The Tenter Ground estate

Survey of London: Volume 27, Spitalfields and Mile End New Town. Originally published by London County Council, London, 1957.

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'The Tenter Ground estate', in Survey of London: Volume 27, Spitalfields and Mile End New Town, ed. F H W Sheppard( London, 1957), British History Online [accessed 22 July 2024].

'The Tenter Ground estate', in Survey of London: Volume 27, Spitalfields and Mile End New Town. Edited by F H W Sheppard( London, 1957), British History Online, accessed July 22, 2024,

"The Tenter Ground estate". Survey of London: Volume 27, Spitalfields and Mile End New Town. Ed. F H W Sheppard(London, 1957), , British History Online. Web. 22 July 2024.

In this section

CHAPTER XVI - The Tenter Ground Estate

This area was bounded in the seventeenth century by Lolesworth field and the Wheler estate on the north, Wentworth Street and the hamlet boundary on the south, Rose Lane on the east and Bell Lane on the west. The bounding streets on the south, east and west were built up by the 1640's and the northern boundary was formed into the south side of White's Row in about 1650. The central plot of ground remained open, however, until the second decade of the nineteenth century and was the last part of Spitalfields to be formed into streets.

In 1550 the area had, like the later Fossan and Halifax estates to the east and west, formed part of two closes in the Manor of Stepney lying between Hog Lane (Middlesex Street) and Brick Lane. (fn. 1) By about 1642 it was, like the Fossan estate, held on lease by William Smyth. The Rose Lane and Wentworth Street frontages were then completely built up. The Bell Lane frontage, on which the buildings were said to be wholly of brick, lay partly open to the nineteen tenters in the possession of a Mr. Seed which lay between Bell Lane and Rose Lane. In Bell Lane also were ’the Shedds or Little houses for theTeinder men to laie theirToulesin and sometimes their Clothes’. (fn. 2)

In July 1650 Smyth, who had with others acquired possession of the manor in March 1642/3 (see page 238), made, together with John Smyth of the Middle Temple, esquire, a conveyance of the northern part of this area to Joseph Gull, senior, of Little Bardfleld, Essex, yeoman, and William Hickman of St. Alban's, Hertfordshire, ironmonger, for the use of Nathaniel Tilly of London, gentleman. It included the then unbuilt northern boundary, houses in Rose Lane and Bell Lane and half the soil of those streets, on east and west, and between them ’that parcell of ground whereon taynters or Cloth Rackes stand’. Other ground of Nathaniel Tilly lay to its south-west or south, where it also reached the backs of houses and yards in Wentworth Street. (fn. 3) The south side of White's Row was evidently built-up without delay by Nathaniel Tilly (see page 144), but unlike the contemporary development on the Fossan estate the rest of the area was left open.

The Tilly property did not include the houses in Wentworth Street, two of which were conveyed by William and John Smyth to Bartholo-mew Fossan as co-trustee for John and Robert Bumpstead on the same day as the conveyance to the use of Nathaniel Tilly. (fn. 4)

By 1707 Tilly's property was owned by Nathaniel Shepherd, gentleman, who, like one of Nathaniel Tilly's trustees, was of St. Alban's. (fn. 5) It was under a lease from him that No. 5 White's Row was built, probably in the 1730's (see page 145). Shepherd at that time reserved the right to prevent access from White's Row to the Tenter Ground, (fn. 6) which was still entered through a ’Teynter Gate’ in Bell Lane. (fn. 5)

In 1736 the use of ground south of the tenters was included in a lease of houses in Bell Lane to two dyers by Shepherd's widow, who reserved to herself ’the Grass and Herbage of the said piece of ground’. (fn. 7)

In 1768 the estate was owned by Miss Mary Freeman Shepherd. (fn. 8)

The tenter ground site is shown open on Horwood's map of 1799. By 1810 it was owned by John Butler (fn. 9) of Johns Terrace, Hackney Road, Shoreditch, gentleman, who was responsible for laying it out in streets during the next twelve years or so. (fn. 10) In that year he granted a lease of No. 2 White's Row together with ground on its south ’intended to be formed into or made a new street called Tilley Street’ (in fact called Tenter Street), and included specifications for any building erected by the lessee in the new street as a ’third-rate’ house. (fn. 9) Horwood's map of 1819 shows the estate half-completed and it is shown fully built in Greenwood's map surveyed in 1824–6.

None of the first lessees seem to have taken the site of more than four houses and most took only one. Not all the lessees were builders, but a number of builders occur. These included Thomas Burton of White's Row, carpenter; (fn. n1) James Free man of St. Mary Axe, builder; Samuel Hetherington Hurt of Whitechapel Road, carpenter; James Love of Seward Street, Goswell Street, carpenter; John McNeal of No. 5 White's Row, carpenter; John Stebbing of Red Cow Lane, builder; and Hervey John Tredeman of No. 12 Flower and Dean Street, stonemason.

The leases contained provision for the payment to Butler of a yearly sum, additional to the rent, for his maintenance of the roadway and pavements.

The lay-out was designed to give the maximum street frontage, with little space at the back of houses either in the cross-streets or in the outer streets, between which and the surrounding roads a number of narrow courts were formed. A ’twine-ground’ ran between Shepherd Street and Rose Lane and was swept away when Commercial Street was formed. The only regular access was from two entrances in White's Row, the westernmost being the stuccoed archway bearing the name ’Shepherd's Place’, shown in Plate 74a, through which a glimpse of the buildings on the estate can be seen. Except for a narrow outlet to Ann's Place, in the south-east corner, which may be of later date, the estate formed a large cul-de-sac.

The houses were small, with a frontage of fifteen feet, and were probably not particularly well built since within forty years at least one had fallen down. (fn. 11)

All of this estate, with the exception of the north side of Butler Street (now Brune Street) and the northern end of Tenter Street (now Tenter Ground), was demolished for the erection of the London County Council Holland estate in 1927–1936.

Bell Lane Meetings and Bell Lane French Church

A deed of 1718 refers to a former meetinghouse, then demolished, on the east side of Bell Lane, approached by a passage north of the third house from the corner of Wentworth Street. This building, which had been described as ruinous in 1681, (fn. 12) is perhaps shown by Ogilby and Morgan on their map of 1677. There are successive records of three congregations meeting in Bell Lane, but it is not certain which, if any, occupied the building described in this deed.

In 1666 John Belcher (or Bellchar) brought a Seventh-day Baptist congregation from Brick Lane to Bell Lane. (fn. 13) Two witnesses claimed in 1671 that ’they heard a person preach at an unlawful assembly in Bell Lane, near Spitalfields, who went by the name of John Bellchar, a bricklayer and a Sabbatarian, or Fifth Monarchy man’. Belcher, described as ’a most notorious knave from Oxfordshire’, was committed to the Tower, presumably as a result of this report, (fn. 14) and many of his followers appear to have been in prison at about the same time. By 1677 the meeting had moved to Fenchurch Street. (fn. 13) In 1683 a Presbyterian congregation was meeting in Bell Lane. (fn. 15)

A series of extracts from the registers of a French church in Bell Lane exists for the years between 25 December 1709 and 5 February 1715/16. (fn. 16) One of its ministers is mentioned in an entry of 3 January 1708/9 in the registers of l'Eglise de l'Artillerie, (fn. 17) and another in 1723. It has been suggested that the church was dissolved in the following year. (fn. 18) If the French congregation had ever met in the meetinghouse described in the deed, they must have moved to other premises during their closing years.

Wentworth Street Ragged School

In about 1859 a free (ragged) school was opened in a building on the north side of Wentworth Street, at the corner of Ann's Place. (fn. 19) The premises, which had formerly been a public house, were reputed to have been a popular resort of fashionable society during the Regency. The Prince Regent himself is said to have visited it frequently, and the presence of the royal arms over the door was accounted for in this way. Later the building is said to have housed a gambling den in its cellars. (fn. 20)

The school was originally conducted by a society associated with the Ragged School Union. When the Rev. R. C. Billing came to Christ Church in 1878 he took over the school, (fn. 20) obtaining a new lease of the building in the following year. (fn. 21) The school was closed in 1890 owing to the dilapidation of the building and the expiry of the lease. The children were transferred to the parish schools in Brick Lane. (fn. 22) The building is now occupied by a bakery.

The pleasant exterior, in early nineteenth-century Classical taste, has lost its original ground storey but is otherwise well preserved. It is faced with yellow brick and liberally dressed with stucco. The fronts to Wentworth Street and Rose Court are alike, with three windows in each storey. The tall second-storey windows are dressed with architraves and triangular pediments resting on consoles, and a plain bandcourse underlines the attic-storey windows, which are almost square and have moulded architraves. The fronts are finished with a plain frieze and a dentilled cornice, above which is a stepped parapet, possibly part of an open balustrade, now missing. Above the angle is placed a spread eagle.

Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor, Nos. 17–19 Brune Street

The London Hebrew Soup Kitchen or Jews’ Soup Kitchen was founded in Leman Street in 1854. (fn. 22) It moved subsequently to Black Horse Yard, Aldgate, and then to No. 5 Fashion Street, (fn. 23) where it is shown on the Ordnance Survey map of 1873. In 1903 the charity moved to Brune Street. In 1951 it provided assorted foods for as many as 1,500 persons. (fn. 24)


  • n1. Perhaps the Thomas Burton of Crispin Street who in 1828 built houses in Brockwell Terrace, Lambeth, to the design of J. B. Papworth (see Survey of London, vol. 26, p. 164).
  • 1. William Robinson, The History and Antiquities of. . . Hackney, 1842, vol. i, p. 333.
  • 2. B.M., Add. MS. 22253 ff. 3, 4.
  • 3. P.R.O., C54/3552N0. 10.
  • 4. Ibid., C54/3555N0. 5.
  • 5. M.L.R. 1735/5/62.
  • 6. Ibid., 1733/4/79.
  • 7. Ibid, 1736/5/48.
  • 8. Ibid., 1818/5/487.
  • 9. L.C.C.R.O., E/EV/L12.
  • 10. See M.L.R. index 1812–20 sub John Butler.
  • 11. The Builder, 20 Nov. 1858, p. 778.
  • 12. M.L.R. 1718/6/74.
  • 13. W. T. Whitley, The Baptists of London, N.D., p. 114.
  • 14. Cal. S.P. Dom., 1671, pp. 356–7.
  • 15. Transactions of the Congregational Historical Society, vol. iii, No. 6, Oct. 1908, pp. 364–6.
  • 16. The Repertoire General of Baptisms in Spitalftelds etc., ed. Susan Minet, in Pubs. Hug. Soc, vol. xlv, 1956, pp. 5–6.
  • 17. Register of the Church of the Artillery, etc., ed. Susan Minet, in Pubs. Hug. Soc, vol. an, 1948, p. 130.
  • 18. Procs. Hug. Soc, vol. vm, 1909, p. 52.
  • 19. S.C.L.L.C, Vestry Minutes, 29 Dec. 1859; P.O.D.
  • 20. J. H. Scott, A Short History of Spitalfields, 1197–1894, N.D., p. 35.
  • 21. L.C.C.R.O., Ace. 56.82, deed of 31 May 1879.
  • 22. The Annual Charities Register and Digest, 1957, p. 215; A. B. Levy, East End Story, N.D. (1951),p. 11.
  • 23. Endowed Charities, London, vol. i, 1897, pp. 139, 149–50; Levy, loc. cit.
  • 24. Levy, loc. cit.