The Development of Nine Gardens

By Steve Smith

As you will see in the main article (which you can read here), much of Toc H’s presence on the Hill was within a near six acre block directly north of the Tower above the old postern gate – a large part of it once known as Nine Gardens. Whilst looking into the buildings and sites that Toc H occupied, I became fascinated by the way this area developed over the centuries and the scope of my research expanded. This sub article has little to do directly with Toc H but does look into the way the area where it was situated changed. In fact 41 and 42 Trinity Square (the latter renumbered 43 nowadays) remain as the last vestiges of the Georgian houses that once dominated the street. Now it is hotels that dominate where once the entire block was a maze of Bonded Warehouses and Vaults.

Wyngaerde’s panorama of Tower Hill dating from 1543-1550. The area we are studying is highlighted
The similar view today (Photo Google Earth)

“Nine gardens were first made, then fenced, then walled. Houses sprang up on the garden sites, in defiance of the old City law that nothing must be built within sixteen feet of the Town Wall. This wall, remaining intact, was stifled in a series of small houses periodically re-erected and enlarged; until in 1818 a revealing fire swept them away, exposing to the astonished view of passers-by the Town Wall in its old integrity.”

The area under examination (America Square at top, Tower of London out of sight below)

If we take the block as that that currently runs from the corner of Trinity Square and Tower Hill near where the underground station is, north up Trinity Square’s eastern side and then continuing up Cooper’s Row, under the railway bridge to the junction with Crosswall, now head east to the Minories and follow that road south to (Little) Tower Hill and back to our starting point, we have a roughly rectangular block of land measuring some 27,000 m2 or almost 6 acres.

The following slideshow walks through various maps of the area from c.1530 to 1669

So, let’s look how the area developed after the 17th century, a fairly arbitrary starting point except that much of London changed so dramatically after the Great Fire of 1666.

In 1676 there is a terrace of houses down Woodruff Lane that may have stood for some years. The block extends further south than it does today terminating at Postern Row, only a few yards north of the Tower ditch. How these buildings got round the ancient bylaws that prevented building within bowshot of the tower is a mystery to me.

The bottom section was once known as Nine Gardens for self-apparent reasons but by the time of Ogilby and Morgan’s map it is a dense labyrinth of houses and alleyways. The north-south road is still known as Woodruff Lane and the vast expanse to the west is still called Great Tower Hill as Trinity House hasn’t moved here from Water Lane yet and nor have Trinity Gardens been laid out.

The boundaries our area crosses are complex. Ecclesiastically that part around the Tower fell originally under St. Peter in the Bailey (in the Tower, ad Vincula) then later formed an Extra Parochial part of St Botolph without Aldgate; the small central part where 42 Trinity Square lies was a detached part of All Hallows whilst the northern-most section was St Olave Toward the Tower (later St Olave Hart Street).

Additionally, that part of the block that lies on the eastern side of the wall – essentially America Square, Vine Street, The Crescent, and The Circus  – is in St Botolph

In secular terms the block is currently split between the northern part that falls in Tower ward of the City of London and the southern part that is included in the borough of Tower Hamlets along with the Tower of London itself. Historically it was split between Aldgate ward, Tower (Street) ward and Stepney. The Crescent estate was in Portsoken Ward until 2003.

The Blomes and Strype map surveyed on the cusp pf the 17th and 18th centuries gives us some detail of the years and alleys. Note in particular the big space west almost central in our map. This area has a big part to play in our story.

John Rocque’s 1746 plan shows the buildings in less detail but does put names to some of the alleys and shows one of the northerly ones has opened up into a small space called Gold’s (later Gould’s) Square. Almost central in this map, where the space was on Blomes and Strype, is an alley called Mortimer’s Yard.

So what of the labyrinth of houses, warehouses, and vaults that interest us. Well it has been quite a nightmare trying to sort out which is which since every inch of space was filled in when it could be. In simplistic turns there were two major warehouse blocks: the northern one that was bounded by Cooper’s Row, Gould Square and Vine street and was greatly affected by the coming of the London and Blackwall Railway in 1841, and the central warehouse which sat around 10 Coopers Row and over Mortimer’s Yard. There are others we shall refer to as we go.

Why the need for all these warehouses? Two main reasons: the general expansion of business from the Port of London which eventually led to the creation of London Docks; and, more specifically, the needs of the East India Company.

In 1765 the East India Company persuaded the Bengal Emperor to appoint the company as diwani (Financial controller) of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. This boosted trade considerably and in 1768 an extra thirty-three ships were hired. The company constructed new warehouses at Brown’s Yard near the Tower of London.

Incidentally, it was only in 1766 that the Commissioner of the Sewers gave permission for remaining gates and parts of the wall to be destroyed to open up the city. This of course led to great changes to the layout of the area.

The Northern Warehouse Block

There was probably a warehouse – known as the stufhouse – in this area as far back as the thirteenth century. The church of St Martin Orgar owned much of the property in this area. The first transformation came around 1760 when Dance the Younger built America Square, The Crescent (Sometimes America Crescent) and The Circus. They were connected by Vine Street which ran parallel to the wall on the outside of the City and there were stables in America Mews.

Portion of Horwoods Map 1799, showing Dance’s America Square, The Crescent and The Circus.
America Mews in 1794 painted by William Capon

The east-west road John Street was built about the same time (now Crosswall) and a few years afterwards, in 1780, a terrace of houses was built on Cooper’s Row, the Georgian houses of which Talbot House is one.

The warehouse in question formed the southern edge of Gould Square and was leased from The Master Brothers and Sisters of the St Katherine’s Hospital by the East India Company. It was probably the property formerly known as Orchards House. The hospital of St. Katharine by the Tower was founded about 1148  by Matilda the wife of King Stephen for a master, brethren, sisters, and thirteen poor persons  on land in the parish of St. Botolph without Aldgate. Queen Eleanor dissolved the decaying hospital, refounding it on 5th July, 1273.  This new foundation she endowed with land in East Smithfield, and lands and rents in Kent and Herts.

In the late 1830s, the new London and Blackwall Railway was being constructed and opened on July 6th, 1840. Originally this cable pulled line stopped at Minories but was extended from Minories to Fenchurch-street on August 2nd, 1841. This extension necessitated the destruction of several warehouses. Hence on the 2nd July 1841 St Katherine’s Hospital conveyed the warehouses and buildings in Coopers Row to the London and Blackwall Railway. It seems however that that part of the land just north of the Blackwall Railway viaduct is owned by one Joseph Barber.

Besides the London and Blackwall Railway and the East India Company, Joseph Barber is the other key player in our story. From a long established family business operating as wharfingers and warehousemen in the City of London., Barber was born in 1778 and first appears as a wharfinger at Chamberlain’s Wharf, Tooley Street in 1815. Around this time he was living in America Square. Over the years the company acquired warehouses and vaults on the north side of Lower Thames Street; bonded vaults in Beer Lane, George Street and Tower Hill; bonded warehouses and vaults in Coopers’ Row, and drug and other warehouses in Beer Lane, Savage Gardens and Cooper’s Row; and a warehouse in Priest’s Alley, the rent of which was used to finance several charitable bequeathals managed by All Hallows.

In 1859 the style of the firm was changed to Joseph Barber & Company and in 1861 Chamberlain’s quay was sold. In 1901 the company was incorporated as a limited liability company. In 1908 Brewer’s, Chester and Galley quays were sold; other warehouses and vaults were also sold and by 1920 only those at 10 Cooper’s Row (See below) remained. The company went into liquidation in 1983.

Barber had three daughters (His only son died as an infant) and by 1861 it was their husbands Robert Holdsworth Carew Hunt, Thomas Turnbull, and Holdsworth Hunt who ran the business.

On the 25th Mar 1858 a deed of covenant between Barber and the London and Blackwall Railway is struck re an indenture of the 1st Nov 1844 which also included one Edwin Archer Wilde. This results from a Railway Act to widen the line west of Vine Street. The Blackwall Railway are seeking the absolute sale of land to form the sites of two of the piers for widening a portion of the railway at the viaduct. These sites are marked in black on the plan. Also the right to extra considerations e.g. putting up scaffolding on Barber’s land. Certainly by 1897 Barber owned the arches and stables in that area.

Plan from the 1858 Deeds

It seems like Barber was in the driving seat and could make various demands as by 1859 he was awaiting appointment to the board of the North Fleet Docks and London Quays Company once his property was transferred to them. Specifically this was his warehouse abutting the Blackwall railway.

A new warehouse in Coopers Row was designed by Richard Norman Shaw in June 1862 shortly after leaving his apprenticeship with George Edmund Street. It was built by Myers and son, who were also building Tubby’s bête noire, the Nightmare of Tower Hill (See main article). I’m struggling to pin down where this particular warehouse was but I am favouring the site of the old alms-houses on the opposite side of Cooper’s Row. The client was Duncan Irvine a wine and spirits merchant but Joseph Barber& Company later acquired the warehouse.

At the same time, across the way Barber was having more warehouses built between 9 1/2 Coopers Row by Thomas Piper and son. This was almost certainly an extension to the Central Warehouse (See following)

The Central Warehouse

The other area that interests us – the area just above where Talbot House is – was owned by Geoffrey de Shankton who gave it to St Katherine’s Hospital. The land was later leased by Robert Child, a wine merchant and then to Beeston Long as six houses. The East India Company purchased an assignment of Long’s lease in December 1764 for £2,200 and in 1766 they built a warehouse on the site. The warehouse filled a great space between the row of Georgian houses on what was now Cooper’s Row and the City wall and incorporated the old alley of Mortimer’s Yard which appeared to be utilised as access to the warehouse. By William Faden’s 1819 update of Horwood’s plan, the East India Company warehouse is clearly shown behind numbers 10-14 Cooper’s Row.

We know that in the late 18th century it was leased by William Walter Viney and when it came for sale in 1802 it was described as a range of capacious and substantial brick-built, bonded cellars that will hold 210 pipes of wine, large yard, stable &c., forming the whole of Mortimer’s Yard. It was subsequently let to Sparks Moline then on the 2nd August 1820 Isaac George Manley transferred the lease of ‘those warehouses together with counting house, stables and yard known as Mortimer’s yard, Coopers Row – currently in the tenure of Sparks Moline – to William and Joseph Barber.

Sparks Moline were from 1838 the sole agents for Guinness in London and had premises all about the district. Moline was a most interesting character with a finger in many pies. A Quaker and a friend of Joseph Hunton, the Quaker hung for forgery in December 1828, Moline was present at the execution which was the final hanging carried out by John Foxton, the well-known hangman at Newgate Prison.

Another interesting character, Isaac Manley was a well-known naval officer and was in fact the last survivor of the first voyage of HMS Endeavour under Captain Cook (1768-1771). A fictionalised account of his trip was published as Captain Cook’s Apprentice by Anthony Hill in 2008. In his will of 1837 he bequeathed his warehouse and cellars in Coopers Row to his brother Robert.

A more detailed schedule of the warehouse was inventoried on a deed of 1820:

North side of yard counting house; one pair, a twelve light sash hung, lines and pullies, iron win(?) lock and key to room door, a room door and nine squares of glass, two cupboards over stair case, a corner cupboard, a marble hearth, Inner Countinghouse, one pair the front of a cupboard, the front and back of a closet, a small closet at the end, a cupboard with a pair of folding doors over, a cupboard over the fire place, a marble hearth, a twelve light sash, hung lines and pullies, a four panelled room door, lock and key, a four panelled door lock and key and one flight of stairs leading to Countinghouse. Warehouse a pair of folding doors hung with hinges, a circular six light sash, one sixteen light sash. East side of yard upper warehouse a capital double frenchesse crane, fly wheel, iron chain, oak posts and oak gib outside with sheaves, a twelve light sash made to slide, an eight light sash, a six light sash, ten iron guard bars, a flap xxx(?) with hinges at the south side of the warehouse – the warehouse parted off with a pair of folding doors from the crane loft an open partition with folding doors to inclose crane loft an eight light sash. Lobby entrance to crane loft, a six light sash, two twelve light sashes, eighteen iron guard bars outside Second floor warehouse two pairs folding doors hung with hinges, wood bars and iron staples, three iron hand-rails, a pair of folding doors to the adjoining warehouse, an entrance door stock, lock and key. First floor warehouse a pair of folding doors hung with hinges at the entrance, hasp and staple, two stone steps to entrance. Warehouse adjoining – a pair of folding doors hung with hinges, hasp and staple a deal partition to divide the warehouse. South side of yard, upper warehouse a pair of folding doors hung with hinges. First floor a pair of folding doors hung with hinges, hasp and staple, a flight of steps with handrail to upper warehouse. Yard a skylight over the yard with slated and tiled roof, an oak gib on the north side, a guard board and three posts on the north side, the brick enclosure for manure(?), a water trunk at the west wall, two pairs folding and one single doors to the lower warehouse on the north side, a six light sash, a water trunk by stairs leading to the counting house, a lead cistern head and lead rain water pipe, and wood water trunk. The yard – paved, a pair of folding gates to the front entrance, iron bars, lock, key, latch and two bolts.

10 Cooper’s Row entrance Photo Courtesy: Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Collections (25839)

There are a fascinating set of photographs by RIBA (The Royal Institute of British Architects) of Cooper’s Row taken in the forties. Several are reproduced here with their kind permission. The one above shows the entrance to the old East India Company warehouse at 10 Cooper’s Row. What we are looking at is essentially the last vestiges of Mortimer’s Yard and the layout can just about be related to the detailed schedule above.

10 Cooper’s Row entrance Photo Courtesy: Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Collections (25834)

At some point prior to May 1841 the London and Blackwall Railway acquired the head lease from the East India Company (Probably around 1838). By May 1841 they were selling it off as superfluous land with Barber holding the underlease.

Major changes happened in 1864. Around the time of Joseph Barber’s death in August, the company were expanding the warehouse. This led to the rediscovery of a long stretch of city wall.

In October 1864 the firm of Barber’s – now the son-in-laws – wishing to expand the East India Company Warehouse pulled down a cottage and started to build a warehouse behind 9 Coopers Row The building at the back was approached by an archway under no. 9. The tenant, Richard Francis Webb, a wine merchant and picture dealer, had ancient windows to the passage and at the back and took Barber’s took court using the law of Ancients Lights. Webb had the house on lease from St John’s College, Oxford. Barbers owned and occupied warehouses north and east of the property.

On 22nd October 1864 Mr Webb’s solicitors gave notice requiring them to cease work and works stopped but recommenced suddenly 15 May 1865. The plaintiff claimed that his showrooms and those of his tenants – a sack-maker and a wine merchant – were materially darkened by the new building and that an old, invalid gentleman who lived there was obliged to leave because of same. The plaintiff won his case and was awarded compensation.

This story is pertinent to the Toc H story since the new warehouse also ran behind no.8 and a small bit jutted out behind 42. This is almost certainly what later became the Roman Wall room in Talbot House.

Court cases not withstanding, Barber & co pretty much filled every bit of available space with warehouses as can be seen on the 1887 Goad insurance map.

Charles Goad’s Insurance Map of 1887 (C) British Library

Eventually – certainly by 1927 – most of the warehouses that were once Barber’s were taken over by Wrightson & Co. Ltd, as Bonded Tea Warehouses . Leonard John Wrightson was born 1826 and became a Bonded Warehouse supervisor and later keeper. Between 1861 and 1871 he moved from Hackney to Hampstead suggesting his business did well. He died in 1914 but the business continued.

Charles Goad’s Insurance Map of 1927 (C) British Library

Cooper’s Row Photo Courtesy: Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Collections (88613)

In the RIBA photo above taken in 1940, the name of Joseph Barber remained on the door under the railway bridge. No 15 – in the 1940s – is Felton and Crepin.

Warehouses on Cooper’s Row Photo Courtesy: Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Collections (51939)

In the next we see the archway which is the entrance to the central warehouse (Through 10 Cooper’s Row). On the left hand side of the archway the name of Joseph Barber remains whilst on the far side it is that of Wrightson & co.

So what of the other Cooper’s Row properties in front of the warehouse namely numbers 8, 9 & 11 Cooper’s Row? No.11 was a pub called The Prince Albert – though it was formerly known as The Tackle Porter – which was eventually destroyed on the 10th May 1941 by the Luftwaffe. The above RIBA photo was probably taken after that as the wooden paling fence is where the pub used to be and it looks like it has been demolished.

The Prince Albert at 11 Cooper’s Row before 1941

Numbers 8 & 9 Cooper’s Row were of a similar Georgian style to 41 & 42 Trinity Square and were still private residences in the mid-19th century albeit with businesses incorporated. These last two were the immediate northern neighbours of what would later become Talbot House (1-7 Cooper’s Row were on the west side of the road behind Trinity House).

Numbers 8 & 9 were still private residences in the mid-19th century albeit with businesses incorporated. These last two were the immediate northern neighbours of 42 Trinity Square (1-7 Cooper’s Row were on the west side of the road behind Trinity House where c. 1865 George Myers was building the Trinity Bonded Warehouses complex by the site of the old alms-houses, themselves built on the old Crutched Friars’ Monastery).

In 1815 no 9 Coopers Row was described as a “substantial and desirable brick-built dwelling house and counting house’ when it was offered – available immediately – to rent for the remaining five years of its lease by the executors of Daniel Dyster. And in May 1820 all those warehouses and counting houses at no 9 were offered on leases of 7, 14 or 21 years. No. 8 was eventually purchased by the Revd Hunt who owned it for many years.

In the 1880s the Metropolitan Railway bought several of the properties including no. 9 to make way for the extension of the Inner Circle Railway. Ultimately this line ran slightly further south through Trinity Place and the properties were sold off again.

Warehouses on Cooper’s Row Photo Courtesy: Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Collections (17553)

As we saw above, the warehouses remained into the 1940s and 1950s. The RIBA picture above is looking north up Cooper’s Row toward the Fenchurch Street viaduct. Trinity Bonded warehouses are on the left and the old East India Company warehouse on the right. Then in 1961, the vast warehouse complex was demolished, for the development of Midland House, for Midland Bank, This included an 11 storey office block that dominated the skyline to the north of the hill for some years. It also opened up the City Wall making it more accessible.

Midland House, Cooper’s Row 1961 UK 1456-0800-0001 Reproduced with the permission of HSBC archive

The block (Numbers 8-14 Cooper’s Row) was rebuilt as a hotel complex in the 1990s and public access to the wall improved further.

There is a little bit of trivia from the First World War to interject at this point, not that there is much trivial about it. On the 8th Sept 1915 at 12.10am a German airship, the LZ Z4 captained by Hauptmann Friedrich George, that had been bombing Cheshunt to the north of London followed the River Lea to the Thames and passed over the city releasing a sighting incendiary bomb, before crossing the Thames to bomb Bermondsey. The incendiary landed in Barber’s Warehouse on Cooper’s Row, the first aerial bomb ever dropped on the City of London.

And now we move south of Cooper’s Row onto the eastern side of Trinity Square. 41 and 42 are well covered in the main Toc H article so we’ll head beyond them to number 40.

Before we get stuck into this section let me introduce the City of London Real Property Company to you. Founded in 1864 by James and John Innes whose family wealth came from Jamaican sugar plantations, the brothers became supporters of the anti-slavery campaign and eventually gave up all their business interests in the West Indies. Instead they became property developers in London convinced of the need to expand the City eastwards from its centre around Gracechurch Street and Bishopsgate. There were further strings to their bow; John in particular was a great philanthropist and in his will left funds to establish a horticultural institute which would develop garden products. So yes, it was as a result of him that I had to lug home huge bags of John Innes No. 1 for my nan back in the seventies, and the John Innes Centre is now based near me in Norwich. However, it is the work of the City of London Real Property Company that will interest us in this blog.

The range of properties from 40 Trinity Square running south to number 30 on the corner of George Street (later Tower Hill) were originally more Georgian houses like 41 & 42. No. 40 was a larger house and was split into two with one of the new halves being renumber 43, the next available number.

The most dramatic change to this block occurred in 1901 when numbers 40 to 38 were replaced by Tower House designed by Charles Watkins. Tower House, or at least part of it, was the head office of Cockerell’s coke and coal merchants which was to remain its focus for the better part of the 20th century; by at least the 1950s it became the London office of Charringtons fuel.

The building had long been owned by the aforementioned City of London Real Property Company and in 1961 they announced plans to replace it with a new office block which would merge all the existing buildings.

This was duly built and as part of the deal they intended to hand the freehold back to Trinity House. The southernmost part of the new building (No. 38) would shortly be taken over by London Underground (See below)

The run of buildings on this part of Trinity Square were interrupted by Trinity Place, a small cul-de-sac mews that ran eastwards from Trinity Square then turned north to run alongside the City Wall (Although it had also continued on the eastern side of the wall too). Once a crowded area, a major fire in 1818 cleared much of it though it soon built up again. On Faden’s map of 1819 there are large gaps around Trinity Place which were at least partly due to the fire.

The mews – like many of the properties around it – was originally owned by Trinity House but was sold off to the Metropolitan railway in the late 19th century when they wanted to extend the Inner Circle line. In fact in 1881 a court had to decide the compensation value for 33, 34, 36 & 38 Trinity Square when the Metropolitan and District Railway compulsory purchased them from Trinity House Corporation.

Trinity Place 1852

And what of Trinity Place, also known as Mews Place and Trinity Mews. It was one of the few places in the area where the public could access the City wall. However 73 feet of that wall was lost when the Metropolitan Railway company put the cutting for the Inner Circle through there in the 1880s. At one point in the 1930s a water tank was placed on top of the wall by one of the businesses and it leaked forcing mortar out. No-one was prepared to fix it so Tubby stepped in and got the Constable of the Tower to press the Ministry of Works into repairing it. Nevertheless in 1935 Pat Leonard described it as a dump for ashes, cans and other refuse.

The old Tower of London station building, later a warehouse, stood in front of Trinity Place until it was demolished in August 1940.

There were few actually buildings in the Mews but  numbers 1-3 were formerly a rubber company but during Toc H’s tenure was W H Hobbs, an essential oils company. Starting life in 1898 on Tower Bridge Road they were two doors down from the Clergy House at 5 Trinity Square when the Port of London Authority evicted them to make way for their smart new HQ building. That was probably when they crossed the square to Trinity Place. Then assailed by a pincer movement from the Tower Hill Trust and the Luftwaffe they were ousted from Trinity Place too. They settled in 22 and 23 Tower Hill (See below).

As implied above the freehold of Trinity Place was obtained by the Tower Hill Improvement Trust in the 1930s with the intention of demolishing everything and expanding Wakefield Park. After the war though, the plans for the development of Tower Hill were taken out of the Trust’s hands though the relocating of Tower Hill underground in the sixties did pretty much achieve the end they sought.

Technically Trinity Place survives as footpaths in front of and to the east of the current Tower Hill station.

New Tower Hill station works 1967

The 1960s station, built more or less on the site of the original 1880s Tower of London station utilised the ground floor of no 38 Trinity Square as its ticket hall and entrance until a later remodelling. In 2014 the entire block was demolished to make way for the CitizenM hotel and the tube station had a new entrance built which emerged into Wakefield Park.

2014 during works for the new CitizenM hotel. Normally hidden wall is exposed
The end wall of Wakefield House exposed during the construction of the CitizenM hotel.
Photo Robert Lamb and used under the Creative Commons Licence

The 1960s tube station was also the beginning of the end for the last few buildings on t he eastern side of Trinity Square, below Trinity Place. This row included the Old George Inn which was finally pulled down in the seventies.

The Old George Inn

A photograph of the Old George Inn

Originally Trinity Square ran down as far as a narrow alley called Postern Row which separated the buildings from the Tower grounds. The narrow Postern Row once passed through a small Postern Gate, and even though the gate was long gone the alley was narrow and congested. The Postern Gate was the southernmost portal to the city through the wall on the eastern side. Never a full size gate it was mostly meant for foot traffic. It was likely built at the tail end of the 13th century and fell out of use as early as 1431 when a landslip of the Tower ditch caused the southern tower to collapse. The ruins of this tower can still be seen in the subway under the road. The northern tower is lost under many subsequent works but the ruins a of separate tower or staircase providing access to the top of the wall, a few metres further north of the gate itself, were discovered in the 1930s (See below).

At the lower end of a street now no longer existing, named the Vineyard, in the neighbourhood of the Tower, there used to be the basis of a Roman tower, about eight feet high, supporting a building of three storeys, in the wall of which was fixed a large stone, with the following inscription:—

“Glory be to God on high, who was graciously pleased to preserve the lives of all the people in this house, twelve in number, when the ould wall of the bulwark fell down three stories high, and so broad as three carts might enter a breast, and yet without any harm to anie of their persones. The Lord sanctify this his great providence unto them. Amen and Amen.

“It was Tuesday, the 23rd September, 1651.”

Looking eastwards, Postern Row is on the right and George Street central behind the lamp post.

It attracted thieves and press gangs and was best avoided. Postern Row was where the Press gangs roamed and soldiers and sailors came to enlist voluntarily or otherwise. In the 1860s the shops were a mix selling “marine stores, pea-jackets, straw hats, , rope, hour-glasses, Gunter’s scales*, and dog-biscuits” (Leisure Hour – Curiosities of the Port of London Nov 1968) *An early navigation device similar to a slide-rule.

This plan of Postern Row shows where the northern tower was

Thus in September 1886, shortly after Byward Street opened, Postern Row was demolished leaving a broader through road across the north of the Tower. Now the dividing line between commerce and crown was a row of properties built in second half of the 19th century along the northern edge of what used to be George Street and before that George’s Yard. This thoroughfare became ever more important with the opening of Tower Bridge on 30th June 1894 and was renamed Tower Hill in 1911.

Looking along Tower Hill (formerly George Street). The ivory warehouse is the big building whilst the white building is no. 20.

By the 1930s Tower Hill (formerly George Street) was a raggedy row of properties built at various times in different styles. This row of properties included a pearl, mica, and ivory warehouse used by Victor Myers, who was nothing to do with the Myers who built the warehouse by All Hallows but had moved his business there from the Minories in 1881.

The Tower Hill Improvement Trust purchased the properties but although Victor Myers went bankrupt in 1933 the Trust couldn’t yet demolish the buildings. That same year Toc H temporarily took over this empty warehouse whilst No. 42 was being refurbished. In fact Tubby made use of many of the empty properties along the street after the Trust bought them. I write more about this in the main article but its worth retelling a little here.

It was no. 20, the furthest east of Myers Warehouse and built onto the city wall, that was most interesting building. A narrow house just nine feet wide that actually adjoined the wall, Tubby installed his night secretary, Miss Coulson here. It was said to make Miss Coulson the first resident of East London (Though the house appeared to be on the inside of the wall) and apparently also made her some sort of anchoress which at the time of her eviction, the press reported was how she was known locally. This story of course has Tubby’s thumbprints all over it. Nonetheless she was evicted in 1937 when the Trust planned to pull the building down along with the Myers Ivory Warehouse. In the end only warehouse was pulled down at the time but the house was badly damaged during the war and finally demolished soon afterwards.

The site of the warehouse became Wakefield Park but see the main blog for details about this.

No. 20 jutting out, the house on the wall
Another view of the house on the wall (C) London Metropolitan Archives 119892

Further along, the freehold of 22 and 23 Tower Hill, was owned by the Crown Commissioners who let it on a yearly lease. Tubby’s view was that they should turn into the Eastern City Garage and thus move parking off Trinity Square and improve the traffic flow. This never happened but the building would soon find other uses.

22 Tower Hill was an old building used mostly by businesses that only had premises on the ground floor so there were vacant rooms above them. Tubby used these rooms to house his numerous curates or Toc H staff members. Big enough to become the HQ of the Lord Mayor’s Own (1st City of London), it was also known as St Nicholas House. Immediately adjoining the old city wall, the building’s western face was actually the wall itself. Though a Roman wall originally, the upper layers were medieval, and it was this that formed the fascia one of the rooms and near to it an attic space large enough to make a wonderful den for the Lord Mayor’s Own. Between study and den was a small chapel.

The Scouts Den in 22 Tower Hill © The Scouter

On the night of the 8th December 1940, Tower Hill was devastated in one of the heaviest nights of the Blitz it had yet suffered. All Hallows was badly damaged and 200 metres away 22 was also all but destroyed. Like All Hallows, it took two separate blows from the Luftwaffe to finish it off, but the front was demolished. Amazingly the warehouse at the back appeared to survive and miraculously the old London Wall still stood.

Tower Hill after the bombing in December 1940. No. 22 was destroyed at the front. The old wall miraculously survived

And though the front parts of these properties were lost in the war or immediately afterwards, the rear, including the old bottling warehouse remained and Hobbs – who we know were previously in Trinity Place – had their head office here for some years. Eventually the construction of the University building meant that he warehouse had to come down though the middle buildings remained and were used by J.J. Redding a cork manufacturer. The site was finally cleared to widen the main road in the late seventies.

No. 22 (Rebuilt at the front but the original buildings behind) survived into the mid 1970s

Because of Toc H’s presence in The Crescent, I write more about the America Square/Crescent/Circus estate in the main blog so I won’t go into great detail here. Suffice to say little of Dance’s original work survives, even the houses in The Crescent have been rebuilt.

America Square was significantly rebuilt at the end of the 20th century.

The area in front of the Crescent fronting Minories was taken over in 1969 by a merger of the John Cass College Navigation department and the King Edward VII School of Navigation. This building later became part of the Metropolitan College and stood until recent years when it was replaced by a hotel.

All that remains of The Circus is a concrete circle in the grounds of the extended park, which roughly indicates where Dance’s street stood.

1969 Goad Insurance Map (C) London Metropolitan Archives

And that friends, is a whistle-stop tour of the changes that happened over a small block many centuries. And they still go on. And yet, as the buildings fall and rise, the remains of the old wall still stand, defiant and proud. Just like London.

The following slide show shows the change over several hundred years

A note about photo copyrights

Now the internet is ubiquitous, it is easy to come across photographs that one would like to use in the blog that have no copyright attribution with them. I do try and establish where they originate and if necessary seek approval to use them. If I am aware that they are under copyright then I do not use them without the appropriate clearance. Sadly this rarely occurs if a fee is required as this blog is my hobby and I already spend a lot keeping it online and in the course of my research so I cannot often afford to licence photos as well. This is particularly annoying where certain agencies wish to charge a small fortune for photos that are actually in the public domain but difficult to get hold of except through them. You know the agencies I mean – their watermarks are everywhere.

If I enquire about using a photo and the copyright owner says no then of course I will not use it.

The problems arise when it is unclear who owns the copyright or publishing rights of any image. As I said I do make efforts to try and find this out but it is frequently impossible. I may then decide to go ahead and use that image anyway as it usefully illustrates part of the blog. I do this in good faith as there is no commercial aspect to my blog. If a copyright holder wishes me to remove an image I will of course do so immediately. It is not my intent to maliciously infringe anyone’s creative rights.


Thanks are due for this article to many but especially Michael DiSanto; Carrie Reid; Jeremy Racher; Bronwyn Gaffney; and Andrew John Saint.