private conversation with Sarah Milne, 1 Nov 2016.