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A Walk Down The Mile End Rd

May 26, 2014
by the gentle author

William Booth points the way

It was once the custom for East Enders to promenade along the Mile End Rd at weekends, dressed in their Sunday best and admiring the shop windows, and – in similar vein – I set out down the road with my camera yesterday to record some of the sights for you.

Mile End Rd takes its name from the turnpike in Whitechapel, which stood exactly a mile from the City of London situated at the crossroads where Cambridge Heath Rd meets the Whitechapel Rd. Traders who had come far, bringing their goods to market in the City, would pass through this gate and park their wagons safely upon the wide thoroughfare, spending the night at one of the taverns in Whitechapel, before rising early to arrive in London next morning.

Beyond Whitechapel, lies Mile End Waste where William Booth preached against the degradations of drink in the nineteenth century, giving sermons which led to the founding of the Salvation Army to minister to the poor and destitute that congregated here – and, more than a century later, the Salvation Army still maintains Booth House in Whitechapel to fulfil the same purpose. Yet Booth’s statue by George E. Wade of 1927 stands outside Trinity Green Almshouses of 1695 for “decay’d Masters & Commanders,” revealing an earlier history of this area defined by the proximity to the London Docks.

Just across the road, is the site of Captain’s Cook’s House dating from the eighteenth century, when the land was open upon either side of the Mile End Rd and the masts of ships might been seen by travellers approaching London. Further east, the magnificent terrace built by Anthony Ireland in 1717 and Malplaquet House built by Thomas Andrews in 1741-2, along with equally affluent dwellings on Stepney Green attest to the wealth of those who made their money through maritime trade. Elsewhere, Bellevue Place, Maria Terrace and Mile End Place are more modest dwellings which survive as dignified examples of housing for those employed in local industries, brewery workers and artisans.

Remarkably these fragmentary survivals still hold their own amongst the dense nineteenth and twentieth century developments – accelerated by bombing and slum clearance and now the incursion of the City – and thus the entire history of the East End is to be found along the Mile End Rd.

The Albion Brewery, Whitechapel

Trinity Green Almshouses beside Park House, built c.1820 by the Barnes family, property developers

On this site stood Captain’s Cook’s house, demolished in the fifties and commemorated in the seventies

The former Wickhams Department Store, constructed 1927

In Bellevue Place, cottages once attached to the Charrington Brewery

The much-missed Billy Bunter’s Tea Stall

Genesis Cinema, built 1939, replacing Frank Matcham’s Paragon Theatre of 1885

Terrace built  by Anthony Ireland in 1717

Nineteenth-century cottage in Stepney Green

Eighteenth century terrace in Stepney Green

Built in Stepney Green c.1694 for Dormer Sheppherd, a wealthy merchant with overseas connections and acquired c.1714 by Dame Mary Gayer, widow of East India Company’s Governor of Bombay

Malplaquet House, constructed by Thomas Andrews in 1741-2

Stepney Green Station by  C.A. Brereton, 1902

Gothic Cottages in Maria Terrace

Eric Gill’s relief sculpture on the front of the New People’s Palace, 1936

The People’s Palace, built 1886-92

Looking west along the Mile End Rd

You may also like to look at

In Mile End Old Town

In Old Stepney

25 Responses leave one →
  1. ROBERT GREEN permalink
    May 26, 2014

    I walk this stretch of road every day and in my opinion there is nowhere else in East London that feel’s more like the “East End” than Mile End Road, yes like most place’s a lot has changed, but a surprising amount of it, including a lot of features of historic significance have thankfully managed to survive the relentless onslaught of re development, some of them, “Wickhams” “The People’s Palace” etc have even managed to re invent themselves and adapt to a use more in keeping with the modern world and yet at the same time maintain their important place in the local community, thus not only securing their future but also helping to promote the Mile End Rd as an area of special importance right at the very heart of East London.

  2. May 26, 2014

    Beautiful series on East London …
    I wish I might take that walk someday!

  3. Simon Cross permalink
    May 26, 2014

    I often drive down Mile End Rd and wonder about Malplaquet House, which just looks overgrown and semi derelict. Is it still in use as a house? I’m always struck by the thought of a house’s memory, what it must have seen and Malplaquet House will have seen such changes in it’s time. It would be a wonderful site for a Mile End Museum.

  4. May 26, 2014

    I used to walk this stretch almost everyday on my wa to and from school, thanks for the memories. Valerie

  5. Jean Jameson permalink
    May 26, 2014

    Oh, TGA! You should have knocked at No 1 Maria Terrace and we would have welcomed you in for a cup of tea! Do you know the story of Maria Terrace? We have been told that a wealthy brewer gave his daughters Maria, Louisa and Emily, money to build houses as a means of income. Emily’s road disappeared in the bombing, we think, but part of Maria Terrace and Louisa Street survived, although our house is suffering now from the aftermath of bomb damage! I’m sure you’d be welcome at the street party next weekend in Louisa St. And next time you are around here, do let me know!

  6. Susan Goldman permalink
    May 26, 2014

    I must have walked this route so many times in the past (lived in Cephas Avenue for a few years) but missed so much. Funny how you don’t see things that are there until they’re pointed out to you. A really interesting post. Thank you GA, next time I will open my eyes and look!

  7. Peter Holford permalink
    May 26, 2014

    A fabulous mixture of interesting and characterful buildings. It’s good that they have survived so much that has been thrown at them so far. Let’s hope rampant development doesn’t seek to bulldoze them away in the quest for a quick profit.

  8. May 26, 2014

    Tell us a bit more about the Peoples’ Palace GA, do

  9. Beryl Happe permalink
    May 26, 2014

    A very nostalgic stroll along Mile End rd. I worked in the HSBC bank (now closed) next door to the Genesis cinema, for many years so was in the area every day. I didn’t realise what history I was surrounded by. An excellent blog.

  10. May 26, 2014

    Amazing architectural views— one can learn to see something with ones own eyes!

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  11. Nick Reid permalink
    May 26, 2014

    Malplaquet House is occupied. The owners are a museum director and a landscape garden designer.
    Also of note is that one of the Trinity Green almshouses is currently for sale.

  12. Cathy permalink
    May 26, 2014

    Thank you so much! Can’t wait to do the walk. Has the outside of the house built by Dormer Shepherd been used in the Selfridge’s TV series?

  13. the gentle author permalink*
    May 26, 2014

    You can see inside Malplaquet House by clicking here

  14. Naguere permalink
    May 26, 2014

    Great photos, lovely information, a treat all round. thank you.

  15. Katya permalink
    May 26, 2014

    What a thrill it is to catch a small glimpse of the terrace houses. I had a keen desire to get beyond their exteriors for a peek inside, so please, GA, take up Ms. Jameson’s offer of an invite and perhaps some photos?

  16. May 26, 2014

    As always, I learn so much from your blog! I have often admired the many handsome buildings in this area but knew nothing of the history of most of them. At a time when so much about our city is changing, I find it reassuring to see buildings from so many periods existing together. It reminds me that this has always been a place of change, and also that we need not always lose our connection with the past when change comes.

  17. Pauline Taylor permalink
    May 26, 2014

    Those were the days when people knew how to build houses, and lovely to see them here. Thank you so much too for the sculpture by Eric Gill, one of my most admired artists.

  18. joan permalink
    May 27, 2014

    I see from an article in the Evening Standard last week that at least some of Wickham’s has now been reinvented as a co-working space.

  19. May 27, 2014

    Lovely article and comments! I wonder if there might be an awesome connection to weave between historic communities around the globe that want to cater to others that enjoy archeological social history brought to life?

    That fits in with the new paradigm for local2 global health and wellness, Wellness Weavers.

    William Booth and the Ames House fit in with my Kansas Street Settlement House and the Wellness Weavers projects. Currently we make progress by serving homeless alcoholics that are serious about changing their lives to be healthy. Of course Florence Nightingale and John Wesley hale from England and Amelia Earhart was very welcomed there so that adds to the charm of a joint venture.

    Do you know any community that might be interested in being the first Wellness Weavers pilot site in England to see if healthy humor and the Wellness Weavers Community Service-Learning local2global system makes a difference in health and wellness of families touched by the trauma of war and or alcoholism?

    You can Google my name or Wellness Weavers for more information…or come visit this little rural town of Waterville, Kansas… Just 45 miles north of “The Little Apple”, Manhattan, Kansas on holiday. I will personally show you the fun historic venues in our area that span the Ice Age-the Native American and Pioneer times, to the arts and sciences of the presence that honors the past and is creating the new paradigm for Community Service-Learning for revitalization and healthy fun. ~Helen Stucky Risdon

  20. Charlotte Browne permalink
    June 10, 2014

    I always feel a thrill at seeing photos of the Mile End Road; I first walked along it as a student at Queen Mary College and some years later to take my boys to Harry Roberts Nursery in Harford Street. Happy memories.

  21. June 19, 2014

    i live in California and stayed with a friend who lives in one of the almshouses. i felt very luck to have found that amazing little space and equally so for being able to amble down much the same route as featured here (then all the way to the Palm Tree of course). an interactive map showing the locations of these places of interest would be a real bonus to those of us armchair traveling. can’t say enough about this site and the excellent work therein.

  22. Simon Baker permalink
    March 3, 2015

    I’ve just moved to the area and was really interested to find out more about the history of mile end road. Thanks very much.

  23. December 4, 2015

    Love all the nostalgia about the Mile-End Road. My wife’s mother came from there and lived in 17 Louisa Gardens, along with many of her relatives at the time, the Worrickers. They all seemed to have occupied the odd numbers. Sadly these properties no longer survive due to the bombings in WW2. I believe that some even numbered properties may still be there today. Her uncle used to work at the brewery as a drayman and at some point she was a member of the Salvation Army.

  24. Helena McGinty permalink
    July 9, 2016

    My mother was born and grew up just off Commercial Road in Charles Street later Aylward Street. in what was then called Stepney but was old Mile end earlier I think. The English part of the family came from Mile end. The name was Dearing and they appear to have been poulterers. Her great great grandfather was Polish and married an Irish woman-so typically British. Their daughter married into the Dearings. She and her father lived on Middlesex Street on their return from Poland so the whole of this side of the family is from this area. thank you for your lovely post and photos.

  25. Dave Wyatt permalink
    November 4, 2016

    Way back in the 60s we used to go to the GA. ( guardian angel) club , the music was american soul,star and tamla . there’d be live bands like john coles rubies, the switch and many other mod bands. it was terrific, the club was in the basement ,the GA is in the photo that’s posted. i lived in lockhart st, off of burnett road. i remember them days with great joy.

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