New Road (3)

I’ve been asked the question I’ve been puzzling about: what’s the difference between New Road and Cannon Street Road ? It seems to have been called New Road when it was first developed by the London Hospital in the 1780s and is described as such in the leases for the properties, but it does not surprise me at all that it was also known as Cannon Street Road on early maps.

The answer is provided by the website for St. George-in-the-East, the parish church at the bottom end. Apparently, nineteenth-century century maps and documents show different names for the same stretch of road. Some call the southernmost stretch between The Highway and Cable Street ‘Cannon Street’, and everything north of it, up to Whitechapel Road, either ‘(The) New Road’ or ‘Cannon Street Road’. The Revd. Joseph Nightingale in London and Middlesex (1815) described Cannon Street [Road] as ‘a double line of good houses’. In 1859, the bottom half of the street became ‘Cannon Street Road’ (later including the stretch from The Highway to Cable Street) up to the Commercial Road, once this was developed, and ‘New Road’ beyond.

The best thing about Cannon Street Road used to be the Jewish delicatessen called Roggs, at the corner of Burslem Street, run from 1946 till his death in 2006 by Barry Rogg. I once tried to find a photograph of Roggs without success, so was pleased when a post about it appeared recently on Spitalfields Life (, complete with a good photograph by Irv Kline which I am taking the liberty of reproducing:-


Whitechapel Bell Foundry (100)

I wanted my hundredth post about the Whitechapel Bell Foundry to be an announcement that Robert Jenrick had instructed the new owner of the Bell Foundry to keep it as a Bell Foundry, something he could so easily have done. No such luck.

Instead, I am posting the inscriptions on a bell I noticed recently in the reception spaces of the London Hospital:-

Thomas Lester had been foreman to Richard Phelps and took over from him as the owner of the Bell Foundry following Phelps’s death in August 1738. It was Lester who began construction of the current Foundry, soon to be brutalised, in 1738. He made one of the peel of the bells of Westminster Abbey and inscribed it THOMAS LESTER OF LONDON MADE ME AND WITH THE REST I WILL AGREE.

In 1757, he made a bell which he donated to the nearby London Hospital as an act of civic generosity.

I found it very moving, the sense of interconnectedness in Whitechapel history, which Jenrick in 2021 post-COVID has tossed into the dustbin, aided and abetted by the Commissioners of Historic England who should hang their heads in shame.


New Road (2)

I have been asked about the origins of New Road and, by implication, why it’s called New Road, as the Euston Road used to be. I looked up the Survey of London’s excellent website and the answer is there, which I reproduce verbatim, because it gives such a strong sense of the development of the area and the way it related to the river and docks to the south:-

New Road was formed in 1754–6 in close connection with the London Hospital’s move to the south side of Whitechapel Road in 1752–7. Slightly earlier than the better-known New Road of 1756–7 (now Marylebone Road and Euston Road), it shared with its bigger north-westerly sister the attribute of being a bypass to built-up districts. More particularly, it made eastern Whitechapel (heretofore ‘town’s end’) more accessible from riverside districts, linking what are now Cable Street and The Highway in the south to Whitechapel Road across entirely open fields. It more or less followed the line of Civil War defences, though this might be little more than coincidence. The road was enabled by an Act of Parliament and overseen by a body of trustees led by prominent commercial men from riverside districts (Jonathan Eade, a Wapping ship-chandler, John Shakespear, a Shadwell ropemaker, Joseph Curtis, a Wapping sea-biscuit maker, Hugh Roberts, a St George-in-the-East brewer, and William Camden, a Wapping ship-owner and slave-trader), some among them hospital governors. For these people good access to the hospital presumably mattered not just for themselves and their families, but also for their workforces.


New Road (1)

I walked back up New Road, the heart of old Whitechapel and was struck, as ever, by its proximity to the high-rise City, but that it retains an entirely different and still unmodernised character:-


E1 Community Gardens

I was tipped off that there was a walking tour of E1 Community Gardens, including an orchard in Shadwell. I was intrigued. It turns out that people have colonised redundant spaces and turned them with volunteer help into small-scale community gardens, greening what would otherwise be bleak spaces, beginning as guerilla interventions, now supported by the local council:-

Oddest is Swedenborg Gardens, constructed on the site of Swedenborg Square, which was demolished after the Second World War for purposes of slum clearance. This is what it looked like in 1931:-

And now:-


Whitechapel Bell Foundry (99)

The publication of the Gentle Author’s twelfth annual report is a reminder of how much the campaign to save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry owes to him – his relentless and always well-informed campaigning on a host of local issues, fighting on several fronts simultaneously with roots in the local community.

He reveals, as I had also been told, that there was a report that a senior figure in the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government had been given club membership for ‘expediting’ the approval of planning permission for the Bell Foundry. I assume that the person who made the report was unwilling to be fingered as the source. It left an abiding impression that, if a senior figure in the decision-making process could accept club membership as an inducement to speed up planning permission, were other people along the way offered similar encouragement ? Club membership is, of course, not money in brown envelopes. It’s still a troubling report, even as unauthenticated rumour, casting a cloud over the decision and its rectitude.


Building the Modern Museum

I thought I normally saw Aesthetica – I’m certainly on their mailing list – but I missed the very nice, clear and generous review of my museums book, as attached:-


RIBA London Awards 2021

I always like seeing the longlist for the RIBA regional awards because it provides a good conspectus of current building trends. The London list is vast, including, I’m pleased to see, David Chipperfield’s radical renovation of the Museum of Mankind building in Burlington Gardens, with Julian Harrap rightly credited as a partner in the project.

I notice that lots of the projects are now in East London, including the winner, which is Glenn Howell’s new building for English National Ballet on City Island, a peninsula next to Canning Town, a thoughtful, if reticent project, which probably shows the taste for lower key, less showy architecture post-COVID. Lots look worth visiting.


The Walkie-Talkie

I have got mildly fascinated by the Walkie-Talkie, or 20, Fenchurch Street as it is officially known. How was it that the City Fathers, normally rather conservative, breached all their own guidelines, to allow the construction of such an obviously bloated and inelegant monster, thereby allowing everyone else to build big and ugly in an upward competition, such that even the architects of many of the high-rise buildings are now complaining about the poor quality of the buildings other than those they have themselves designed ?

There is an interesting account of Tom Dyckhoff meeting John Prescott when he was deputy prime minister in Dyckhoff’s excellent The Age of Spectacle: Adventures in Architecture and the 21st. Century City, in which Prescott emerges as an evangelist for what he describes accurately as ‘a new wow factor…That’s WHAT IT IS ! It’s buildings that strike you and you say, ‘Bloody ‘ell’. This is indeed exactly what I say when I look at the Walkie-Talkie. How and why did someone think it was such a great idea to put up so many monster buildings when they already had Canary Wharf ? So, it was a product of Blairism, an embrace of the free market in design by the old left.

Peter Rees describes it as a fruit basket:-


Sir Wyndham Deedes

In walking through the park just north of Bethnal Green tube station, I was surprised to see a gothic revival chapel attached to one of the pair of fine 1680s houses, which turns out to have been the Institute of Community Studies founded by Michael Young and is currently for sale:-

There is a very unexpected inscription attached to the chapel:-

It turns out that Wyndham Deedes, having fought in the Boer War and at Gallipoli, and serving as Chief Secretary to the British High Commissioner in Palestine, devoted himself to unpaid social work in East London, opening a bookshop, translating Turkish novels into English, eating only a biscuit for lunch, and a labour member for Bethnal Green on the London County Council, retiring to Hythe where he had sold Saltwood Castle to live in a one-room bedsit.