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Wilful Destruction At The Truman Brewery

February 7, 2021
by the gentle author

“What has happened is unquestionably vandalism” – Dan Cruickshank

Last year, Dan Cruickshank made a survey of the historic fabric of the Old Truman Brewery to ensure that these elements would be preserved in any redevelopment of the site, which sits within the Fournier St and Brick Lane Conservation Area. The owners have responded by destroying a large area of old granite paviours and setts in the large yard east of Brick Lane that Dan identified as original, thus avoiding the possibility of any restriction upon their future development plans in this area.

The work was undertaken covertly on Thursday 28th and Friday 29th January when the yard was cordoned off by security guards while mechanical diggers removed the surface and the debris was hastily taken away on trucks.

When the Spitalfields Trust contacted Tower Hamlet Council on Thursday 28th to halt the destruction, the owners of the brewery justified their action as ‘repair.’ The enforcement officers accepted this explanation and took no action.

On Monday 1st February, when the Trust supplied photographic evidence, Planning Enforcement acknowledged that “the works appear to go beyond that which may be considered a repair.”

On Tuesday 2nd February, when the Trust formally requested the reinstatement of the historic paving, Planning Enforcement admitted that what had taken place was unlawful – “the extent of the work that has been carried out is such that there is a breach of planning control.” By this point the entire surface of the yard had gone.

The owners of the Old Truman Brewery are currently seeking planning permission to build an ugly shopping mall with four floors of corporate offices on top at the corner of Brick Lane and Woodseer St. The Spitalfields Trust are campaigning to halt this development and advocating the creation of a Planning Brief for the entire brewery site which takes into account both conservation and the needs of the local community, especially for housing.

Through their destructive action, the brewery owners have revealed themselves to be unscrupulous with no respect for history or the community. These pitiful events emphasise the importance of stopping their proposed development and the necessity of a Planning Brief for the entire brewery site that will curb their greedy profit-driven ambitions.

Please register your objection to the redevelopment if you have not yet done so. You will find instructions below.

Original granite paving dug up and removed

“The central square, now once again largely open, also retains some remarkable areas of paving… This combination of materials gives this area something of the beauty and mystery of an antique ruin, like parts of Pompeii, with the well judged and skilful laying of the setts reminiscent of a Roman tessellated pavement. The central area of the court also retains large areas of early and well laid setts, their form and location marking, to a degree, the location of lost brewery buildings. These historic and well-crafted surfaces possess great beauty.” Dan Cruickshank

Click here to read Dan Cruickshank’s Survey of the Truman Brewery


Workshop in the eastern yard of the brewery with granite setts

Joiner’s shop in the eastern yard of the brewery with granite setts

The former cooperage in the eastern yard with granite setts

The large pale grey areas in this aerial view are the granite paving that has ben removed

Will these granite surfaces marked with centuries of use by drays be dug up next?

These original granite setts from when this was once part of Wilkes St are at risk of destruction

Photographs by Dan Cruickshank


The owners of the Old Truman Brewery want to build an ugly shopping mall with four floors of corporate offices on top at the corner of Woodseer St and Brick Lane.

  • It will undermine the authentic cultural quality of Brick Lane.
  • The generic architecture is too tall and too bulky, ruining the Brick Lane & Fournier St Conservation Area.
  • It offers nothing to local residents whose needs are for genuinely affordable homes and workspaces.
  • It is an approach that is irrelevant to a post-Covid world, with more people working from home and shopping locally or online.
  • Where it meets the terraces of nineteenth century housing, the development is out of scale and causes up to 60% loss of light.


Lodge an objection to the Old Truman Brewery development by writing a personal letter to Tower Hamlets Council as soon as possible.

Please write in your own words and head it OBJECTION.

Quote Planning Application PA/20/00415/A1

Anyone can object wherever they live. Members of one household can each write separately. You must include your postal address.

Send your objection by email to

Or by post to:
Planning Department,
Town Hall, Mulberry Place,
5 Clove Crescent,
London, E14 2BG



38 Responses leave one →
  1. Janet Stevenson permalink
    February 7, 2021

    This is such a common action by developers world wide. You might consider taking action for a criminal conspiracy by the developers- you can do this though the underlying action it relates to is civil.

    They deserve to be punished for taking away peoples heritage for gain and then apparently lying about it. One might think the lying is further evidence of their wrong doing.

    So sad!

  2. Jamie permalink
    February 7, 2021

    What an utterly depressing thing to read on a Sunday morning. However thank you so much for highlighting. Letter sent to Tower Hapless, for what it is worth…

  3. February 7, 2021

    Utterly disgraceful act by the owners.
    Tower Hamlets Planning Department and Enforcement team need to be replaced by people who genuinely care about the heritage of the area, the needs of local people who have lived there for most of their lives and for the whole the community they are elected to serve.
    Surely there must be a huge fine for such blatant disregard of planning control ?

  4. Leana Pooley permalink
    February 7, 2021

    If only the owners of the Brewery could be forced to re-instate the paving and setts – on hands and knees. As usual Dan Cruikshank did a wonderful job of recording the buildings and their environs.

  5. Annie Green permalink
    February 7, 2021

    Why build this nonsense now? Empty offices all over the city, people can’t use shops…this is insanity. And dirty, underhand insanity at that. Forgive me for being dense but last time I was in the area there were plenty of shops everywhere you looked and can’t see the need for a mall here.

  6. Ruth permalink
    February 7, 2021

    Once again the guardianship of our history is in the hands of the greedy. They are ruining my city.

  7. Bill Phillips permalink
    February 7, 2021

    I Have great affection for Truman’s Brewery and the area having worked there for many years with my Dad and Brother Brewing started there in 1666 the year of the great fire unfortunately the owners do not care for History and Tradition only lining their pockets

  8. Ann V permalink
    February 7, 2021

    This is wanton destruction for which there is no excuse. Pure greed. Everyone involved ought to be ashamed and forced to re-instate what they have destroyed.

  9. February 7, 2021

    Backhanders you won’t be them, it’s money money all the time.

    Best of luck you’re need it.

  10. February 7, 2021

    Most Property developers see only cash and profit. The unscrupulous
    Developer has been helped somewhat by the relaxed attitudes of some councils. Is it worthwhile getting a petition set up to object to this and other developments which ignore conservation concerns.

  11. Lucy permalink
    February 7, 2021

    Why isn’t such a special feature seen as an advantage to a development? This is morons designing for morons. And they’re in the right borough for it – Tower Hamlets will put up no resistance.

  12. Mark Keith permalink
    February 7, 2021

    The Planning Enforcement officers are there to safeguard against corrupt actions.
    If they are failing to do this they must be held to account. The owners have willfully destroyed this environment and blatantly overridden the guidance put in place. They must be prosecuted.

  13. John Grimsey permalink
    February 7, 2021

    Resembles the shenanigans that have been going on in Coronation Street. Fact imitating fiction. Where’s Roy Cropper when you need him?

    Why should they be allowed to break the rules? It’s tantamount to criminal damage. Do we know who the developers are?

  14. Pat permalink
    February 7, 2021

    Letter of objection being posted tomorrow.

  15. Carol Johnson permalink
    February 7, 2021

    Please don’t let them ruin this place . Make them reinstate the paving

  16. Mary permalink
    February 7, 2021

    Liars and vandals!
    No doubt these evil developers will reinstate half a dozen paviors in acres of poured concrete and convince Tower Hamlets Council that they are “repairing” and therefore “acknowledging the area’s rich history”. They may have already sold the paviours as architectural salvage. Such wanton destruction seems to have increased nationally under cover of Covid.
    GA brings us so many reports of utter ineptitude by Tower Hamlets Council that they must be one of the worst in the UK. Is the Council fit for purpose? Are the councillors in the pockets of the developers in the area?

  17. Bernard Steel permalink
    February 7, 2021

    Thank you again Gentle Author for writing about this- e mail just sent to Mr Harmsworth at the Council- for what it is worth.

  18. February 7, 2021

    Utterly appalling. Where’s the council, asleep again?
    Greed conquers All!

  19. Eric Forward permalink
    February 7, 2021

    Dan Cruickshank really deserves formal recognition for all the work he has done over decades to preserve some of the history of this area of the east end, never mind his other substantial contributions to media that add to our knowledge of history.

    I’m surprised the developers aren’t actually reassessing this development themselves. Even when things return to a new normal, that is clearly going to have a reduced need for both office and residential property. It’s insane this is being progressed by anyone in this environment – there’s just going to be no need or demand for it.

  20. Christina Mitchell permalink
    February 7, 2021

    Appalling, both the destruction of the paving and the proposed new development.

  21. Emma permalink
    February 7, 2021

    This was a beautiful part of our history…we have too many shopping malls and housing blocks

  22. Paul baker permalink
    February 7, 2021

    Stop destroying our heritage and why cut down trees build around them idiots

  23. Robin permalink
    February 7, 2021

    Letter of objection emailed.
    Terrible news about this illegal destruction. Thank you, GA, for alerting us to it.

  24. Peta Bridle permalink
    February 7, 2021

    The pandemic seems to have brought out some appalling behaviours. Nothing either is done to address blatant breaking of the law. And those that could act choose not to.

  25. Pamela Bough permalink
    February 7, 2021

    Are the construction bosses part of the Trump family? They seem to be treating the history and real property from the past as theirs but it belongs to the country and the future.

    People that destroy work of that importance need to be jailed the same way anyone who had pulled up part of the Motorway M25. It isn’t anyones but everyones. It was built a long time ago for their future – now and for our future. Get them to ruin their knees and fingers replacing the flooring – it will take about 5 years or more considered hard labour in jail but fine craftsmens work to those who can actually do the job right. SHAME! Shame! Shame!

  26. February 7, 2021

    These people should be stopped and make to pay for all the damage caused. Hit them where it hurts the most, in their pockets.

  27. Jill Wilson permalink
    February 8, 2021

    I echo lots of the comments above – this is truly despicable behaviour on the part of the developers and they and Tower Hamlets council should be brought to account… Is there any legal action which could be taken against them?

    And as a designer I can’t understand why can’t see why they can’t appreciate what a fantastic asset the old and characterful paving could have been in any future development. The Truman Brewery site has such potential to be a really interesting and special place, but the last thing it needs is a massive office block and shopping mall complex, both of which are likely to be massive white elephants anyway.


  28. John C. Miles permalink
    February 8, 2021

    Greedy developers indulging in reckless damage whilst using hired teams of heavies to intimidate the public? Criminal actions unopposed by ineffective local government? ‘The Boss’ (Joseph Merceron) would be very pleased – things haven’t changed much in 200 years, sadly!

  29. Sue Mayer permalink
    February 8, 2021

    Thank goodness Dan took photos as that is all we have left now. Developers are only interested in making a large profit. All of this history is lost to be replaced with offices and a shopping mall. Covid has changed the world forever so we no longer need more office space and yet more shopping malls, when will somebody realise this and stop these ridiculous developments.

    I think Tower Hamlets should be investigated for failing to protect this site and this is not the first time they have been found wanting. Why, oh why, would you believe a developer surely common sense tells you that somebody from the council needed to go and inspect the site?

    I am grateful I no longer live in London especially as I used to live in the Tower Hamlets council area.

    This is all very depressing.

  30. John Lsngan permalink
    February 8, 2021

    Name and shame them Can retrospective rcive site of cpmminity importance be placed on this?
    COuld listing be placed on this retrospecively. Have English heritage bern approachef. Yhis is a unique working gloor, snd im sure it could have bern incorporated into design.
    Developers demolished a pub in Carlton Vale kilburn the day befire listing wss placed on it. And had to rebuild back to original.

  31. Cherub permalink
    February 8, 2021

    The old paving would have looked beautiful if it had been carefully restored and cleaned, as the stones are lovely colours.

    This type of thing is happening everywhere. I live in Switzerland and one of the districts close to me has buildings dating back to the 13th c, yet the residents are up against council planners who want to rip up all the old paving to replace it with large modern flagstones they are using in more modern parts of the city. They also want to widen the pavements. The residents rightly argue their small village like district will lose its character if this goes ahead. You cannot just take something from early medieval times and catapult it into the 21st c, then again it seems you cannot reason with planners either 🙁

  32. Jill Carey-Stuart permalink
    February 9, 2021

    Totally unimaginative and blinkered behaviour.
    15 years ago when visiting Bohemia in the Czech Republic we witnessed sets being relaid in town squares, with natural stone of different colours being used to deliniate parking bays, no parking zones and other messages commonly made in paint – brilliant. Of all the wonderful places we visited, and things we saw, the renovations of town squares, (together with the sight of huge teenage boys queuing up to go into school with their slippers under their arm) left a lasting impression!

  33. February 9, 2021

    Heartbreaking, and disgraceful behaviour, both from the owners, and for the Planning Enforcement team for not doing their job properly. I have sent an email expressing my concerns to Patrick Harmsworth (a rather ironic surname!)

  34. melissa delano permalink
    February 13, 2021

    I agree with above…”Harmsworth”….visualize eyeroll…and sent him an email too…from northern New Mexico…where we face the same kind of insanity….I have never been to Spitalfields and never really knew about it until recently when I stumbled across this blog…and it is wonderful…an incredible education! Thank you for being here!

  35. Yanjela Sherpa permalink
    March 13, 2021

    This is such a shame! Coincidentally I am currently working on the Truman Brewery site for my masters architecture project and had been looking at the condition of these ground paving extensively and have been able to survey these in drawing thankfully. It’s unfortunate to see that now these no longer remain..

  36. April 13, 2021

    I am very sad to hear of the destruction at the Old Truman Brewery. Even with the support of the well known historian Dan Cruickshank, and others who care deeply about the heritage of Spitalfields, we do not seem to be able to save the irreplaceable traces of the past. We must keep trying. The place has still more stories to tell. I, as so many others, have been tracing my family’s history. A number lived and worked in Brick Lane around the 1850’s and had their links with the Truman Brewery. I had only recently discovered that one ancestor was the landlord of The Black Eagle and living there was a nephew who went on to be given the commission to supply granite for the Embankment and the Eddystone Lighthouse among other things. How interested I was to see the pictures of the granite paving stones and how shocked I was when I read what had happened.

  37. steven harris permalink
    November 19, 2021

    So very sad and a personal loss. As a boy in the 1960s, living next door in the Great Eastern Buildings (now demolished), I used to run along those very same paved roads and streets as I headed up to commercial street. Woodseer street is also well remembered as the place to get bits of scrap wood (Best’s wood yard) for starting the coal fires in the buildings. A loss of history to support the development of yet another characterless dedication to corporate greed 🙁

  38. Clare Barclay permalink
    July 24, 2022

    I came across this article while having a nostalgic on-line review of Spitalfields, where I used to stay during the 1990s, at 27 Fournier Street. I revisited in 2009/2010. This is a travesty. The Truman brewery was a landmark and a beautiful market. Why would these greedy owners want to ruin the character of the neighbourhood – they will lose out in the end. And tearing up those beautiful pavers?! I recall the battle over the old Spitalfields market in the early/mid 2000s. They were going to tear it down and build a high rise. The neighbourhood put up a fight and was able to work out a compromise and the result is vastly superior to what might have been. Can this type of battle not be fought over the Truman brewery? This will ruin Brick Lane and the character of the neighbourhood, forever.

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