In the early eighteenth century, the King’s Arms public house was at the site of Nos 55–57, where King’s Arms Court (originally Coles Alley) now meets Whitechapel Road. In the 1770s the King’s Arms had a skittle ground, a brewhouse (with a malt shop, loft and cooler over the passage), a millhouse and three houses, extending back to the Cock and Key public house at what ended up as 52 Old Montague Street. William Menish (d.1813, age 79) held all this property by 1770 and extended his tenure with a 99-year lease in 1779. A chemist, Menish was later identified as a ‘sal-ammoniac manufacturer’, having patented the production of sal ammonia by a sulphate process in 1792, for use by jewellers and stained-glass makers, possibly also in foodstuffs. Menish was manufacturing hartshorn (ammonium carbonate), probably for medicinal purposes, at 111 Whitechapel Road in 1805, in which year he sublet his Coles Alley premises to John Burnell, a horner of Old Montague Street. At this point, John Warner had a foundry on the alley.1 The King’s Arms public house retreated to the west side of the court entrance (No. 57) and William and Henry Clayton, drapers, held sway at the site of Nos 53–55 from a rebuilding of 1847 to 1890–1 when those premises were adapted to be Tee-To-Tum Tea Stores, a café and club for the Tea Planters’ Association, with A. H. Thompson as the architect.2
King’s Arms Court has two four- to five-storey largely white-faced blocks on its west side, an affordable housing project of 2007–9 on a site much of which had been a car park since the 1980s. Stephen Davy and Peter Smith were the architects for the Toynbee Housing Association, which merged with the Community Housing Association in 2007 to form One Housing Group. The southern block comprises ten socially rented flats, the northern seventeen shared ownership flats. There is also an office facing Old Montague Street.1
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This view westwards along Old Montague Street from No 42, on the left, the site of the Chevrah Shass synagogue, is from a slide taken in 1966 by David Granick, now in the collection of the Tower Hamlets Archives. All the buildings in this photograph on either side Old Montague Street have been demolished with the exception of those in the distance on the left, Nos 2 to 6, and the Archers public house on the corner with Osborn Street.