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At Wellington Buildings in Bow

February 8, 2023
by the gentle author

No doubt you have seen them out of the corner of your eye, looming over Bow Rd tube station. Wellington Buildings, Cuthbert Arthur Bereton’s dignified Victorian housing blocks rise like fairytale castles when you peer up at them from the railway platforms below.

They were constructed around 1900 by Brereton when he was Engineer to the Whitechapel & Bow Railway, for people displaced by the building of the underground railway line and Bow Rd station, which opened in 1902. Wellington Buildings serve as an attractive landmark within the vernacular urban landscape in Bow and are an important example of the social and industrial change which took place here over century ago, especially the impact of the expansion of the railways.

When the Whitechapel & Bow Railway Act was passed in April 1897, it gave the Metropolitan District Railway Company power of compulsory purchase and demolition of a third of the houses in Mornington Rd nearby. Consequently, they were obligated to rehouse those displaced and Wellington Buildings was the result, tucked in at the north end of Wellington Way beside the station.

Comprising two tall blocks of tenements of yellow London stock bricks, the buildings are embellished with glazed Doulton bricks at ground level, and red bricks at corners and in the window surrounds – and a little discreet lattice work in the manner of William Butterfield’s ecclesiastical and collegiate architecture, high upon the wall, just to give them distinction. Brereton also contrived projecting bays for staircases that were originally open to the elements under pointed gables, and a low range on the south side of the courtyard served as a laundry and bathhouse. He came from a family of generations of heroic civil engineers and architects, but is chiefly remembered today for the elegant austerity of his design for Kew Bridge.

Wellington Buildings are a noble location in the history of the Suffrage movement. In 1913, number 37 was the home of Miss F E Adams, Honorary Secretary of the East London Branch of the Women’s Freedom League. According to The Vote newspaper, regular meetings were held there as part of the Women’s Suffrage movement.

“On Monday last a branch meeting was held at 37, Wellington Buildings, Bow. It was decided that till further notice branch meetings should be hold at the same address on alternate Thursdays.”

The Vote, Friday 7th Nov 1913

Standing today in their pristine, unaltered state after more than a century, Wellington Buildings are not listed yet adjoin Bow Rd Underground station which is Grade II listed and built at the same time. We must hope that their position, within the curtilage of the listed structure and being by the same architect as the station, will afford them some degree of protection.

To the dismay of the residents, the freeholders of Wellington Buildings have applied twice and been rejected in their ill-conceived attempts to add bulky extensions that compromise the architecture and quality of the buildings.

Now there is new planning application for a crude extension to Wellington Buildings under consideration by the council. You can study the plans online by clicking here and entering PA/22/02634/A1 in the search box. Comments can be mailed to until 14th February.

‘projecting bays for staircases that were originally open to the elements under pointed gables’

’embellished with glazed Doulton bricks at ground level, and red bricks at corners and in the window surrounds’

‘a little discreet lattice work in the manner of William Butterfield’s ecclesiastical and collegiate buildings high upon the wall, just to give them distinction’

Bow Rd Station

Minnie Lansbury clock in Bow Rd opposite Wellington Buildings

Suffragette Minnie Lansbury on her way to be arrested at Poplar Town Hall

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In Old Bow

7 Responses leave one →
  1. Paul Loften permalink
    February 8, 2023

    The freeholders may have rights of ownership to the building but there is another dimension of women’s rights and working class history that resides within its walls that belongs to the people The history and epic struggles against injustice and how and where progress was achieved is slowly being removed . The building sits beautifully in the surroundings as it is . This alone should be reason enough to keep it as it is .

  2. Robin permalink
    February 8, 2023

    Well said, Paul Loften.
    And thank you, GA for the information on this issue, especially the role of these buildings in the Women’s Suffrage movement.

  3. Marcia Howard permalink
    February 9, 2023

    I don’t know that particular area very well, but some interesting architectural detail on the buildings. I also learned more about Minnie Lansbury from seeing her name on the clock – and her tenuous link to Angela Lansbury who we’ve recently lost.

  4. Cherub permalink
    February 9, 2023

    I would love to see what these flats look like inside as the exterior and surroundings look well kept. Lovely to see pride invested in old buildings.

  5. Joanne permalink
    February 12, 2023

    The freeholder purchased the freehold by stealth, without consulting any of the leaseholders. The freeholder exploited their position within the former managing agent to do this. An incestuous little set up, like insider trading.

  6. Resident permalink
    February 12, 2023

    Great reminder of this building’s heritage. Hopefully we can keep it intact!

  7. Joanne Clipsham permalink
    December 28, 2023

    The Freeholder is again seeking to build a House at the end of the courtyard block of Wellington Buildings (where the garden is). We have beaten back 3 planning applications – all refused by Council – but now the Freeholder has appealed the Council’s decision of their last application (refused March this year). An independent Planning Inspector will decide the case. This is ‘crunch point’, the last chance to save Wellington Buildings.

    Please help to stop the damage to this beautiful building by raising your objection here by Jan 19 ‘24 quoting the appeal reference APP/E5900/W/23/3329059

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