Survey of London: Volume 27, Spitalfields and Mile End New Town. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1957.
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Puma Court was formerly known as Red Lion Court. The western end, opening off Red Lion Street approximately where it now opens off Commercial Street, is shown on Ogilby and Morgan's maps of 1677 and 1681–2. At its east end it then communicated with another court called Lamb's Court to its north-east. The eastern end of Lamb's Court abutted on the west side of Joyce's Garden and later abutted on the back gardens of the houses on the west side of Wood (Wilkes) Street. The eastern end of Red Lion Court, continuing the line of that court south of Lamb's Court, was built on the Wood-Michell estate to communicate with Wood Street when that street was constructed.
On its north side Wood and Michell built three houses on a frontage of about 68 feet east of the present site of the Norton Folgate Almshouses. In 1735 the estate included eight houses in Red Lion Court, of which three were on the north side. (fn. 174) (fn. n1) On the south side they built on a frontage of 126 feet, this being the north side of a plot of land including on its south side Nos. 5–11 (odd) Fournier Street.
The north and south sides of this east end of the court were built by William Tayler under building leases of the same date as and similar to those for Nos. 9–15 Wilkes Street (March 1723/4), and Nos. 1–7 Wilkes Street (February 1721/2) respectively. (fn. 175)
Red Lion Court Chapel
A chapel on the north side of the court near its western end is first shown on Horwood's map of 1799. In 1807 George Evans, a Calvinistic Methodist of Whitfield's persuasion, became the minister of a congregation here, in what was in 1846 described as a small but ancient Independent church. (fn. 176) In or shortly before 1810 he had moved to the chapel in Mile End New Town, (fn. 177) taking at least part of his congregation with him. Some of them, however, may have stayed behind; in 1810 the Red Lion Court meeting was called ’Calvinistic’ and is listed as being under a Mr. Yeerd. (fn. 177) This is the last known reference to the chapel. It appears no longer to have existed in c. 1848–9 when the northern part of Commercial Street was projected. (fn. 178)
Norton Folgate Almshouses, Puma Court
In November 1858 the Commissioners of Works, who had in 1851 acquired the Norton Folgate Almshouses in Blossom Terrace for £2,400 to form part of the line of Commercial Street (see page 92), agreed to sell to the alms-house trustees for £1,500 a piece of ground with a 54–foot frontage on Commercial Street and a 118–foot frontage on the north side of Red Lion (Puma) Court, (fn. 179) which they had purchased in 1849–50. In July 1859 the Commissioners conveyed the site to the trustees. (fn. 180) Almshouses were built in 1860 on the easternmost 70 feet of the court frontage, in two blocks, each accommodating eight inmates in two storeys, with a common staircase in each block. The architect was T. E. Knightley, of 25 Cannon Street, and the builders Messrs. Pritchard, probably Jane Pritchard and Son, of 29 Steward Street, Old Artillery Ground. The buildings cost £1,400. In December 1861 the western part of the site was leased for eighty years by the trustees for the erection of Nos. 92, 94 and 96 Commercial Street, the income being used for the upkeep of the almshouses, which were unendowed. The trustees met in the Norton Folgate court house. (fn. 181)
The almshouses comprise two identical buildings, two storeys high and of cottage character, placed at right angles to Puma Court and facing each other across a narrow court. The walls are of yellow stocks, with a corbelled brick band between the storeys, and a narrow stone coping to the pediment-like gable-ends of the return elevations. There are two windows in each storey of the return elevations and three in the upper storey of the front, with the doorway between two windows in the ground storey. The doorway has a round arch, and the windows have segmental arches of brick, now stained yellow. The wooden shutters to the ground-floor windows have heart shaped peepholes, a romantic conceit adding to the cottage-like character of the buildings. On the return front of the west block is a tablet inscribed: