a history of LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN spitalfields

the hospital of saint mary

 "A cross moline voided" from the arms of Walter Brune the founder of Spitalfields Priory.

"A cross moline voided" from the arms of Walter Brune the founder of Spitalfields Priory.

The name "Spitalfields" is derived from two words; Hospital and Fields; and relates to an 11th Century priory-hospital called properly, The New Hospital of St. Mary without Bishopsgate which existed until 1540.

The Priory Hospital was founded on the east side of Bishopsgate beyond the city walls by Walter Brune (also Brunus or Brown) a London citizen, and Roisia his wife, in 1197 on ground allotted to them for that purpose by Walter son of Eildred, an alderman of the City of London. Prior to this, in Roman times, this land just outside the city walls had been used as a cemetery and, more lately, during the early Middle Ages, had been mainly been used as a place for animals to graze on their way to market in London. 

The foundation stone of the new hospital was laid by Walter, archdeacon of London, June, 1197, and the building was dedicated by William de Sainte Mère l'Eglise, bishop of London (1199–1221), to the honour of God and the Blessed Virgin. The house consisted initially of twelve Augustinian canons, five lay brothers and seven sisters to whom the care of the sick and the poor was entrusted, all being under the charge of a prior. There were initially sixty beds and the prior and brothers acknowledged themselves subject to the bishop of London.

 An artists impression of how the Hospital of St. Mary without Bishopsgate may have appeared before its dissolution. (Source: Museum of London)

An artists impression of how the Hospital of St. Mary without Bishopsgate may have appeared before its dissolution. (Source: Museum of London)

Initially the water source for the priory-hospital may have been an ancient spring called 'Holy Well' located in south Shoreditch that it shared with the adjacent Holywell Priory (a convent for Augustinian canonesses) and, subsequently, this water source may have become overstretched. Further problems occurred due to the seasonal flooding of the 'sour-ditch'; a stream from which Shoreditch gets it name which is a tributary of the better known Walbrook River, rising close to St. Leonard's Church. 

The all-important question of the water supply was eventually settled at the end of 1277 by the gift to them of another spring (a "fountain") called Snekockeswelle located further east (somewhere close to modern Commercial Street) in the parish of Stepney by John, bishop of London, who gave them leave to enclose it and bring the water by underground pipes into the hospital precincts. At around the same time the hospital increased substantially in size to encompass an area bounded (clockwise) by Fleur de Lis Street, Nantes Passage, Artillery Lane and Bishopsgate/Norton Folgate Street.

The core of the hospital, the inner precinct, was located in an area then known as Nortune Foldweg (now 'Norton Folgate'), and included the priory church, domestic accommodation for the prior and canons including a dormitory, refectory and chapter house, along with other buildings, the prior's garden, cloisters and the convent garden and a stable in the prior's garden with some waste land adjoining it. Outside and beyond the inner precinct, to the north, were some other tenements of the priory which extended into Shoreditch. The higher status buildings were all originally constructed of wood but from the 14th Century were brick built with stone detailing, with other less important constructions being timber framed. In the outer precinct, located to the south, was located the infirmary (the public facing hospital building itself), pantry, brew-house, accommodation for the lay brothers, latrines and the homes of some wealthy residents.

The first Prior of St. Mary Without was Godfrey; the last was William Major; pensioned off in 1538 following the dissolution. An attempt was made in 1540 by the City authorities to continue the running of the hospital themselves but this request fell on deaf ears and by 1540 the main buildings had begun to be pulled down. Certainly, after 1540, the area formerly occupied by the hospital now consisted of two ex-parochial self-governing "liberties". The northern Inner Precinct would became an impoverished neighbourhood known as the Liberty of Norton Folgate while the southern Outer Precinct was transformed from a place of rest and healing to an artillery ground, later a 'rookery' known as the Liberty of the Old Artillery Ground. For further information on these liberties please see the appropriate section below.

Sources and attributions: British History Online

SPITTLEHOPE & LOLESWORTH FIELDS

The farms and pastures of "The Spyttel Fyeld" in the 17th Century. 


After the dissolution and before the 17th Century we find most of the area we know today as Spitalfields called Spittlehope or Lolesworth field. The names Spittlehope and Lolesworth probably indicate the marshy nature of the ground to the east of the old hospital around Snekockeswelle (or "Sincock's Well") whose ’wettnesse’ was noticed in 1672. In 1649 the hamlet was designated by the old name of the field as the ’hamlet of Spittlehope’. Until the second half of the sixteenth century the field formed part of the Manor of Stepney. It was bounded on the south by the line of the later White's Row and Fashion Street, on the east by Brick Lane, on the north by an open space called the Swanfield, later forming the northern boundary of the hamlet and parish, and on the west by the precinct of the Priory of St. Mary Spital, later the Liberties of Norton Folgate and the Old Artillery Ground. In 1498 ’Spittelhope alias Lollesworthe’ was leased for ninety-nine years by the Bishop of London to the prior and in 1538 by the prior to Robert Lorde, gentleman. In 1509–10 the field was called Lollesbury in the Stepney court rolls, and an area within it, apparently excluding its southernmost part, called ’Spyttylfeld’. At that time a southern part of the field, known as ’le bryk place’ was in the tenure of Hugh Bramston. This was probably the four acres in the south-east part of ’Sputelhope otherwise Lollesworth’ leased by the prior to Hugh Bramston, fishmonger, in 1527. The name suggests that it may already have been used to dig bricks, although Stow gives 1576 as the date when ’Lolesworth now Spittlefield’ was ’broken up for Clay to make Bricke’.  In that year a John Bramston had a ’Tyle-garth’ on the east side of Brick Lane and had probably succeeded also to Hugh Brampston's ’bryk place’ since a John Brampston possessed in 1561 a field behind the site of the priory. Archery was practised here, as old maps suggests. 

In 1549–50 the tenant of all ’Spitel Hoppe otherwise Lollesworth’ was ’Mr. Polsted’. Between this period and the 1560's almost if not quite all of the forty-three acres were sold by the lord of the manor, although no record of the sale is known to exist. In the 1580's and 1590's the tenure of Lolesworth field was disputed in the courts. It appears that in the 1560's it had passed into the ownership of Christopher Campion, who had also obtained part of the priory precinct in 1540. On his death in 1572 the freehold passed to his widow, Ann, who sold this in 1580/1 to Richard Cely of Lambeth, gentle man. In 1583 Raffe Bott, later described as of ’the precinct of St. Mary Spittle’, gentleman, who in 1586 held the Brick House there, asserted in the Court of Requests the validity of a lease of an orchard and other premises which he had tried to obtain from Cely. (fn. 11) He was apparently unsuccessful in this, but by January 1589/90 he and a John Digges had purchased Lolesworth, described as late part of the demesne lands of the Manor of Stepney, from Richard Cely and Roger Bramston for £800. In that year Bott had disputes in the Courts of Requests and Chancery over the title to Digges's moiety with Edmund Tylney, esquire, Master of the Revels, to whose kinsman, Clark Tylney, Bott was guardian. Bott was still at law over his title in 1593 but in the following year he was able to convey Lolesworth to Richard Hanbury, goldsmith. Hanbury's tenure was apparently subject to rights of a creditor of Bott, but the freehold evidently became securely vested in him. The field was leased in 1596 by Hanbury to Edward Hemmynge of London, brickmaker.

 Records of a town meeting held in the "hamlett of Spittlefields" on the 15th day of August 1628. Note the appearance of William Browne who had taken the lease of "three acres of pasture" in 1656 and subsequently laid out the street today called Quaker Street. 

Records of a town meeting held in the "hamlett of Spittlefields" on the 15th day of August 1628. Note the appearance of William Browne who had taken the lease of "three acres of pasture" in 1656 and subsequently laid out the street today called Quaker Street. 

Development under the Wheler Family

The transference of the freehold of Lolesworth to the Wheler family was apparently brought about by the marriage of Richard Hanbury's daughter Elizabeth to Sir Edmund Wheler, who thereby also acquired property in Datchet, Buckinghamshire. In 1631 the freehold was vested in Richard Wheler of Westminster, esquire, who in that year leased it for ninety-nine years, under certain trusts, to a John Wheler of Datchet, gentleman, and others: the ground was then said to have been lately in the occupation of Elias Elliott. The reversion of this lease devolved upon Sir Edmund Wheler's son, William Wheler, of Datchet and of the Middle Temple, while the lease and trusts devolved upon his kinsman, William Wheler of Westbury, Wiltshire, whose father John Wheler of London, grocer, may possibly be identifiable with John Wheler of Datchet.

This land ownership in Spitalfields by the Hanbury family and, successively, by the Wheler family provides the origins of the modern streets bearing those names.

In the 1640's Lolesworth field remained almost entirely undeveloped. In March 1648/9 William Wheler of Datchet and his wife Jane conveyed to trustees all that part of Lolesworth which lay south of the line of Lamb Street and Hanbury Street (then called Lolesworth Lane). This was in trust for his wife for her life, and then in trust to raise portions for his seven daughters. The trusteeship of only two of the four trustees became effective, that of Edward Nicholas, son of Sir Oliver Nicholas of Manningford Bruce, Wiltshire, and of George Cooke of Datchet, gentleman. Nicholas and Cooke were responsible for building in the vicinity of the open Spital Field in the 1660's and 1670's. In 1675 they relinquished their trusteeship for the partition and division of this southern part of the estate among the daughters. Subsequent developments on this part of the estate included the market and market area, Christ Church Spitalfields, the Wood Michell estate, and Nos. 56 and 58 Artillery Lane.

The rest of the estate, north of the line of Lamb Street and Hanbury Street, passed from William Wheler of Datchet to William Wheler of Westbury. This was probably partly by a deed of December 1646, of which details are not known but which later formed the foundation title-deed of that section of this northern part of the estate which passed to Sir Charles Wheler of Birdingbury. The remainder of this part came to William Wheler of Westbury by the will of William Wheler of Datchet, made in March 1648/9 immediately after the conveyance in trust for the seven daughters, and proved in the following May. By this, his property was left to his son William and then in default of his heirs, to William Wheler of Westbury. In 1652 the estate may have been vested in the son and widow, but by 1654 the estate was vested in William Wheler of Westbury. 

It was by this William Wheler that the northern part of Spitalfields was first laid out in streets in the 1650's and 1660's, to form that part of the hamlet and parish designated for rating purposes in the eighteenth century as the New Town, distinct from the more southerly Old Town.

William Wheler was Member of Parliament for Westbury from 1640 to 1648 and again in 1659. He was an active member of the Long Parliament and a member of the Westminster Assembly in 1643. He had a house called Rogers in Cannon Row, Westminster, and appears to have held a post in the First Fruits Office. His political loyalties were not very clear-cut: he was knighted by Cromwell in 1657 and was active as Parliamentary Paymaster, but his wife, a sister of William Lord Hervey of Kidbrooke held the office of laundress to Charles I, by whom also her husband was knighted: by his will he made a bequest of the sword with which the king knighted him. On Charles II's Restoration he was created a baronet, with special remainder to a kinsman, Charles Wheler of Leith Hill, Surrey, esquire, later of Birdingbury, Warwickshire. His friendship with the Earl of Sandwich, whose son he made a remote conditional heir in his will, brings him into the diary of Samuel Pepys who visited him in 1663 to attempt to borrow £1,000 on behalf of his patron, and to see the Earl when he was convalescent at Sir William's house. The Rev. Sir George Wheler, to whom he was a benefactor, remembered him at this period as ’a Comely Old Gentleman with a round plump Face, a rudy cheerfull countenance, addorned with curled grey hair’.

Sir William died in 1666 at Derby, where there is a monument to him in All Saints' Church. His will of 1665 mentions his ’Capitall Messuage now divided into three Tenements’ in Spital Yard, in the occupation of a silk throwster and his under-tenants. This was possibly the Brick House which Raffe Bott had also possessed together with Lolesworth field in the late sixteenth century and which was probably sold by Sir William's heir in 1719, or perhaps the large house with regular plan and projecting central feature bequest is supported by a statement of Sir George Wheler in his autobiography. shown on Ogilby and Morgan's map of 1677 facing west immediately south of the future site of Sir George Wheler's Chapel.

Sir William left his Spitalfields estate and other property to his widow for her life and then to Charles Wheler of Charing, Kent, esquire, and his son George, later Sir George Wheler. These appear to have been unrelated to him, and the bequest was said by Sir George to have been made in consideration of kindness shown to Sir William, when a young man, by Charles Wheler's grandfather when he ’was of ye first fruites office’.

Charles and (Sir) George Wheler were prevented for a time from coming into their inheritance by obstruction from Sir William's widow, who died in 1670. Then in the early 1670's Sir Charles Wheler of Birdingbury, the heir to the baronetcy, established in Chancery his right to part of Sir William's Spitalfields estate, ’to go along with ye Barronett’. By the division made in 1674 Charles and George Wheler were left with that part of Sir William's estate which consisted of all the land on the west side of Wheler Street and all that part on the east side of Wheler Street which lay north of the ditch dividing (Great) Pearl Street (Calvin Street) from Westbury Street (Quaker Street), and west of Grey Eagle Street and Farthing Street. They also had a disconnected piece on the north-west corner of Brown's Lane (Hanbury Street) and Brick Lane. In the part that went to Sir Charles the chief later developments were by the Wilkes family and by Truman's Brewery. The chief developments on Charles and (Sir) George Wheler's section were the erection of Sir George Wheler's Chapel (St. Stephen's Spitalfields, now demolished), and some rebuilding by his son Granville Wheler. Part of the property still remains in this branch of the family.

In 1654 William Wheler had begun to lay out streets in his estate north of the line of Lamb Street and Hanbury Street, and to grant leases, mainly for ninety-nine years. In the first year or two a site on the north side of Brown's Lane (Hanbury Street) was leased to a brickmaker and another, probably near Corbett's Court, to a weaver. Two pieces of ground near the southern end of the west side of Wheler Street were leased, one consisting of the ’Great White House’ in the ’Old Brick Orchard’ with an adjacent half-acre, and the other of two mansion houses with a stone-walled garden and a pump: they had perhaps formed part of the precinct of St. Mary Spital Priory. In April 1656 a ninety-nine-year lease of ground probably near Vine Court was granted to Andrew Bond, tyler and bricklayer. Thomas Wildgoose, a carpenter, was also granted a lease in this part of the estate.

The first main development on the estate was the building of Wheler Street running north from the unbuilt part of Lolesworth to Bethnal Green. On its west side Sir William granted leases himself, as in 1661 when he granted part of the later site of Hope's brewery  to a brewer and tailor, and in 1662 when he leased to Isaac Corner, bricklayer, ground called the Licoras Garden near Fleur-de-lis Alley.

  In 1682 King Charles II granted John Balch a Royal Charter giving him the right to hold a market on Thursdays and Saturdays in or near Spital Square.

In 1682 King Charles II granted John Balch a Royal Charter giving him the right to hold a market on Thursdays and Saturdays in or near Spital Square.

On the east side of Wheler Street Sir William disposed of much of his estate to lessees by whom it was subsequently developed. By December 1656 William Browne, weaver, had taken a lease of three acres of pasture: he built along the east side of Wheler Street and also laid out, at right angles to it, ’the greene waie or lane there called the newe street’ subsequently named Westbury (later Quaker) Street. Builders on Browne's land included Henry Rogers, carpenter, Charles Ware, carpenter, and John Somers of Norton Folgate, labourer.

In June 1657 Philip Lepiers, weaver, took a lease of garden ground south of Browne's land. This remained undeveloped longer than the rest of the estate, under the name of Lepiers' or Leper's Garden, and it was not until the years 1670–2 that (Great) Pearl Street (now Calvin Street) was built on the ground. Among the builders of the street were John Wise and Edward Baker, both carpenters, and William Gurling and Jacob Saywell, both bricklayers.  In May 1671 a Peter le Caine was permitted to complete ’Tyleing in’ three new brick houses which he had built in ’Lepars Garden’ as a workshop to house several ’Broad Loomes’ for one Bertrand Di Barbore, on condition that they were used for no other purpose. By 1677 (Great) Pearl Street was not completely built-up. It is noticeable that at that date the part of the east side of Wheler Street formed by the western side of Lepiers' Garden was set forward, making the street narrower at that point.

The eastern part of the estate, east of the line of Grey Eagle Street, consisting of Long Hedge Field and Conduit Close, was leased for ninety-two years by Sir William to John Stott, mariner, of Stepney, in March 1660. Stott laid the ground out in streets between 1661 and 1670, with building in Black Eagle Street, Grey Eagle Street, Monmouth Street, Brick Lane, and the eastern parts of Westbury Street, Phoenix Street and King Street. Builders taking leases from Stott included John Deane of St. Botolph Bishopsgate, house carpenter, and Richard Harvey of Stratford, Essex, and Charles Ware, also carpenters; William Sefton, bricklayer; and Gowen Key, plasterer. Part of Stott's land on Brick Lane was developed as Truman's Brewery.

In the 1660's Sir William appears to have developed the northern part of his estate, between Wheler Street and Stott's land, by leases made after the lessees had been responsible for building. John Underwood, a scrivener, took leases in 1661 in Wheler Street and also in Sherfield Street (later Phoenix Street, its first name being derived from Sir William's manor in Hampshire). 

It may be noted that in the lay-out of the southern part of the estate some of the lines of communication do not seem to have been carried through. In particular the indecisive southern end of Grey Eagle Street suggests the failure to fulfil a scheme.
 

Town meetings

 This staff of office, last used by the  Church Wardens  of Spitalfields, predates the parish and was made in about 1690 when Spitalfields was simply a hamlet. The top of the staff shows the old "Market House" which preceded the market buildings we know today. The records suggest it was gifted to the new Vestry by the the last  Market Warden  of the former hamlet - so its origins are civic not spiritual.  We now use it as the logo of SNPF.

This staff of office, last used by the Church Wardens of Spitalfields, predates the parish and was made in about 1690 when Spitalfields was simply a hamlet. The top of the staff shows the old "Market House" which preceded the market buildings we know today. The records suggest it was gifted to the new Vestry by the the last Market Warden of the former hamlet - so its origins are civic not spiritual.  We now use it as the logo of SNPF.

Until Christ Church was constituted as a separate parish in 1729, and Hawksmoor's great church was built, Spitalfields formed part of the enormous parish of St. Dunstan's Stepney. This was originally divided into four hamlets, Ratcliffe, Limehouse, Poplar and Mile End; further subdivision created five more, including the Hamlet of Spitalfields. Records exist for "town meetings" being held in Spitalfields as far back as 1628.

The ratepayers of each hamlet elected a churchwarden, constable, headboroughs, scavengers, and overseers of the poor. These were the officers who served the hamlet for one year, unpaid. Having served they could continue to come to hamlet meetings and vote there; this larger body formed the hamlet vestry, also known as the "ancient or ruling persons of the hamlet".

The area over which they presided was a good deal more than a hamlet in the usual sense of the word. By the 1680s Spitalfields was already largely built up, to the line of Brick Lane and a little beyond it. It was thickly populated, mainly with weavers and members of the allied trades.

Hamlet meetings were held in a modest building (long since demolished) in Crispin Street, known as the town house or town hall. 

 

Vestry

The new Parish of Christ Church was established by an Act of Parliament in 1729. The vestry of Christ Church took over the functions, and much of the organisation, of what had been known as the Hamlet of Spitalfields. Minutes of its meetings are preserved at the Bancroft Road Local History Library in Stepney. 

The structure of local government which ran the parish was similar to that which ran the hamlet, but there were a number of changes, the most important of which was that while hamlet officers had been elected by the ratepayers, parish officers were appointed, and the gaps in the vestry filled, by the members of the vestry. In short, government in Spitalfields changed from being conducted on a reasonably democratic basis to a government controlled by a self-perpetuating body of richer parishioners. A small group of perhaps a dozen vestrymen occur again and again in the vestry minutes, attending meetings or sitting on various bodies, trusts or committees; together they formed the inner group which ran the parish.

Vestry meetings took place approximately every fortnight in the vestry room within Christ Church and were attended by between 20 and 50 people.

 The minutes of a meeting of the Christ Church Vestry, viz   "At a Meeting of the Owners of Property in the Parish legally entitled to vote and of the Ratepayers therein held in the Vestry Room of the said parish of Christ Church on Thursday the twenty-eighth day of March 1864 pursuant to notice of such meeting duly given."   The parish meeting was chaired by Thomas Brushfield Esq. who served the Vestry for many years as chairman and after whom Brushfield Street is so named.

The minutes of a meeting of the Christ Church Vestry, viz

"At a Meeting of the Owners of Property in the Parish legally entitled to vote and of the Ratepayers therein held in the Vestry Room of the said parish of Christ Church on Thursday the twenty-eighth day of March 1864 pursuant to notice of such meeting duly given."

The parish meeting was chaired by Thomas Brushfield Esq. who served the Vestry for many years as chairman and after whom Brushfield Street is so named.

Commissioners

In 1772 an Act of Parliament saw 59 commissioners appointed to take charge of the roads in Spitalfields. Some of the commissioners were grandees who owned substantial areas of the parish but did not live in it, but many were local people of repute, most and perhaps all of whom were vestrymen. The new commission was closely tied up with the vestry but it was not the vestry; it was an even smaller and equally self-perpetuating body which continued to pave, light, clean and watch the parish. The only secular responsibility now left to the vestry was care of the poor, and it lost that as a result of the Poor Law Act of 1834.

 The bounds of the Civil Parish of Spitalfields, c.1885.

The bounds of the Civil Parish of Spitalfields, c.1885.

In 1899 the Public General Act ordered the creation of new Metropolitan Borough Council's across the London Metropolis. The Commissioners existed until the newly formed Metropolitan Borough of Stepney came into existance in November 1900. 

The borough of Stepney became merged with the new London Borough of Tower Hamlets in 1964 and since then all civil affairs in Spitalfields have been the exclusive preserve of Tower Hamlets council.

Nevertheless, since 1900, Spitalfields has always existed as  ward for local government election purposes although the size and shape of the ward and the number of councilors elected to represent it have varied considerably. In 1998 there was a proposal to abolish the name Spitalfields and replace it with the name "Banglatown" to reflect the large proportion of the population who were now of Bangladeshi origin. This proposal divided the local community and, ultimately, the ward was renamed "Spitalfields & Banglatown" as a compromise. Whatever its name, the local government ward is now at its greatest size yes has its fewest representatives; only two councilors were returned to represent the ward at the last local elections in 2014.

Sources and attributions:

Mark Girouard, Local Government in Spitalfields in the 18th Century

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

 

A HISTORY OF the manor and liberty of norton folgate

The history and origin of the manor and liberty of Norton Folgate, are exceedingly obscure, but the fragmentary evidence available suggests that from the eleventh to the nineteenth century the manor was connected with the canons or the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's. It has been suggested that Norton Folgate can be identified with a manor of  just nine acres which the canons of St. Paul's held at Bishopsgate (ad portam Episcopi) in the time of Domesday Survey and had held similarly in the time of King Edward the Confessor.

The name is first recorded circa 1110 as Nortune meaning 'north farmstead'. It is formed from the Old English 'north' and 'tūn', with the affix 'Folgate' perhaps derived from the manorial family name Foliot. This is possibly referring to Gilbert Foliot, Bishop of London or Richard Foliot, a canon of St Paul's Cathedral. An alternative explanation found in The National Gazetteer from 1868 which describes Folgate as derived "from the Saxon word Foldweg, a highway, in allusion to the old Roman Road (Ermine Street) which passed through this place."

The first certain evidence of the existence of the manor is contained in the court rolls for the years 1439 to 1519 in the Chapter Library of St. Paul's Cathedral. In these the name of the manor is always given as Norton Folyot or Foly or a variant of this. The courts held in the reigns of Henry VI and Edward IV are usually described as those of a canon residentiary of St. Paul's but sometimes as those of the dean.

The origin of the liberty as opposed to the manor was as the area of land occupied by the inner precinct of the Priory and Hospital of St Mary Spital. This was dissolved in 1538, but the land previously covered by the inner precinct, reverting to the Crown, retained its status as an extra-parochial liberty. Within the 8.7 acres (35,000 m2) of the former liberty are Norton Folgate (formerly High Street), Folgate Street (formerly White Lyon Yard or White Lion Street, named after an eponymous White Lion Brewery which was demolished to make way for Commercial Street in the 1840s), Spital Square, Elder Street, Fleur de Lis Street, Blossom Street.

 Records in the Norton Folgate minute book in 1750 showing the elections for various manorial officers (Source: Spitalfields Life)

Records in the Norton Folgate minute book in 1750 showing the elections for various manorial officers (Source: Spitalfields Life)

Maps from the 18th Century indicate that an area of land lying west of Bishopsgate was also a part of Norton Folgate but this area was probably part of the broader Manor and not part of the liberty itself. This manorial territory beyond the bounds of the old inner precinct was originally quite extensive stretching from what is now Worship Street (then called Hog Lane) in a narrow corridor that ran parallel to Bishopsgate as far south as where Liverpool Street Station is today. However, by the 19th Century this had been reduced to just a small plot between Primrose Street and Worship Street.

In 1732 the Parish Clerks of Shoreditch said that "All the Affairs of the Liberty are managed by the Ancients, who are in the Nature of a Vestry". These "ancients" or "ancient inhabitants" may have originally been clerics but after the reformation were probably established landowners; essentially the government of the liberty was some form of manorial Court Leet which had broad powers to administer justice. It is not clear at all whether any ‘manorial rights’ continued to be maintained by the “Chapter and Dean of St. Paul’s” or whether the lordship was at some point sold (perhaps in the 19th Century) or dissolved and the authority of the court leet and/or court baron, henceforth, was derived wholly from the ‘ancient inhabitants’ themselves and was no longer dependent upon whoever was the holder of the title of Lord of the Manor, if there still was one. A parliamentary survey of the property of the Dean and Chapter in 1649 included ’the Manor of Norton Folgate alias Norton Follye of St. Faiths under Paules London in the parish of St. Leonard Shoreditch’, with its court leet and court baron. In 1656 the records of the Middlesex County Sessions Court records that the inhabitants of Norton Folgate claimed to have belonged to the late Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's, thus becoming a distinct jurisdiction “endowed with ample privileges conferred before the Conquest”; presumably they are referring to the Norman Conquest of 1066.

  Based on a plan in the Public Record Office and on the Ordnance Survey 1873–5   . . . . Norton Folgate Liberty boundary

Based on a plan in the Public Record Office and on the Ordnance Survey 1873–5
. . . . Norton Folgate Liberty boundary

Later records indicate that these "ancient inhabitants" took turns to occupy various manorial offices including:

  • Headborough (a sort of Mayor)
  • 2 x Overseers of the Poor (who managed rents)
  • Constable (supervising three Beadles)
  • Scavenger (who managed street cleaning)

The ten "ancient inhabitants" were obliged to fill these offices unless they paid a fine excusing themselves. The Ancient Inhabitants appear to have replaced their numbers through co-opting residents of the Liberty. After a Local Act these ancient offices were replaced by a more democratic Board of Trustees who administered the Liberty from the Norton Folgate Court House located in the middle of Norton Folgate High Street (now called Norton Folgate). These twenty trustees were responsible for establishing and maintaining civic amenities such as sewerage, lighting and the maintenance of pavements. In 1743 the ancient Court House was pulled down because it was blocking the road and the courts of the manor were later held in a building on the north side of White Lion Street (later No. 1 Folgate Street) known as White Lion Court which was leased by the inhabitants and overseers of the liberty from 1744 onwards. This building was sadly demolished in the 1960s but can still be seen in old photos.

In the 18th century there were breweries in Hog Lane and in White Lion Street, their products including porter. Norton Folgate was also later the site of the Gas Light and Coke Company, the works, also known as the 'Curtain Road Works', were established from about 1812, when the Company received a contract to light Bishopsgate and supply the surrounding area with gas. The site obtained was cramped, and riddled with springs. The Company was applying novel chemistry (devised by Fredrick Winsor) on an industrial scale, and these factors resulted in the Company paying substantial fines for non-delivery. The site was in operation from about 1820 to 1871, when the new works at Beckton took over supply for much of London. The site was then used as a coal siding - for coaling trains at Broad Street and Liverpool Street. Latterly it was used as a yard for taxis, before redevelopment in about 2000.

It is noted as the sometime residence of the playwright Christopher Marlowe. The theatrical association continued, with the construction in 1837 of the City of London Theatre, here, by the architect Samuel Beazley. The theatre specialised in "domestic" and temperance drama, and closed in 1868. Performances included The Pickwick Papers between March and April 1837; and Nicholas Nickelby in November and December 1838.

 White Lion Court after it had been converted into a shop and private residences, c.1909. Sadly this historic building was demolished in the 1960s.

White Lion Court after it had been converted into a shop and private residences, c.1909. Sadly this historic building was demolished in the 1960s.

In 1855 the liberty became part of the Whitechapel District and in 1888 an inquest into one of the crimes of 'Jack the Ripper' was held at the Court House under Middlesex County Coroner Roderick MacDonald. In 1892 the Court House is referred to again in Old Bailey records when its keeper was called to testify in a fraud trial:

"I, Benjamin Beavis, live at No. 9, Fleur-de-Lis Street, Norton Folgate. I am the keeper of the Court House, at Norton Folgate. It is also the Vestry Office. I look at voucher No. 49, referring to the inquest on the body of Frank White on 23rd September, 1891, the signature on it opposite 7s. is not mine."

In 1897 the trustees contemplated agitating, together with the neighbouring Liberty of the Old Artillery Ground, for inclusion in the City of London, but did not do so. In 1900 the liberty became part of the Metropolitan Borough of Stepney and the last meeting of the trustees took place on 24 October of that year. The last Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Liberty was William Chillingworth

Norton Folgate and its neighbour, the Old Artillery Ground, continued to have nominal existence as a parish called St. Mary Spitalfields until 1921. However, the area to the west of Bishopsgate was removed and became part of parish and borough of Shoreditch, from 1965 forming part of the London Borough of Hackney. Since a reform of boundaries in the 1990s this area is now part of the City of London. The remaining parish to the east of Bishopsgate was abolished in 1921 and absorbed by an enlarged civil parish of Spitalfields within the Metropolitan Borough of Stepney. Stepney was superceded in 1965 by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

The legal status of the manor and liberty is unclear because the legislation establishing the Metropolitan Borough of Stepney did not explicitly abolish the old baronial or manorial courts. Therefore, so the theory goes, if the authority of the Court was derived from the people of the manor and/or liberty then that authority remains and the court itself is merely in abeyance and not gone forever. This theory depends on whether or not a "lord of the manor" still exists. Certainly, the headborough's ceremonial gate-topped staff (dating from the 18th Century currently located at the Tower Hamlets Local History Library in Mile End) is the oldest surviving civic staff in London and is thought by some to represent the civic authority he derived from the people of the liberty themselves. 

Thanks due to Spitalfields Life.

A HISTORY OF THE LIBERTY OF THE OLD ARTILLERY GROUND

In 1538 the Outer Precinct of the former Hospital Priory was reconstituted as a self-governing ex-parochial Liberty along similar lines to its northern neighbour in Norton Folgate except that Old Artillery was not a manor. 

  Based on a plan in the Public Record Office and on the Ordnance Survey 1873–5   . . . . Old Artillery Ground Liberty boundary

Based on a plan in the Public Record Office and on the Ordnance Survey 1873–5
. . . . Old Artillery Ground Liberty boundary

As the name suggests the area was initially used for military purposes by the 'Gunners of the Tower' for the exercise of "great and small artillery". On 13 February 1681 the Old Artillery Ground was sold to George Bradbury and Edward Noell for £5,700 with license to build houses. In the 18th Century the area was dominated by French Huguenot protestants but from the 1840s onwards it became the heartland of a thriving Ashkenazy Jewish community who had been migrating to London from the Netherlands and other places.

The nature and authority of the self-governing institutions of the liberty in the early and mid eighteenth century are not clear. There is no Local Act earlier than that of 1774. A minute book survives from 1729, by which it appears that the overseers of the poor laid business before annual meetings of the inhabitants. These were perhaps held in the ’Parish House’ in Fort Street, listed in the earliest surviving sewer rate book of 1766, which was probably identical with the Vestry Hall existing in that street in 1873.

In 1837 the Old Artillery Ground was joined to the Whitechapel Union by an order of the Poor Law Commissioners. This meant that the inhabitants of the Liberty were no-longer required to maintain a work house. The Old Artillery Ground was doubtless throughout its history a more uniformly poor area than the adjoining Liberty of Norton Folgate. It had few large houses, and was thickly inhabited. In 1801 its 185 inhabited houses accommodated a startling 1,428 people. By 1881 its population had and with its 176 inhabited houses now accommodated 2,516 people making it one of the most crowded places in the whole of London at its time. 

Like its northern neighbour, the Liberty of the Old Artillery Ground was merged with the Metropolitan Borough of Stepney in 1900.

The expansion of Spitalfields Market and war damage have almost completely destroyed its residential character and fewer than fifty people now live in the Old Artillery Ground.

The population of the Old Artillery remained mostly Jewish until the 1970s when people moved out and what had been a mainly residential area was finally transformed into the predominantly commercial area it is today.  

A historic building of particular note which has survived and maintains its ancient use is Sandy's Row Synagogue. This building is London’s oldest Ashkenazi Synagogue and the last remnant of the Jewish community in what was once the very heart of the Jewish East End.

During restoration work in 2014 the ancient muniment chest of the old Liberty was discovered hidden at the back of the synagogues basement. It is likely it was placed there for safekeeping the war.

THE LOST PUBS OF SPITALFIELDS

Spitalfields was once the home of as many as seventy public houses, although they did not all exist concurrently. It is now home to about ten thriving local pubs. Here is a list of all our pubs past and present:
 

  • Alfred's Head, 15 Brushfield Street (demolished, 1963)
  • Angel & Crown, 47 Brushfield Street (demolished, 1886 when Spitalfields Market expanded)
  • Ben Jonson, 26 Pelham Street now Woodseer Street (demolished, 1856)
  • Black Eagle, 140 Brick Lane (the pub of the Black Eagle Brewery, later the Truman Brewery, demolished, 1970)
  • Black Lion, 63 Hanbury Street (now a shop, closed 1923)
  • Black Swan, 23 Hanbury Street (demolished, 1906)
  • Blue Anchor, 1 Middlesex Street (demolished, 1886)
  • Blue Coat Boy, 32 Dorset Street (demolished, 1928)
  • Blue Coat Boy, 5 Norton Folgate High Street (demolished, 1968)
  • Britannia, 87 Commercial Street (demolished, 1929)
  • Butchers Arms, 4 South Street (demolished, 1886 when Spitalfields Market expanded)
  • Carpenters Arms, 103 Wentworth Street (demolished, 1914)
  • The Castle, 19 Quaker Street (demolished, 1921)
  • Cock & Hoop, later renamed Artillery Tavern, 1 Gun Street (demolished, 1915)
  • City of Norwich, 61 Wentworth Street  (demolished, 1921)
  • Commercial Tavern (formerly Commercial Arms), 142 Commercial Street (thriving)
  • Crown, 4 Grey Eagle Street (demolished, 1901)
  • Crown, 4 North Street (demolished, 1884, when Spitalfields Market expanded)
  • Culpeper (formerly Princess Alice and City Darts), 40 Commercial Street (thriving)
  • Dukes Head, 28 Norton Folgate High Street (demolished, 1903)
  • Dukes Motto, 137 Brick Lane (closed in the 1970s)
  • Duke of Wellington, 28 Toynbee Street (thriving)
  • Dyers Arms, 44 Brick Lane (demolished, 1855)
  • Elder Tree, 1 Elder Street (closed, 1915, since demolished)
  • Fleur de Lis, 17 Fleur de Lis Street (closed, 1915, since demolished)
  • Founders Arms, 213 Brick Lane (demolished, 1874)
  • Frying Pan, 13 Brick Lane (closed, 1991, now 'Sheraz Balti House')
  • George & Guy, 41 Brick Lane (closed, 1921, now a shop)
  • Golden Eagle, 47 Quaker Street (demolished, 1871)
  • Golden Heart, 110 Commercial Street (thriving)
  • Grapes, 15 Crispin Street (demolished, 1882 when Spitalfields Market expanded)
  • The Grey Eagle, 52 Grey Eagle Street (closed, 1963, demolished 1970)
  • Gun, 54 Brushfield Street (closed, 2016)
  • Gun & Tent, 10 Fort Street (demolished, 1915)
  • Horn of Plenty, 5 Crispin Street (demolished, 1915)
  • Job's Castle, 40 Folgate Street (demolished, 1952)
  • Jolly Butchers, 157 Brick Lane (closed, 1987)
  • Jolly Weavers, 60 Wheler Street (demolished, 1856)
  • Kings Arms, 20 Wilkes Street (demolished, 1896)
  • King Charles II, 11 Lamb Street (closed, 1944, now a shop)
  • King & Queen, 30 Norton Folgate (demolished, 1952)
  • Laurel Tree, 69 Brick Lane (closed, 1921, now Azeem barbers shop)
  • Market Tavern, 65 Brushfield Street (closed, 1915, now offices)
  • Marlborogh's Head, 5 Woodseer Street (demolished, 1899)
  • Middleton Arms, 38 Norton Folgate High Street (closed, 1912, later demolished)
  • Northumberland Arms, 44 & 45 Fashion Street (demolished, 1888)
  • Northumberland Head, 11 Fort Street (closed, 1915, demolished 1929)
  • Old Cheshire Cheese, 5 West Side Market (demolished, 1882)
  • Old Will Somers, 25 Crispin Street (demolished, 1884 when Spitalfields Market expanded)
  • Osborne Arms, 42 Heneage Street (demolished, 1910)
  • Oxford Arms, 62 Brushfield Street (closed 1921, demolished 1928)
  • Paul's Head, 1  Crispin Street, (demolished, 1952)
  • Pendennis Castle, 1 Lamb Street (demolished, 1884)
  • Phoenix, 79 Brick Lane (closed 1921, now the Shampan Restaurant)
  • Phoenix, 24 & 25 Norton Folgate High Street (demolished, 1916)
  • Pride of Spitalfields, 3 Heneage Street (thriving)
  • Prince Albert, 21 Brushfield Street (demolished, 1963)
  • Prince of Wales, 29 Great Pearl Street (demolished, 1882)
  • Queens Head, 74 Commercial Street (closed, 1917, now a shop)
  • Red Lion, 92 Commercial Street (closed, 1917, now a shop)
  • Rose & Crown, 24 Fort Street (demolished, 1899)
  • Salmon & Ball, 32 Lamb Street (demolished 1928 when Spitalfields Market expanded)
  • Seven Stars, 49 Brick Lane (closed, 2002)
  • Ship, 24 Wheeler Street, (demolished, 1917)
  • Sir John Barleycorn, 48 Brick Lane (demolished, 1846)
  • Star, 40 Wilkes Street (demolished, 1856)
  • Ten Bells, 84 Commercial Street (thriving)
  • Three Cranes, 39 Brick Lane (closed, 1921, now a restaurant)
  • Three Neats Tongues, 3 Great Pearl Street later Calvin Street (demolished, 1861)
  • Tower, 19 Artillery Street (demolished, 1910)
  • Virginia Planter, George Street later Lolesworth Street (demolished, 1814)
  • Water Poet (formerly Pewter Platter), 11 Folgate Street (thriving)
  • Weavers arms, 17 Hanbury Street (demolished, 1927)
  • White Hart, Little Pearl Street later Jerome Street (demolished, 1921)
  • White Horse, 13 Sandys Row (demolished, 1896)
  • White Swan, 6 & 7 Keate Court later Thrawl Street (demolished, 1882)

 

 

 

 The Grey Eagle at 52 Grey Eagle Street closed in 1963 and was demolished.

The Grey Eagle at 52 Grey Eagle Street closed in 1963 and was demolished.

 The Blue Coat Boy at 5 Norton Folgate High Street until it closed in 1968 and was demolished.

The Blue Coat Boy at 5 Norton Folgate High Street until it closed in 1968 and was demolished.

 The Jolly Butchers at 157 Brick Lane closed in 1987.

The Jolly Butchers at 157 Brick Lane closed in 1987.

 The Frying Pan at 13 Brick Lane until it closed in 1991. It is now a Bangladeshi restaurant.

The Frying Pan at 13 Brick Lane until it closed in 1991. It is now a Bangladeshi restaurant.