The St. John and Tillard estate: Norton Folgate High Street and Blossom Terrace

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.

'The St. John and Tillard estate: Norton Folgate High Street and Blossom Terrace', in Survey of London: Volume 27, Spitalfields and Mile End New Town, (London, 1957) pp. 89-93. British History Online [accessed 12 April 2024]

In this section

Norton Folgate High Street

The street now called Norton Folgate was sometimes referred to as Norton Folgate High Street in the eighteenth century. It has been called Norton Folgate High Street here to distinguish it from the liberty.

Nos. 3, 4, 6 and 7 were rebuilt by James Wood of Norton Folgate, carpenter, between 1758 and 1761, under sixty-one-year building leases from James Tillard of Red Lion Square. He also received in 1760 a similar lease of No. 5, then as now called the Blue Coat Boy public house, (fn. n1) to run from 1764. This lease, and that of No. 4, gave Wood liberty to pull down old houses and build new brick houses to 'range even' with other houses of James Tillard, each new house to cost £300. (fn. 191) In 1775 James Wood appears to have acted on behalf of James Tillard in dealings with the Norton Folgate Liberty trustees over the digging of a sewer in Bishopsgate Street. (fn. 192) (fn. c1)

Nos. 10 and 11 Norton Folgate High Street


Some rebuilding on the east side of the street was among the first of Isaac Tillard's building operations. In September 1717 he granted to William Goswell a sixty-one-year building lease of a site on the east side of the street measuring 28 feet north to south and 118 feet east to west, which Goswell assigned as a mortgage in 1725 together with two houses built by him on it. (fn. 193) (fn. n2) The description of the plot and its depth east to west make it probable that these houses were built on the site of No. 10 and perhaps part of No. 9. If so, they did not survive long as No. 10 was apparently first built between 1731 and 1741, replacing two houses. (fn. 19)

In November 1809 No. 10, together with the premises at the back, Nos. 4, 6 and 8 Folgate Street, and the yard on the north side of Spital Square, were leased by William Tillard to Josh. Day and John Roberts, lead and glass merchants. (fn. 194) The plan accompanying the registered memorial of the lease indicates that the lessees covenanted to build on the Folgate Street and Spital Square frontages, but does not indicate that any covenant was entered into regarding No. 10, which was, however, shown on the plan as having two bow-windows like those which survived at No. 11 into the twentieth century. The front was doubtless rebuilt soon after the granting of this lease in the form in which it existed in 1909 (Plate 64a).

The three-storeyed front of No. 10, built of stock brick, was typically early nineteenth century in design. The ground storey was filled with a shop-front of four unequal bays, with slender Ionic columns, some with curiously contracted capitals, supporting a simple entablature. Each upper storey contained two widely spaced rectangular windows, those of the first floor being set in shallow recesses, with high segmental-arched heads rising from plain impost bands. All the windows had narrow stone sills, flat arches of gauged brickwork, and plastered reveals, and the sashes were divided by slender glazing bars.

In 1780 No. 1 o was occupied by an oilman and blue-maker. From 1809 until the twentieth century it was occupied by firms of lead and glass merchants. (fn. 165)

Nothing is known of the architectural history of No. 11 (Plate 64a). It had a four-storeyed front of early eighteenth-century character, with a charming shop-front of about 1790. This consisted of two segmental bows, the left wider than the right, flanking the two-leaf door to the shop. Each bow had a stallboard grille of columns and a window divided by slender bars, horizontally into six panes and vertically into four. Windows and door were flanked by very attenuated columns, and the front was finished with a delicately moulded entablature, conforming to the bows and having a further bow over the shop entrance which was surmounted by a large gilt spread eagle. The upper part of the front was, presumably, of stock brick, with red brick jambs and segmental arches to the three windows evenly spaced in each storey. All of these windows had stone sills, and straight-headed flush frames containing sashes with slender glazing bars. The second floor was marked by a moulded stringcourse; the third floor by a dentilled cornice, and the front was finished with a stone-coped parapet.

In 1909, when it was a chemist's shop, it bore the legend ’Established 1750’ and was certainly occupied by a druggist in 1778.

Blossom Terrace

The cross-street at the northern end of Blossom and Elder Streets, called Porter Street on Rocque's map of 1746 and Blossom Terrace in the nineteenth century, was situated in the parish of Shoreditch, outside the Liberty of Norton Folgate and outside the present limits of the Borough of Stepney. It is included here because it was constructed as part of the Tillard building developments in Norton Folgate in the 1720's and contained the almshouses of the liberty. It was swept away by the construction of the northern end of Commercial Street and its site is also traversed by the railway approaching Liverpool Street Station.

In 1729 a site on its northern side was said to be in Porter's Field, (fn. 195) the name given by Rocque to the part of Elder Street north of Fleur-de-lis Street. Porter's Field apparently lay north of Porter's Close shown on Ogilby and Morgan's map of 1677.

The street was constructed without access west to Shoreditch High Street or east to Wheler Street. Its seclusion perhaps made it suitable for the two adjoining almshouses which occupied the whole of its northern side, those of the Liberty of Norton Folgate on the west and those of the Weavers' Company on the east, erected in 1728–1729.

A site occupying the entire south side of the street, together with a frontage of about eighty-three feet on Blossom Street and a frontage of about sixty-five feet on Elder Street, was leased for sixty-one years by William Tillard to William Goswell in August 1734, presumably the period at which this side was built up. (fn. 196)

The Norton Folgate Almshouses


The site of these almshouses was conveyed on 12 July 1728 by William Tillard to fourteen inhabitants of Norton Folgate, in trust to build within two years one or more messuages as almshouses for the poor of the liberty. It measured 108 feet on the south side, of which 73 feet fronted south on Blossom Terrace and the northern end of Blossom Street, and 35 feet, at the western end of the site, abutted south on buildings on the western side of Blossom Street and north on Blossom Court. (fn. 197)

A drawing made by T. H. Shepherd (Plate 48a) before the demolition in 1852 shows a simple building of red brick with a tiled roof containing a garret storey. The range contained three pairs of houses, having mirrored plans and sharing chimney-stacks, the western pair having only a back entry reached by a passage through the building, the others fronting on to Blossom Terrace. Each house had one segmental-headed window in the ground storey, and two straight-headed windows in the upper storey, all, originally, fitted with casements, as were the hip-roofted dormers lighting the garrets. The doorways were protected by straight hoods resting on console-trusses. Between the upper-storey windows of the middle pair was a tall oblong tablet, with a shaped apron and a cornice, bearing within an oval wreath an inscription which recorded that the almshouses had been built in 1728 for the poor of Norton Folgate. (fn. 198) In 1847 they were said to consist of six houses of three storeys, each storey containing one room. (fn. 199) In 1861 they were described as having contained eighteen rooms for poor men and women. (fn. 200)

The almshouses were built by William Goswell. In July 1732 the trustees ordered that no more money should be paid him ’on account of Building the Alms Houses … he haveing received already five Hundred and Ten pounds 15s. without ye Consent of all ye Trustees’. (fn. 201)

The Charity Commissioners in 1896 identified the Norton Folgate almshouses with the charities of Mary and Paul Wilkinson. These were annuities charged on the Brick House and Candle House in the precinct of St. Mary Spital, granted in 1582, for the benefit of, among others, the inhabitants of Norton Folgate. The Commissioners in 1829 had noted a tradition that the almshouses had been acquired in exchange with Sir Isaac Tillard for the Brick House and Candle House. (fn. 202) Sir Isaac is known to have acquired the Brick House and probably also acquired the Candle House in 1719, when part of the purchase money, amounting to £182 11s. 10d., was agreed to be held in trust to make a charitable purchase for the use of the liberty. In January 1728/9 this money was paid over to the inhabitants of the liberty and was doubtless used to defray part of the cost of erecting the almshouses. (fn. 202) It is not known that there was subsequently any endowment of the almshouses. The almshouses erected in 1861 were apparently unendowed.

In 1851 it was recited that ’for want of inrolling’ the 1728 conveyance, the legal estate had become vested in William Tillard's heir, and a second conveyance had to be made in December 1746. (fn. 203) Subsequently the appointment of trustees appears to have lapsed and the management of the almshouses was in the hands of the overseers of the poor until it passed to the trustees appointed by the Local Act of 1810. (fn. 204)

The extension of Commercial Street from Spitalfields Church to Shoreditch High Street cut across Blossom Terrace and the Act of 1846 authorizing the extension (fn. 205) empowered the Commissioners of Works to purchase the almshouses, together with those of the Weavers' Company. The almshouses were surveyed in 1847 by John Wallen of Spital Square for the trustees of the liberty, (fn. 199) but the sale was not made until 22 December 1851, when the almshouses and the cooperage and warehouses behind them, previously held on lease from the almshouse trustees, were sold to the Commissioners of Works for £2,400. (fn. 203) In 1858 the almshouse trustees bought from the Commissioners the site in Puma Court on which new almshouses were built (see page 198).

The Norton Folgate Workhouse


This was in existence in February 1743/4 when a committee met there to order its better regulation. (fn. 206) In 1798 Ellis said that the workhouse was situated at the almshouses. (fn. 207) It probably occupied the premises immediately north of the almshouses, within the site owned by the almshouse trustees. In 1810 the trustees under the Local Act of that year for, among other things, the better relief and maintenance of the poor, were required to visit the workhouse once a week. The preamble stated that the poor of the liberty were ’very numerous’. (fn. 208) By 1813 the premises at the back of the almshouses were described as ’the late workhouse’ when the trustees under the Act of 1810 decided that the sum needed ’to fit it for the reception of the poor of the Liberty’ was greater than the Act empowered them to raise, and that it should be leased. (fn. 209) These premises were subsequently occupied as warehouses.

The poor were probably henceforward boardedout. In 1820 it was resolved that they should all be removed to one house and were sent to ’Mr. Sutton's at Islington’. In January 1837 the trustees received notice from the Poor Law Commissioners that the liberty was to form part of the Whitechapel Union. In February the trustees decided to exhibit the requisite notices ’despite the judgment of the Court of King's Bench that the Commissioners under the Poor Law Act cannot take from a Board existing under a Local Act the power of administering relief’. In March they decided to comply with a request from the Whitechapel Board of Guardians ’that the female Paupers be removed to Whitechapel Workhouse, the Males to Christ Church Workhouse and the Children to College House’. (fn. 210)

The Weavers' Company Almhouses


These were built on the east side of the Norton Folgate almshouses in 1729. The site, with a frontage of 108 feet on to Blossom Terrace, was conveyed on 16–17 February 1728/9 by William Tillard to the Weavers' Company for £100. (fn. 195) The deed recited that Nicholas Garrett of Wandsworth, gentleman, deceased, had, by his will of July 1725, left £1,000 to the Company, in trust to build six almshouses for members of the Company, subject to the life interest of his wife, who was since dead.

The site occupied all that part of the north side of Blossom Terrace not occupied by the Norton Folgate almshouses. Unlike those, the Weavers' almshouses were built back from the street behind a yard. In March 1728/9 William Goswell and William Tayler, or Taylor, were chosen to carry out the work, the latter doubtless being the carpenter who was active on the Wood-Michell estate in Spitalfields. They undertook to do the work for £420, £250 being paid to them ’when their work was Tyled in’. (fn. 211) In September the almshouses were ordered to be insured against fire, and in October Goswell and Taylor were paid the sum due to them, having executed their contract. In December they were paid an additional £31 12s. 3d. for extra work. In the same month the Company resolved that ’the New River Water be laid in from the street to the inside of the wall as near as may be to the Gate into the Court Yard of the Almshouses’. The Company made a pavement five feet wide in the street in front of the almshouse wall, of ’small pebbles or Raggs’, protected from the roadway by posts. Trees were planted within the front wall. (fn. 212)

In 1732 they were described as ’6 very handsome Almshouses, each House containing two Rooms’, situated in ’Porters-fields’, and were said to have been both built and endowed by Nicholas Garrett. (fn. 213)

A drawing by T. H. Shepherd, dated 1843 (Plate 48b), shows a range of six almshouses, built of red brick with a tiled roof, the front facing south over a walled garden. Although the building was generally similar to the Norton Folgate almshouses, there were no garret windows in the roof and the houses were not planned in pairs. The three in the eastern half had their doors on the left of the ground-floor windows, and this arrangement was reversed in the western three.

On 2 December 1851 they were conveyed by the Weavers' Company to the Commissioners of Works for £2,400, to form part of the line of Commercial Street. (fn. 214)


  • n1. Probably so called with reference to the Christ's Hospital boys' attendance at the Spital sermons.
  • n2. In December 1728 Goswell took a sixty-one-year lease of a house between Spital Yard and Bishopsgate Street, just outside the Tillard estate and the present boundary of the Borough of Stepney.
  • 19. L.C.C. Members’ Library file 411.
  • 165. P.O.D.; R.B.
  • 191. Ibid., 1761/1/129, 139, 142–5.
  • 192. S.C.L.L.C, Norton Folgate Trustees’ Minutes, 23 Feb. 1775.
  • 193. M.L.R. 1725/2/509.
  • 194. Ibid., 1810/6/738.
  • 195. P.R.O., Works 7/25F/3.
  • 196. M.L.R. 1735/1/11.
  • 197. P.R.O., Works 7/27C/9; Endowed Charities, London, vol. i, 1897, p. 302.
  • 198. Ellis, p. 344.
  • 199. S.C.L.L.C, Norton Folgate Trustees’ Minutes, 6 April 1847.
  • 200. The Builder, 1861, p. 131.
  • 201. S.C.L.L.C, Norton Folgate Minutes, July 1732.
  • 202. Endowed Charities, London, vol. i, 1897, pp. 295.
  • 203. P.R.O., Works 7/27C/9.
  • 204. 50 Geo. III, c. 5, local and personal; Endowed Charities, London, loc. cit.
  • 205. 9 and 10 Vict., c. 34, public.
  • 206. S.C.L.L.C, Norton Folgate Minutes, 6 Feb. 1743/4.
  • 207. Ellis, pp. 343–4.
  • 208. 50 Geo. III, c. 5, local and personal.
  • 209. S.C.L.L.C, Norton Folgate Trustees’ Minutes, 14 April 1813.
  • 210. Ibid., 9 May, 6 June 1820; 25 Jan., 3 Feb., 28 March 1837.
  • 211. Guildhall Library, MS. 4655/12, 12 March 1728/9 (Weavers’ Company Court Book).
  • 212. Ibid., 19 Sept., 9 Oct., 1 Dec. 1729.
  • 213. New Remarks of London by the Company of Parish Clerks, 1732, p. 297.
  • 214. P.R.O., Works 7/25F/5.
  • c1. The Blue Coat Boy public house was given a new front and other alterations made in 1888 to designs by the architect W. T. Farthing (see tender in The Builder, 25 August 1888, p.147.)