Since 1977, the Spitalfields Trust has fought to protect the buildings and culture of Spitalfields from exploitative development. Ours is a vision which respects history and architectural precedent. We welcome development that responds to local needs and is sympathetic in scale and form to the existing historic environment.
The Trust is disappointed that the family who own the Old Truman Brewery want to build an ugly shopping mall with four floors of corporate offices on top at the corner of Woodseer Street and Brick Lane.
Instead of this arbitrary proposal, we are seeking a conversation about the future of the whole brewery – with input from the widest number of people – to create a plan for the entire site that reflects the needs and wishes of residents.
We ask that the owners the Old Truman Brewery recognise the social responsibility which comes with ownership of such a large property.
We ask them to abandon this piecemeal approach and contribute instead to the creation of a development plan for the entire brewery that takes the community into account.
We ask that this bad proposal is withdrawn, so that a wide-reaching consultation can be undertaken for a sustainable plan for the whole Old Truman Brewery site.
We invite you to 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 Patrick.Harmsworth@towerhamlets.gov.uk
Or by post to:
Town Hall, Mulberry Place,
5 Clove Crescent,
London, E14 2BG
Join our campaign at facebook.com/battleforbricklane
Follow the Spitalfields Trust on twitter @SpitalfieldsT
Visit our exhibition at:
25 Princelet Street,
London, E1 6QH
Exhibition opens noon - 6pm on Saturday 12th, Sunday 13th, Wednesday 16th, Thursday 17th, Friday 18th, Saturday19th and Sunday 20th December.
The Cooperage building, with its wide entrance passage and a tall chimney, appears to date from the mid-nineteenth century
Messrs Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co’s Brewery at Brick Lane, published by J. Moore, 1842
After the Great Plague, a brewhouse was built in Brick Lane in 1666 by Thomas Bucknall on the site of a wellspring. Upon his death it was acquired by one of his employees, Joseph Truman, who came from a family of brewers in the trade since 1381.
The demand for beer was immense as an alternative to tainted drinking water. Consequently the brewery flourished, supplying the growing city during the reconstruction after the Great Fire. In 1720 Joseph built himself a grand house, attended by four brewhouses with stables, granaries and gardens. His son Ben Truman industrialised the process, creating a giant brewing plant, and was knighted by George III.
Sampson Hanbury took over in 1789, doubling the output to thirty million quart pots a year by 1820 with the installation of a steam engine by Boulton & Watt. Sampson was from a large Quaker family and he brought in his cousin, Thomas Fowell Buxton, who made a reputation as a social reformer. A passionate abolitionist, working closely with William Wilberforce, he presented the London petition of 72,000 signatures against slavery to the House of Commons in 1826 which led directly to the Bill for the Abolition of Slavery in 1833.
Truman, Hanbury & Buxton became the largest brewery company in the world, but declined in the last century until it closed in 1989 following a merger with Watney Mann and Grand Metropolitan. In 2010, James Morgan & Michael-George Hemus bought the name and the yeast, and today Truman’s beer is brewed in Hackney Wick and served in pubs across the land.
As the point of arrival for waves of immigration, Brick Lane is the nearest we have to an ‘Ellis Island’ in this country. It represents centuries of struggle by generations of migrants seeking to build a life and belong, creating the multicultural Britain of today.
Post-war, Bengali men came to work in the garment trade and they opened curry houses on Brick Lane to feed themselves. In 1971, during Bangladesh’s War of Independence, many brought their families to join them.
At this time, the Truman Brewery signified a cultural barrier between the immigrant community in Spitalfields and the racists who sold National Front newspapers and held rallies to the north. After the murder of Altab Ali in 1978, Brick Lane became the location for anti-fascist marches and protests.
Banglatown was established by the nineties, acknowledging Brick Lane’s significance as the heartland of the British Bangladeshi community. At its peak in 2008, there were around sixty outlets selling Indian, Bangladeshi or Punjabi food.
The earliest immigrants here were Huguenots, fleeing persecution after the Revocation of Edict of Nantes in 1685, who settled in large numbers and established the silk industry with which Spitalfields became synonymous in the eighteenth century.
In the nineteenth century, Irish workers escaped the famine at home by seeking employment in the construction of the expanding East End. They were joined by Jewish people, fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe at the end of the century, who came in such numbers that this became known as ‘Little Jerusalem.’
Spitalfields has suffered a tsunami of soulless corporate development spreading from the City of London, inflicting ugly steel and glass blocks at odds with the narrow streets of old brick buildings here. First it was Spitalfields Market, then the Fruit & Wool Exchange and Norton Folgate. Now the wave has reached the Old Truman Brewery.
In spite of local protests, the City of London has successfully used its power to impose land grabs, expanding its financial industries into Tower Hamlets.
Councillors voted unanimously to reject the Fruit & Wool Exchange and Norton Folgate developments but were overruled by Boris Johnson, then Mayor of London, who used his powers to approve the proposals on behalf of the City.
The Fruit & Wool Exchange was home to small local businesses that have been replaced by an international law firm with vacant shops beneath.
Over ten years, the City of London bought up the leases of around forty properties in Norton Folgate. British Land plan to replace these with large floor plate offices and have destroyed over 80% of the fabric of the site which sits entirely within a Conservation Area. Their outdated economic model may be rendered obsolete by the onslaught of Covid 19.
Meanwhile, a monster development looms on the Bishopsgate Goodsyard, of massive towers that will take fourteen years to build, filled with more offices and only a pitiful number of ‘affordable’ housing units.
On the corner of Commercial Street at 101 Whitechapel High Street, an ugly tower designed by Foster & Partners is proposed within a Conservation Area that - if built - sets a precedent for further towers extending into Whitechapel.
The crisis brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic demands new ways of thinking and looking at the city.
Just as, after the Great Fire, buildings were constructed of brick and, after the Blitz, prefabs were introduced as short term housing, in future we need to rethink how we build to respond to the needs of the population.
Laying aside the misguided Woodseer Street proposal, there are better possibilities which could serve the needs of the local people and respond to the post-covid world.
Currently the Old Truman Brewery is like a fortress which closes up at night. But it could become permeable, linking the north and south of Brick Lane, creating a cultural and commercial meeting place serving the diverse communities which surround it.
We are inviting ideas from residents and small businesses, community groups, academics, architects, planners, the council, cultural historians, activists - mostly importantly from you. We need your input and vision to develop a master plan for the whole brewery site.
As we receive your ideas about what you would like to see at the brewery, we will add them to this website.
You can email your ideas to us to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them to:
18 Folgate Street,
London, E1 6BX.
You are invited to visit our exhibition at:
25 Princelet Street,
London, E1 6QH
and give us your ideas in person.
In these pages, John Burrell of Burrell Foley Fischer, Architects & Urban Designers, and Alec Forshaw, Urban Planner & former Islington Conservation Officer, outline some ideas to unlock the potential of the site.
“The Truman Brewery site has great architectural and archaeological significance and a distinct historic character with many fine nineteenth century industrial buildings.
The site possesses a particular and robust visual beauty, derived largely from the evocative remains of nineteenth century industrial architecture and paving schemes. These include magnificent sequences of granite setts and kerbs with sandstone paving and cast iron bollards of splendid neo-classical design.
It is essential that this historic fabric and character is retained and enhanced in any large-scale development on the site. New buildings must be positioned to protect and respect the significance of the remains of the brewery. Indeed, the distinct character of the brewery buildings and their setting should become the creative reference point for any new design.
The key point is that the site’s powerful character - industrial in feel and with its generous sense of space giving it a touch of the sublime - must be the starting point for a plan for the whole site and for the design of buildings at the brewery.
The established palette of rugged traditional materials - stone, brick and metal - should be utilised in new designs. And the height of new buildings kept relatively low to maintain the existing, and very characterful, balance between horizontal blocks punctuated by a few tall, dramatic chimneys.”
DAN CRUICKSHANK - READ FULL SURVEY
Nineteenth century granite setts incorporate wide granite slabs to sustain the weight of heavily laden drays. Some are scribed with wear pattern from the steel-rimmed wheels of the drays.
The first known significant structure on or near the site was an earth-built rampart, erected rapidly in 1642-3 as part of the Parliamentary defences of London. The rampart seems to have run parallel to the east side of Brick Lane before heading diagonally towards Shoreditch. In all probability the rampart crossed the south-west corner of the Truman site. These ramparts, including a series of redoubts and forts, girdled London. They mark the periphery of London at the time with redoubts and forts indicating locations that were seen as particularly vulnerable or important, notably gates within the ramparts. George Vertue’s 1738 plan of the fortifications shows ‘A Redoubt with Flanks near Brick Lane’ which appears to be in the location of the junction of Heneage Street with Brick Lane. The redoubt was connected by a rampart to a pair of large redoubts, near St. Leonard’s church at the junction of Hackney Road and Kingsland Road with Shoreditch High Street.
London’s earth-built fortifications were soon demolished but no doubt significant archaeological evidence survives on the site, including artefacts.
Ogilby and Morgan’s London map of 1681/2 shows a significant amount of building on the west half of the site, including a terrace on Brick Lane with a parallel terrace, separated by gardens or yards, looking east. By this time the ground was part of the Hare Marsh Estate. The estate had been acquired by the Carter family in 1653. In 1669 John Carter, working with carpenter and speculating builder Josias Hill, enlisted the support of the Surveyor to the Crown, Sir Christopher Wren, to complete their building projects on the estate. What became the Truman site included a narrow street, immediately to the north of what is now Woodseer Street (formerly Pelham Street) that was named Carter Street. Presumably this was a Wren sponsored development.
John Rocque’s London map of 1746 offers more clarity about the site, which by this date was largely built upon and absorbed into the urban fabric of north-east Spitalfields. The site was divided by a north-south road called New George Street, which met Carter Street - now called Carter’s Rent - running at right angles off Brick Lane. The land between New George Street and Brick Lane is shown as a fully developed urban block. The remaining land is shown as gardens or pastures between terraces than line Carter’s Rent, Pelham (now Woodseer) Street; Spicer (now Buxton) Street and, on the east edge, Spital Street.
Pelham Street marked the junction between the Hare Marsh Estate and the Halifax/Osborn Estate to the south.
Richard Horwood’s London map of 1819 shows the site yet more urbanised, with terrace houses with rear gardens along Brick Lane, George Street and Carter Street, However some open ground survived behind terraces on Spicer Street and Spital Street, but probably in some sort of industrial use.
This was the time when Truman’s Black Eagle Brewery was most obviously expanding east across Brick Lane, and Horwood’s map does show the Vat House of 1803-05 on the corner of Brick Lane and Carter Street. There are however, enigmatic references in a Truman brewery lease of 1694 which refers to passages between Pelham Street (now Woodseer Street) and land on the east of Brick Lane. This suggests that the brewery had, from its earliest days, some sort of presence on at least part of the site east of Brick Lane
The Vat house survives and, with its elemental pediment, wide windows and lantern, is a most handsome. In 1831 it was joined (immediately to its north) by the ‘Engineer’s house’. This building - which also survives - incorporates a wide ground floor opening leading to the ground east of Brick Lane. To the north of the ‘Engineer’s House’ extensive, three storey brewery stables were built in 1837. These also survive, now with a tall later 19th century chimney standing behind them, to the east. This marks the location of a boiler house.
The Ordnance Survey of 1873-5 shows how the urban block - defined by Brick Lane; Spicer/Buxton Street; Spital Street, and Pelham/Woodseer Street -and incorporating Carter Street and George Street - had been thoroughly industrialised. Terraces and gardens had been replaced by large brewery buildings arranged around a large, irregular court stretching east from Brick Lane to Spital Street and north-south from Spicer Street to Carter Street. George Street had been obliterated. The buildings around this court included, on the north and east sides, blocks containing the brewery’s ‘Cooperage’.
The sole entry to this court from Brick Lane was through the opening below the ‘Engineer’s House’.
The OS map also shows that the Vat house had been extended to the east by a range stretching along the north side Carter Street. Presumably constructed in the mid 19th century this range survives. It is two storeys high and of handsome utilitarian design, its most notable feature being a row or widely spaced doorways with semi-circular arched heads.
The earlier domestic scale - and probably use - survived on the south portion of the site, with terrace houses and gardens on part of the south side of Carter Street and on most of both sides of Pelham/Woodseer Street.
At this time the north side of Carter Street appears to still have marked the south boundary of the brewery east of Brick Lane,
The Survey of London volume on Spitalfields (volume XXVII), published in 1957, includes a plan of Truman’s Brewery. By this time a large structure, adjoining the early buildings on Buxton Street, had appropriated much of the central court. Between this structure and the earlier buildings on Brick Lane was long narrow court containing tanks. The opening below the ‘Engineer’s House’ led to another court of irregular shape. Carter Street had been entirely subsumed into the brewery, with large industrial buildings along its south as well as its north side. However the rear line of the buildings on the south side of what had been Carter Street appear to have still formed the south edge of the brewery site. Certainly the north side of Pelham/Woodseer Street contained mostly buildings of domestic scale, and no doubt in domestic use.
What survives now are vivid memories of key phases of the site’s history, evoked by a number of important structures and physical remnants. These all tell a story and give the site special meaning, individuality and significance.
The most striking evidence is the series of early brewery buildings along Brick Lane, particularly the Vat House that marks the location of the now lost late 17th century Carter Street
The opening below the ‘Engineer’s House’ is tremendously evocative and important. The narrow footpath is paved with York stone and separated from the carriageway by broad granite kerbs. The carriageway is formed with superb granite setts incorporating wide granite slabs, clearly intended to sustain the weight of heavily laden drays. Some of these setts are scribed with wear pattern from the steel-rimmed wheels of the drays. This gives the paving here an almost astonishing authenticity and emotive impact. These setts and granite slabs have evidently not been disturbed for a very long time. Indeed they might date from the 1830’s when the ‘Engineer’s House’ was built. The view beneath the ‘Engineer’s House’ towards Brick Lane, framed partly by the north elevation of the range attached to the Vat House, is one of the most picturesque and evocative prospects in Spitalfields.
Any future works here would have to be very carefully undertaken with - if the surface needs to be disturbed - setts numbered, carefully lifted and re-laid in correct position with tight joints to preserve intact the pattern or wear. It would be best to avoid any disturbance to this beautiful and intensely historic street with its wonderful patina of age and wear.
As the carriageway broadens out towards the central court setts start to differ slightly in size and colour, and there are shifts in the direction in which they were laid and in the surface pattern they form. But all have tight joints and all the paving schemes are executed with skill and appear early. This gives great visual interest and suggests the sequence and original purpose of these schemes.
This paving scheme - from Brick Lane to the central court - is of the highest quality and one of the best to survive in Spitalfields,
There are also two early and handsome bollards of great interest. One is of cannon profile and probably dates from the 1820s, but the other takes the form of a stout, fluted Grecian Doric column. It is very fine and unique in Spitalfields. The slightly domed capital of the column sprouts a stunted spigot, suggesting that once this bollard was topped by a stanchion supporting a gaslight. A cannon bollard and lamp combination - although slightly larger in scale - survives in New Row, Covent Garden.
The central square, now once again largely open, also retains some remarkable areas of paving. Towards the north-west corners - near the location of the tanks shown on the 1957 plan - is an intriguing mosaic of well-laid granites sets and paving separated by strips of concrete. Presumably this is evidence of a series of structures or paved areas within a structure, with the concrete marking the location of lost walls. There are also strips of metal set parallel to each other and level with the paved surface, suggesting the location of drainage channels or footings for lost structures. The 1873/5 OS map show this area as part of the open court but later maps suggest it was within a large, single structure.
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 sets 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 and character - and must be protected and utilized in future building works on the site.
The surfaces also form a sympathetic setting for a number of most important early structures. To the east are single storey brick-built structures if robust, elemental, classical design that incorporate a fine early wall boundary wall on Buxton Street.
Horwood’s map of 1819 show terraces houses on this site but these structures must have been built soon after this date. They incorporate entrances topped by semi-circular arches and narrow arched windows that are reminiscent of details on Sir John Soane’s mews elevation of c1812 to his house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields and on his stables of c 1814 at the Royal Hospital Chelsea.
These buildings and wall must be retained in any scheme for the site.
On the east side of the court is another early building - now called ‘The cooperage’ and incorporating a wide entrance passage and a tall chimney. It appears to be mid 19th century in date. To its west is a large area of well-laid sets that extend into its entrance passage. Taken together these elements form an outstanding example of industrial architecture and design of great character and reveals mush about the site’s history as part of Truman’s Brewery, once one of the most productive advanced and important industrial sites in London
By repute there has been brewery on part of this site from at least 1670s, if not slightly earlier. Joseph Truman seems to have become involved in 1679 when he purchased an existing brewhouse on the site from John Hinkwell. The 1957 edition of The Survey of London (volume XXVII) states that ‘the earliest reference found to Joseph Truman in Spitalfields is 1683.’ (p. 116)
The site was presumably selected for a brewery because there was a ready supply of good quality water in large quantity. This could have come from wells on the site (if so, now lost) or could have been piped to the site from the old monastic Snekockeswelle conduit, that had once served the Augustinian St. Mary’s Priory located on and around the site of what is now Spital Square. The conduit appears to have been located in what is now Cheshire Street.
The early brewery would appear to have been located on the east portion of the site west of Brick Lane, facing onto Brick Lane. The existing brewery site west of Brick Lane appears to have been part of the urban fabric of Spitalfields, traversed by streets, and connected to surrounding thoroughfares.
The land was within the Wheler Estate.
Ogilby and Morgan’s map of 1681-2, although fairly detailed, shows no hint of a brewery, nor any industrial buildings on any part of the site. The current brewery site is divided in two by a north-south street called Monmouth Street, running north from Black Eagle Street (now Dray Walk within the brewery site) to Westbury (now Quaker) Street. Reduced in width the street continued further north to Phoenix Street. Monmouth Street was clearly a key early Spitalfields Street that helped knit the future brewery site into the wider Spitalfields fabric.
To the west of Monmouth Street, and parallel to it, was Eagle Street. To the south of Black Eagle Street was Browns Lane, now Hanbury Street. Along the edges of all, these streets were long terraces and some individual building, several slightly set back. Behind these were gardens, yards and in some places quite large open spaces. Presumably the detached buildings and terrace between Brick Lane and Monmouth Street were the brewhouse and related brewery buildings.
In was in the ‘Monmouth Head’ in Monmouth Street that the Spitalfields Mathematical Society was established in 1717 and frequented by the area’s more erudite weavers intent on self improvement and leisure through learning.
John Rocque’s map of 1746 gives little more information, largely because urban blocks are merely hatched and generally does not show individual buildings, nor yards or gardens enclosed by building. But the map does show a series of shallow courts off the west side of Brick Lane, immediately north of Black Eagle Street. These are just north the location of the splendid and surviving Directors’ House and offices on the corner of Brick Lane and Black Eagle Street that, externally, dates from the late 1730s into the 1740s.
Rocque’s map does show the Huguenot chapel that was constructed in 1687, on the corner of Black Eagle Street and Grey Eagle Street, replacing French Almshouses. By 1746 this had become a Methodist Chapel that in 1831 was acquired by Truman’s and used as a warehouse,. The building appears to have survived until 1895.
Richard Horwood’s map of 1819 shows brewery buildings over the eastern portion of the site, stretching south from Quaker Street to the south side of Black Eagle Street where a building with a deep ground plan is labelled ‘Store House’. To the west the brewery extended as far as Monmouth Street. But by 1819 this street had been slightly realigned to the west and renamed Wilkes Street and extended to the south, as John Street, to connect with Wood Street that is now, rather confusingly, also named Wilkes Street.
This re-alignment allowed Wilkes Street to be visually continuous with early 18th century Wood Street to the south (laid out on the Wood Michell Estate around 1720). To which it was connected by a continuation named John Street. Wilkes Street was also continued to the north with portions (now long lost) named Hope Street and Vine Street. This created a continuous street over a quarter of a mile long, and suggests a desire to give Spitalfields something of a West End monumentality. But who was responsible for the creation of this extraordinary vista, terminated to the south by a side elevation of Christ Church? In 1680 this portion of the Wheler Estate had been mortgaged and by late 1718 was in the hands of Edward Umfrevile and Israel Wilkes, a distiller from Clerkenwell. For the next twenty-five years or so this pair, and Wilkes alone after Umfrevile’s death, developed this part of Sir Charles Wheler’s inheritance east and north of Grey Eagle Street. In 1743 the ‘greater part, if not all, was owned by Nathaniel Wilkes, nephew of Israel Wilkes,’ (Survey of London, vol. XXVII, p. 111). In this same year Nathaniel Wilkes granted Truman’s Brewery a renewal of the lease on the site they then occupied west of Brick Lane.
Between 1752 and 1757 Wilkes Street was constructed and lined with buildings and John Street, although planned in 1752, does not appear to have been underway until 1766. It is possible these two streets were named in honour of Israel Wilkes’s son, the radical politician and journalist John Wilkes. The completion of Wilkes Street probably coincided with Wilkes first election to Parliament in 1757. Perhaps the name commemorates this event and - if so - this was before Wilkes acquired national fame - and in some minds infamy - through his politics and journalism which led him being viewed simultaneously as the defender of liberty and as an obscene pedlar of seditious libel, for which he was eventually imprisoned in 1768.
If these streets were named after John Wilkes (a contender is Nathaniel’s obscure son who was also named John) then they were, while they lasted, the only contemporary London memorials to his life and work.
In 1819 there appears to have been domestic terraces along both sides of Wilkes Street, with rear yards behind those on the east side of the street. Indeed some of these houses, dating from the 1750s and c. 1818, survived into the early 1950s and are described and illustrated in the 1957 Survey of London volume on Spitalfields. West of Wilkes Street were terrace houses along both sides of Grey Eagle Street but with on open space on the east side, closing the prospect east along Great Pearl Street, now Calvin Street. This open space could have been industrial/utilitarian or partly ornamental and functioned as an informal square. If the latter it could have been most attractive, with its east side formed by the rear elevations of the houses fronting Wilkes Street. These houses appear not to have had rear yards so their rear elevations could gave been reasonably monumental.
The Ordnance Survey map of 1873/5 shows brewery building extending to the west edge of Wilkes Street but not south to Hanbury Street. The north side of this street was still lined with 18th century terrace houses with rear yards and extensive rear buildings around a court. The brewery buildings on the east side of Wilkes Street included the very range, brick-built and classical detailed brewery building, that was constructed in 1855-8. This range was demolished in the 1970s.
Black Eagle Street still appears to be a public thoroughfare in 1873/5, although with brewery buildings on both sides.
The Survey of London shows the brewery site in 1957, By this time Black Eagle Street had become Dray Walk, and essentially a passage within the brewery. The plan shows the ‘main brewery’ located between Wilkes Street and the court off Brick Lane, and the ‘Experimental Brewery’ and the ‘Head Brewer’s House’ of 1834 located on the corner of Brick Lane and Quaker Street. These buildings, united within a fascinating composition that is a combination of industrial and domestic design, still survive. Also shown in the ‘Directors’ House’ on the corner of Brick Land and Dray Walk
In addition the plan suggests the location of ‘Sir Ben Truman’s House’, that stood just to the west of the ‘Directors; House’.
At this time the brewery did not extend west of the east side of Wilkes Street, with 18th century terraces surviving on a large portion of the west side of Wilkes Street and terraces along both sides of Grey Eagle Street.
The brewery expanded its operations during the 1970s before being closed in 1989 by its then owners, Grand Met. During the 1970s and early 1980s the main brewery was rebuilt in a combination of then avant-garde glass fronted architecture (along Brick Lane designed c.1976/7 by Arup Associates), neo-Georgian industrial vernacular (on Quaker Street) and pure utilitarian (along Wilkes Street and Dray Walk). During the same period the brewery expanded in grim manner to (and partly across) Grey Eagle Street and, to the south to the north edge of Hanbury Street where in the early 1970s it replaced a mix of 18th century houses with a low-rise bottle store.
It was at this period that the site became a more or less closed and walled industrial complex impermeable, excluding the public and making a large and significant portion of the heart of historic Spitalfields essentially out of bounds.
The site is now dominated by the large-scale structures from the 1970s. But key historic buildings survive -notably the Directors’ House - a building that is extraordinary handsome but also of intense historic interest - and the Head Brewer’s House and Experimental Brewery.
In addition the early historic urban grain survives, with Wilkes Street still existing with many areas of fine early granite setts intact. The setts of John Street, the south continuation of Wilkes Street, also largely survive. These streets offer one of the finest prospects in Spitalfieldsm with the view south from Quaker Street continuing uninterrupted, along Wilkes Street to Christ Church. In any building project on the site this vista, along with the historic setts, must be preserved and enhanced,
Black Eagle Street also survives, now as Dray Walk, and helps to give form, meaning and sense of urbanity and historic continuity to the site. These are precious qualities bestowing character and distinction and provide the means by which the now somewhat anonymous site can be reintegrated into the form and fabric of Spitalfields.
The development of this site - in appropriate design, scale and use - represents the last major opportunity to safeguard and enhance the future of Spitalfields as a special historic area in which people can live and work, with delight and pride.
Part of getting this right is realising the potential offered by the existing historic character of the brewery sites on both sides of Brick Lane. And this includes using the historic urban grain and street pattern where they survive
Treated with sensitivity and respect these offer the chance of reviving the fortunes of the area in a manner that allows the brewery site as a whole to re-integrate with the rest of Spitalfields.
For example a re-born Black Eagle Street - working once again as a fully public street and connecting Brick Lane to Grey Eagle Street and from there to Hanbury Street and Commercial Street, would allow life to flow once more, in natural manner, into the Old Brewery site.
Related to this is the strategy for the future of Grey Eagle Street, once a very important residential street in late 17th century Spitalfields. The ugly brewery wall along its east side - of only recent date - should be made permeable with the existing modern brewery buildings converted to new, and where possible, convivial uses.
As a matter of policy existing structures should be retained and converted to avoid the waste and pollution of demolition and rebuilding. Even if unexceptional architecturally they represent ‘embedded’ energy that should, where humanly possible, be appropriated and utilised rather than squandered.
On the west side of Grey Eagle Street is a significant amount of ‘waste’ land, seemingly difficult to use because plots are long but narrow and generally back onto tall, recent buildings. One of the more intriguing challenges of this project, demanding a high level of ingenuity, is to come up with workable solution to the problem of bringing this potentially valuable land back into socially beneficial and productive use. The land could be managed as open space but far more satisfactory would be to use it for housing and workshops, perhaps provided within a series of pavilions.
A workable solution found here could be applicable to similar urban sites nation wide
The realisation of the sites potential also includes the utilisation of the surviving historic details. On the site west of Brick Lane these include the setts and granite kerbs of Wilkes Street and John Street, and a series of bollards that are -in many ways - the best in Spitalfields. There are some fine early 19th century cast iron bollards of neo-classical design within the brewery site east of Brick Lane (see above). But the site west of Brick Lane contains a number of bollards that appear to be truly former pieces of ordnance reused in the late 18th or early 19th centuries as most functional street furniture. Such survivals, on which the design of ‘cannon’ type cast iron bollard was based, are now extremely rare in London. These include a pair of large bollards on the corner of Brick Lane and Dray Walk (perhaps 24 pounders), and a number of bollards in the court off Brick Lane, now guarding part of the glass façade of the 1970s office building.