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The Club Row Weavers Houses Are Listed!

June 11, 2019
by the gentle author

A pair of weavers’ houses at 3-5 Club Row dating from 1764/66

I am overjoyed to announce that – thanks in no small part to the campaign waged by you the readers of Spitalfields Life – yesterday the Minister for Culture, Media & Sport announced that the pair of Journeyman Weavers Houses at 3/5 Club Row have been designated as Grade II listed by Historic England. This new protected status invalidates the owners’ current application for demolition and redevelopment.

You will recall that the owners sought to destroy 3 Club Row and replace it with a new building in generic spreadsheet architecture, claiming in their planning application that  “3 Club Row has little architectural merit and partly due to the emergence of ever larger buildings surrounding it, doesn’t contribute to the appearance of the area.” and “The proposed replacement scheme will be of a suitably high quality that will enhance the Redchurch St Conservation Area.”

Yet when it came to realising the value of 3 Club Row as rental property, a different language was required. Simultaneously, the owners were advertising the building for rent with Winkworth Estate Agents in Shoreditch, who boasted of its “abundance of period features” as a selling point.

Credit is due to Tower Hamlets Planning Department who – in response to the huge number of letters of objection to the proposed demolition – issued a Building Preservation Notice to ensure the safety of 3 Club Row while Historic England made a survey and undertook the process of assessing the listing designation.

The significance of this pair of houses was outlined by Peter Guillery, Senior Historian at the Survey of London, in his definitive book The Small House in Eighteenth Century London. “In few, if any, other London districts would the provision of new housing have been so clearly and directly associated with the needs of a single industry,” he wrote. They were “a local solution to a local problem,” built specifically for journeymen silk weavers of Bethnal Green. These were the first buildings in London constructed specifically to fulfil the requirements of both living and working.

While the grand terraces of silk merchants’ houses in Spitalfields declare their history readily, these more modest buildings of the same era survive as the last vestiges of the workshops and dwellings where the journeyman weavers pursued their trade. You might easily walk past without even noticing these undemonstrative structures, standing disregarded like silent old men in the crowd.

The importance of this listing by Historic England is that it acknowledges these houses where the silk weavers worked are equally as significant as the mansions of the merchants who profited from their labour. We cherish them as part of our collective history.

There are still a few places left for the guided walk to learn more about the journeyman weavers and discover their surviving houses this Saturday 15th June hosted by Julian Woodford, author of The Boss of Bethnal Green (Click here for tickets)

“An abundance of period features” for £895 per week

Note the developer’s Porsche in this elevation of their proposed replacement building

3-5 Club Row, 1953

These houses were built between 1764 and 1766, specifically for the journeymen silk weavers of Bethnal Green and the related trades of silk throwsters, winders and dyers.

These are single depth, one-room-plan houses with a rear window, so light could permeate from front and back. The wide top-floor windows, built into the main body of the house rather than into the attics, were for maximum light, essential for colour-matching fine silk threads. The brick frontages allowed the construction of the staircases while the rear walls were often of wood.

They were constructed as multi-occupant, single-room, workshop-homes, with one family per floor and silk weaving at the top. A journeyman family could only afford one room and work dominated their lives, so no space was provided for much else, with the size of looms dictating the size of the rooms.



You may also like to read about

Impending Disaster at 3 Club Row

What Happened To Tadmans

Save Our East End Heritage

43 Responses leave one →
  1. June 11, 2019

    I followed lots of Huguenot families into London, in particular, especially if they specialised in silver or silk art. The Small House in Eighteenth Century London was correct. These were the first buildings in Britain constructed specifically to fulfil the requirements of both living, and working directly associated with the needs of a single industry. I had a good look around in the 1990s, but it was messy back then.

  2. VANDA HUMAN permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Over joyed to read this. Its amazing what can be achieved when we all stand together. Thank you Gentle Author and all those who involved in the campaign .

  3. Charlotte Dew permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Thank you for bringing the plight of these houses to wide attention and campaigning to save them. It still confuses me to understand that so many important historic buildings balance on a knife edge of existence and risk of redevelopment. This is extraordinary good news.

  4. jennifer galton-fenzi permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Dear Gentle Author, your occasional nuggets of good news amongst the general gloom are so appreciated.

  5. June 11, 2019

    This makes my heart sing!

    Thank you and everyone else for bringing this to our attention so that we could add our voices to the protest to stop destroying this wonderful part of the city I love.

  6. June 11, 2019

    What incredible news to wake up to!! I felt so devastated on hearing about these cottages possible destruction. Such obscene short sightedness and ignorance, that could lead people to wish destroy such historic heritage.

    Many many many congratulations, Gentle Author, for notifying your readers to these beautiful buildings possible plight.

    My father grew up in the East End of London, in Leslie Street, that very sadly was demolished in the 70’s. And the thought of more visual architectural history being wiped out, made me feel sick, and terribly sad.

    I am always indebted to you for writing about my exhibition in 2015, in the Ideas Store, Whitechapel, which was about my family, and their professions.

    Thank you so much again, for your magnificent daily writings, and keeping the East Ends fascinating life alive!


    Ruth x

  7. Linda Salter permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Congratulations on your hard work paying off. Hats off to all concerned. Fantastic news!

  8. Jean Clements permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Well done!

  9. Peter Smith permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Well done and thanks to the Gentle Author for prompting people to comment on the planning!

  10. Caroline Bottomley permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Yeah! Well done all

  11. daphne steele permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Wonderful news and a success for you Gentle Author. I am still wondering at our next steps on the new Whitechapel Bell Foundry proposal, are we continuing to fight ?

  12. June 11, 2019

    This is great news!
    Thank you Gentle Author…. you gave the disregarded “silent old men in the crowd” a voice by bringing this to the attention of your readers.
    Thanks also to Tower Hamlets Planners for recognising the importance of these two ‘gems’ in Club Row.
    Let us all hope that the same recognition is given to the Whitechapel Bell Foundry proposals.

  13. June 11, 2019

    This is great news. So glad you made a difference and inspired us, your readers, to contribute.

  14. June 11, 2019

    Rejoice! Rejoice! Thank you so much for your tireless efforts in this matter. You deserve an OBE. Please accept the gratitude of readers and friends for helping preserve these treasures

  15. Jill Wilson permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Woo hoo! Great news…

  16. Jill Wilson permalink
    June 11, 2019

    And good that the value of houses of the actual silk weavers rather than just the silk merchants have been recognised.

  17. Elizabeth Neill permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Congratulations! So delighted to hear this happy news!

  18. June 11, 2019

    That’s just wonderful news … congratulations to you Gentle Author and to every body else who helped too

  19. Laura Williamson permalink
    June 11, 2019

    This is truly wonderful news!

  20. Sharon Carr-Wu permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Briliant news, O Gentle Author! What a pleasure to hear of property developers being thwarted in their plans for short-term gains. Pity about poor Tadmans though. And so the fight continues ….

  21. June 11, 2019

    Wonderful news. Congratulations. G.A. and to all those who wrote letters of protest.

  22. Peter Holford permalink
    June 11, 2019

    What fantastic news – well done GA and everybody else involved.

    There was one sentence that made me raise and eyebrow – “These were the first buildings in Britain constructed specifically to fulfil the requirements of both living and working.”

    Perhaps in London but definitely not in Britain. In West Yorkshire, especially in the Pennine valleys around Huddersfield, Halifax and Oldham (Yes, I know it’s Lancs but Yorkshire starts two miles from its centre) there are numerous stone built weavers houses with long mullioned windows that date from the late 16th century. There is one near our house with the date stone of 1624. They were quite similar in that the top floor was for weaving and the lower floors were for other processes and for the family to live in.

    But in an urban environment these two in Bethnal Green are hugely significant and old.

  23. mlaiuppa permalink
    June 11, 2019

    I am so thrilled to read this. A long time coming but thankfully, in time.

    Will the owner appeal? He certainly can’t explain his hypocrisy of praising the features to renters while condemning them in his application for demolition.

    I certainly wouldn’t mind a tour of the inside to see all of those abundant period features.

  24. Nicola J permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Terrific news Gentle Author.

  25. Amanda permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Over the moon ! Never in a million years did l think Tower Hamlets planning would deny the destruction of our cherished peachy beautiful building. WELL DONE GA !

  26. Leana Pooley permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Brilliant news.

  27. June 11, 2019

    Well done the rumblings of discontent are being felt in the vestibules of town halls . Let them tremble with fear when they handle the applications to destroy history !

  28. Gayle Thorsen permalink
    June 11, 2019


  29. June 11, 2019

    “Yet when it came to realising the value of 3 Club Row as rental property, a different language was required. Simultaneously, the owners were advertising the building for rent with Winkworth Estate Agents in Shoreditch, who boasted of its “abundance of period features” as a selling point.”

    Hoisted on their own petard!! Well done, whoever did that bit of sleuthing!!

  30. June 11, 2019

    It’s quite a challenge to find reasons to be cheerful right now but this is the most excellent news. Congratulations to everyone involved in saving these very special houses.

  31. Eric Forward permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Great news indeed, and well done GA.

  32. Su C. permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Well done, you, and all!

  33. Sonia Murray permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Wonderful news! Thank you, Gentle Author, for all you have done to preserve these historic buildings!

    I received a letter from Tower Hamlets re. PA/19/00008 regarding the Bell Factory, titled “Planning Application – Neighbour Notification letter.” Is the proposal what we were aiming at?
    It seems to provide new workshop space. Please tell me if there any further action I should take to express my hope that the Bell Factory will be preserved?

  34. Jeanne permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Really good news. I agree with Sonia’s post above. Please do an update on the bell foundry I’ve had the same letter. When the planners make revisions they are able to claim they have addressed the concerns of the original objections. Thank you for your brilliant work here.

  35. Claire permalink
    June 11, 2019

    What good news, congratulations everyone.

  36. Gary Arber permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Congratulations on your continued success in the fight against the greed and avarice of the vandals

  37. Saba permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Whoopie! I am in New York State. When I look at the ugly design for the structure that was intended to update the buildings, I am particularly grateful that these treasures are safe.

  38. Martin Loughlin permalink
    June 11, 2019

    Good news! Just a shame it takees petitions, campaigns, hearings etc for these decisions to be made.

  39. Sue permalink
    June 13, 2019

    Wonderful news. Well done to you all.

  40. kenneth peers permalink
    June 13, 2019

    Well done Gentle Author and congratulations on your successful campaign, the outcome lifts my spirits and makes my heart sing .I remember Club Row with great fondness,I would love to live there but in the interim I’ll continue to sleep in the kitchen with my feet in the hall.Well done to all.

  41. Jen permalink
    June 15, 2019

    I’m so pleased–thank you for mustering the forces, once again. How gratifying.

  42. Michael Daggett permalink
    September 4, 2019

    Well done, indeed on securing the listing of 3/5 Club Row. A Huguenot ancestor of mine, Ivon Lenain, a weaver, lived in Club Row in 1735. He was the victim of a robbery and the culprits were tried at the Old Bailey. Ivon stated to the Court that he lived in Club Row, adjacent to the Knave of Clubs Inn. A new Knave was built in 1880 and only closed recently. Its address is 1 Club Row and is bounded by Whitby St, Club Row and Bethnal Green Road. It seems probable that the 1880 building took in not only the site of the earlier Knave but also Ivon Lenain’s house.

  43. mark judge permalink
    July 23, 2023

    my great great great grandfather william thomas grofs was a weaver and was married from 1 club row in 1856. I have recently rejoined ancestry and am begining to piece together this history which im told has hugenot heritage. His father was also around he was john thomas gross and resided in the greenwich hospital as a greenwich pensioner. I love to see the physical reality of some of these buildings, they also lived in Sclater Steet. Very poor people but not forgotten. Mark

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