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Trinity Green Almshouses Are Saved

June 3, 2017
by the gentle author

Thanks in no small part to the large number of letters of objection, not least those written by you the readers of Spitalfields Life, Tower Hamlets Council refused Sainsbury’s proposal for a twenty-eight storey tower of luxury flats overshadowing Christopher Wren’s magnificent Grade I Trinity Green Almshouses in Whitechapel, last winter and this week – in an extraordinary development – Sainsbury’s announced they have abandoned the plan for the tower entirely. This unexpected and welcome declaration may be explained by the fact that Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, refused to use his executive powers to ‘call in’ the planning application and override local democracy, as his predecessor Boris Johnson did with the cases of the Spitalfields Fruit & Wool Exchange and Norton Folgate.

(Click this image to enlarge)

Trinity Green Almshouses in Mile End survive because some illustrious friends saved these distinguished and benign examples of social housing, which were built at the end of the seventeenth century under the supervision of Sir Christopher Wren.

CR Ashbee, founder of the Guild of Handicrafts at Essex House, was so dismayed to see the destruction of a palace in Bow which once belonged to James I, he launched a campaign in 1895 to rescue Trinity Green Almshouses when demolition and redevelopment were suggested upon the implausible premise that it would be too expensive to repair the drains.

With the vocal support of William Morris, Octavia Hill, Lord Leighton, Walter Besant and many others, Ashbee succeeded in his goal and Trinity Green became the first historic building in the East End to be saved for posterity. As part of his campaign, he published a handsome monograph, surveying and recording the building in detail, from which the drawings here are reproduced. This monograph became the origin of the Survey of London which continues to this day.

CR Ashbee, saviour of Trinity Green – drawing by William Strang in 1903

Trinity Green seen from the Master’s House

Retired naval gentlemen in the club room at Trinity Green

Statue of Captain Richard Naples

Elevation on Mile End Rd

A game of draughts

Model ship from the frontage on Mile End Rd

Cat at the foot of the statue of Captain Maples

Click here to learn more about the FRIENDS OF TRINITY GREEN

You may also like to read about

CR Ashbee in the East End

At Trinity Green

23 Responses leave one →
  1. June 3, 2017

    Lovely news!

  2. June 3, 2017

    This is wonderful news, I am so thankful that Sadiq Khan had the guts to reject
    the project, too. Good that Sainsbury has seen sense at last! Valerie

  3. Shawdian permalink
    June 3, 2017

    At last Common sense prevails! FANTASTIC NEWS.

  4. June 3, 2017

    Really good news.

    Love the wide reach of conservation here: eminent Victorians, the Gentle Author and readers, plus better approach from the city’s Mayor.

  5. Jane Jewell permalink
    June 3, 2017

    Every congratulation in the success for Trinity House Square. Thanks to people power persistence combined with Sadie Khan, a London Mayor who has respect for the history and architectural merit of our wonderful city. Let us go forward with HOPE that right will carry on winning out over the power of big financial interests in development.
    Also credit to Sainsbury’s to start listening and acting with the ideas and wishes of local people in mind.
    Every good wish for the future.
    Jane Jewell, a proud Londoner

  6. June 3, 2017

    Pleased to see the Trinity Green complex will not be dwarfed by that hideous high rise building. However we have not seen the revised planning application yet ?has it been firmed-up. If approved will the supporting road traffic scheme be disruptive for the local people they must be happy with the arrangements, after all they will have to live with it no mention of this so far. All must be vigilant – keep at it friends of the green you are doing fine !so far. Poet John – PS I must say the old buildings fit beautifully into the landscape. Trust 2 or 3 sweet cats to get in on the act.

  7. June 3, 2017

    Brilliant! Well done. And thank goodness for Sadiq Khan.

  8. June 3, 2017

    In a time and a world where good news can seem scant this news is most heartening – hurrah! A real victory. Thank you readers, thank you Gentle Author and thank you Sadiq Khan (showing how democracy, not self-interest, really works)!

  9. Sharon Carr-Wu permalink
    June 3, 2017


  10. Terry permalink
    June 3, 2017

    Sainsbury’s – Live well, live lower.

  11. June 3, 2017

    I think Ashbee was a hero and a brilliant draughtsman. We should erect a statue to him. I am delighted this move has been stopped and hope others pay attention. The comparison between what people want to live in and what they need is very telling in that artist’s impression.

  12. Brian permalink
    June 3, 2017

    At some stage in the future, another Tory mayor will emerge, and ‘call in’ for subsequent approval something even more obscene in the vicinity, and nothing anyone can do will stop him, because of the ridiculous powers of the mayor (thanks Tony). And the City will march ever onwards as the poor light out for Shenfield.

  13. Ken Powell permalink
    June 3, 2017

    Well done for your campaigning and good news that Khan has – at last – summoned up the courage not to rubber-stamp another dreary and intrusive high-rise. Sadly, for too much of London the battle is already lost.

  14. Richard S permalink
    June 3, 2017

    Commendable result … and well played the Spitalfields Life community, adroitly assisted by Dan Cruickshank, to boot.
    Whilst I may now live in parochial Wiltshire, my life was honed by the bump and grind of London for over 55 years – and I watch, with dismay, as the essence of what makes London great is increasingly gnawed away – by rodents of quite a different variety.
    Here – amidst the county downlands, valleys and market towns – erosion of tangible and intangible assets similarly proceeds apace … and I’ve just lost a planning battle to preserve a redoubtable C18th Mill Factory from fast-track development into mean and superfluous apartments that dishonour the historic locale and robust industrial architecture.
    Would that the spirit, community and efficacy of ‘Spitalfields Life’ could delve deeper into the secluded corners of this fair land – and stretch out to combat insensitive ‘advancement’ for the sake of advancement alone.
    Well done to you all.

  15. Annabel Mallia permalink
    June 3, 2017

    So glad to hear this news. Welll done for campaigning and using your page to highlight these things. Heritage needs a champion like you!

  16. Malcolm permalink
    June 3, 2017

    A notable victory indeed, and not before time. The rape and wanton destruction of London in recent years has been on an unparalleled scale. The demolition of historic buildings and streets – aided and abetted by various appalling Mayors, Home Secretaries and the City of London planning department has all but erased the city I have known and lived in all my life. So this news is some small comfort. However…the cynic in me says Sainsbury’s isn’t going to give up just yet.
    I suppose I should extend a small nod of appreciation – which goes against my better judgement and experience – in the direction of our latest Mayor, Sadiq Khan, for at least putting the values and concerns of a community of people before those of a wealthy family of grocers.
    But the cynic in me (again) is mindful that we have an election hoving into view any minute now…

    A bigger thank you is in order to the Gentle Author and his continued efforts to keep fighting for our city, its people and its history.

  17. Jackie Keith permalink
    June 3, 2017

    So happy to hear the news, thanks in no small part to you, Gentle Author, for highlighting these campaigns. Praise be that we have a Mayor putting the interests of Londoners first rather than big business – here’s to a second term in office!

  18. Jude permalink
    June 3, 2017

    Small victory with a huge consequence. Soooo happy!

  19. pauline taylor permalink
    June 3, 2017

    Thank you to everyone who fought so hard to secure this wonderful result, and thank you to Sadiq Khan for being an honourable man, unlike his predecessor.

    Very well done GA.

  20. Maureen Cocklin (nee Buckle) permalink
    April 13, 2019

    I’m new to this site hence my belated comments. I walked passed trinity cottages every week with my grandmother and always wished I lived in one of them. So pleased that the monstrosity isn’t going to dominate the skyline. We have enough of them in London.

  21. May 21, 2021

    What is the name of the artist that made the artwork ‘Statue of Captain Richard Naples’?

  22. May 21, 2021

    Who made the artwork ‘Statue of Captain Richard Naples’ and in what year?

  23. Andrew permalink
    March 8, 2023

    My 3 x Gt Grandfather had a Wheelwrights shop in Sun Tavern Fields, near Cable Street E1. there was also Captain Carrs Almshouses here. Am trying to find anything about them.

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