Ibis Budget Hotel (formerly Brunning House)

1959-63, office block over garage, converted to hotel with flanking additions from 2010 (former almshouse, theatre, cinema and station site)

Meggs' Almshouses
Contributed by Survey of London on April 19, 2018

In 1658 William Megges III, who had inherited the Hart’s Horne, Whitechapel’s largest house, and who remained unmarried and without direct descendants, built almshouses for twelve Whitechapel parishioners, who were to be single, church-going and over the age of fifty, that is ‘Antient’. They were sited immediately across the road from the parish almshouses on the east half of the frontage that is now 100 Whitechapel Road. Megges acquired a plot 90ft wide by 45ft deep from Edward Conyers. The almshouses were a simple two-storey building behind a railed forecourt. There were three three-bay sections, the centre stepped forward under a pediment bearing Megges’ arms and an inscribed panel of stone. Entrances in the middle bays of each of the three sections led to lobbies and staircases for access to the twelve single-room dwellings. Megges died in 1678 and his will granted £1,500 to be held in trust to provide for the inmates’ living costs and repairs. However, Megges’ nephew Sir William Goulston failed to apply the funds properly, a situation not rectified despite a Chancery decree in 1704. The almshouses, all occupied by widows, needed further benefaction which came in 1767 from Benjamin Goodwin who repaired and endowed them, as was recorded across the base of the pediment. A garden to the rear survived through much of the eighteenth century. Later benefactors included Luke Flood, who left £400 in 1818. There were further repairs in 1877 under W. A. Longmore, architect, but Meggs’ almshouses were replaced by St Mary’s Station on the District and Metropolitan lines in 1883–4. New Meggs’ Almshouses were erected by Whitechapel parish at 271–275 Upton Road in West Ham in 1893; they remain extant.1

  1. John Strype, Survey of London, 1720, p.47: Robert Wilkinson, Londina Illustrata, vol. 1, 1819, pp.142–4: The National Archives, C6/368/5: London Metropolitan Archives, SC/GL/PR/S3/WHI/roa; MBW/2646/31/03; Collage 35108: Rocque's map, 1746: Horwood's maps, 1799 and 1813: Ordnance Survey map, 1873: The Builder, 30 June 1877, p. 672 

From the Earl of Effingham Saloon to the Rivoli Cinema via Wonderland
Contributed by Survey of London on April 19, 2018

Thomas Spackman had a large property on the site of 100 Whitechapel Road around 1770. By 1790, when his son-in-law Walter Fillingham was in control, this was a public house that came to be known as the Earl of Effingham – Thomas Howard, the 3rd Earl of Effingham, was the Master of the Mint in 1784–9 and the Governor of Jamaica in 1789–91. Thomas Sims ran it as a ‘saloon’ from the late 1820s to 1851. It was enlarged and given a skittle ground in 1834–5, and a large theatre was added to the rear, perhaps in 1846, clearing part of Orange Court. This was entered through what had been a shophouse to the east of the pub, beyond which lay the entrance to Hampshire Court.1 The Effingham Saloon was said retrospectively to have been a conspicuous failure, ‘where broken-down actors declaimed, with a distressing want of respect for the letter “H”, to empty pit-benches and deserted galleries’.2 Phased enlargement and alteration in 1852–5 began with a gallery designed by John Hudson, the local architect, to admit up to 900, and ended in the charge of James W. Elphinstone and Frederick Neale, director and stage manager at the Pavilion Theatre on the other side of Whitechapel Road, possibly having employed William Finch Hill for work that seemingly doubled the capacity of what was now the Effingham Theatre (sometimes the New Garrick Theatre). By 1856 the establishment was being run by Morris Abrahams, later also based at the Pavilion. He remained here up to _c._1904.3

In 1862 the Rev. James Cohen, vicar at St Mary Matfelon, singled the place out as a menace to his mission, ‘a school of vice and seduction’.4 Bracebridge Hemyng, one of Henry Mayhew’s collaborators, explained, ‘It has no boxes; they would not be patronized if they were in existence. Whitechapel does not go to the play in kid-gloves and white ties. The stage of the Effingham is roomy and excellent, the trap-work very extensive, for Whitechapel rejoices much in pyrotechnic displays, blue demons, red demons, and vanishing Satans that disappear in a cloud of smoke through an invisible hole in the floor.’5

In early 1867 William Booth preached regularly at the Effingham, which was said then to be ‘one of the dingiest and gloomiest places of amusement to be found, perhaps in all London…. The walls are black with dirt, the gaudy tinselled ornaments half-hidden with layers of dust, and the gaslights so few in number as to give an extremely cheerless and dispiriting look to the whole place.’6 Later that year and following the acquisition of two more houses on the pub’s west side, Abrahams redeveloped to create the East London Theatre, designed by Hudson, with decoration by W. Fenhoulet, the builder being John Palmer and Sons of Wapping. Substantial enlargement to the rear permitted the formation of a horseshoe-shaped auditorium with two tiers of balconies to give a capacity of around 4,000, greater than that of the Pavilion. Abrahams’ theatre garnered ambivalent acclaim, ‘in spite of the somewhat unpromising locality, [it] forms unquestionably one of the finest and most spacious dramatic buildings that have ever been raised in the metropolis’.7 Sadly it was short-lived, and seemingly went unillustrated. The premises were destroyed by fire in 1879, leaving only the outer walls intact.8

The seven-bay pub of 1867 carried on as the East London Tavern, and Abrahams, again working with Hudson, roofed over his ruined theatre in 1880–1 to form a lantern-lit drill hall.9 This accommodated the 2nd Tower Hamlets Rifle Volunteers, but only until 1894, by when Abrahams had advanced more ambitious plans. He had bought up cottages on Hampshire Court adjoining to the east, and in 1893 presented plans by Frank Matcham for a new theatre. Abrahams now had to contend with far greater regulation as to the safety of theatres and the London County Council found the scheme unsatisfactory. A year later new plans by William Hancock were advanced, but to no avail. Abrahams changed tack in 1895, proposing use of the drill hall for museum and exhibition purposes, called Wonderland Ltd. This was approved, provided the capacity was kept to 200 and visitors moved around and were not seated. A music licence (for ‘occasional musical selections’) and approval for a larger stage for an orchestra and dressing rooms were sought and granted. Wonderland re-opened in 1896 with Abrahams’ protégé Jack Woolf as manager. Inter alia, there were shooting galleries, and residencies by the circus and menagerie of Albert Haslam and his son Arthur (as Professor Anderton and Captain Rowland), with their ‘untamable’ lions. H. Chance Newton later reported: ‘To those amusement- seekers who may prefer to take their variety entertainment in a rough-and- ready form there are still such haunts as that Whitechapel resort fancifully named “Wonderland”. In this big hall are provided entertainments of the most extraordinary description. They include little plays, songs, and sketches, given first in Yiddish dialect.’10 Further theatre conversion schemes had been submitted and rejected when in 1898 the LCC discovered that the entertainment had changed from that of a museum, ‘to something approaching that of a music-hall’. The music licence was not renewed.11

The former drill hall had been adapted to use as a clothing factory in 1899 when a new redevelopment scheme by Matcham gained approval. However, the capital needed for the rebuilding could not be raised, and Woolf revived Wonderland. By 1902 the hall was being used for boxing, packed to the utmost with about 3,000 present. On boxing nights ‘“Wonderland” is to be seen in its most thrilling form.Then it is indeed difficult either to get in or to get out. In the first place it is hard to get in because of the great crowds of hard-faring - often hard-faced - East-End worshippers of the fistic art… In the second place, if you do contrive to get in you speedily find yourself so hemmed in by a sardine-like packed mob that all egress seems hopeless.’12 A police report concluded that proceedings to halt use for ‘boxing competitions, cinematograph pictures, gymnastic and juggling performances, and occasionally as a Synagogue’ was unlikely to succeed. The hall was extended to the rear in 1904–5.13

Around 1908 Woolf took ownership from Abrahams, who had retired to Hove, and the rear addition was enhanced, to plans by Samuel Wollrauch, surveyor, to be a small cinema, seating 558. Squeezed between Orange Row and Charlotte Court, this was the New Empire Hall, alternatively the East London Picture Palace. In 1909 the LCC summoned Woolf to explain his having permitted stage plays and directed the removal of a scene store and backcloths. Wonderland was burnt out in 1911. A rebuilding scheme for boxing, cinema and concert use was prepared by Ernest Rüntz and Son, who combined with Woolf to open a Wonderland Picture Palace on York Road in Battersea in 1912. The Whitechapel project was refused consent as was a successor from Matcham that omitted concert use, and another from William G. Ingram in 1914. Cinema use of the East London Palace, Theatre of Varieties, continued up to 1918.14 A fresh start was made in 1919–21. Moses Cohen, in partnership with David Morris and Isaac Lewis as Morris, Cohen & Lewis, of 21 Finsbury Pavement and 130–139 Commercial Road, redeveloped the whole Wonderland site and land to the east around St Mary’s Station, as the Rivoli Cinema, designed by George Coles of Adams & Coles, architects, this being their first major project. The cinema had seating for 2,230 and standing room for 349. To Whitechapel Road twin three-storey and attic blocks flanked the diminutive station with up-scale dignity. They were faience-faced in imitation of stone, with giant Corinthian orders above arcades. Entrances were to the west, with tea and dance rooms above, where the tavern had stood. The east block had the exit vestibules below nine flats for the rehousing of people from the ‘slums’ on Hampshire Place that were cleared for the project. The Rivoli suffered bomb damage twice in the Blitz. Coles prepared a scheme for restoration as a smaller Granada Cinema in 1956, but this was abandoned and the site had been sold for other purposes by 1958. A remnant of the Rivoli survives as a strip alongside 102 Whitechapel Road.15

  1. The National Archives (TNA), PROB11/1248/76: Morning Post, 6 Nov 1816: London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), Land Tax returns (LT): Tower Hamlets Commissioners of Sewers ratebooks (THCS) 

  2. The Nonconformist, 10 April 1867, p. 290 

  3. LMA, MBO Plans/484–6; District Surveyors Returns (DSR): The Era, 13 Nov. 1853, p. 16: The Builder, 13 May 1854, p. 260: Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 23 July 1854, p. 3: East London Theatre Archive, 38041008523284: Post Office Directories (POD) 

  4. Church of England Record Centre, Tait 441/457 

  5. Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, vol. 4, 1861, p. 227 

  6. The Nonconformist, 10 April 1867, p. 290 

  7. London Evening Standard, 14 October 1867, p. 3: East London Observer, 12 Oct 1867, p. 5: Building News, 18 Oct. 1867, p. 726: Ordnance Survey map, 1873 

  8. The Builder, 22 March 1879, p. 328: POD 

  9. The___ _Builder, 25 Sept. 1880, p. 400: DSR 

  10. H. Chance Newton, ‘Music-Hall London’, in George Robert Sims, Living London: its work and its play, etc, vol. 2, 1902, p. 225: Reynolds’s Newspaper, 27 Dec. 1896, p. 8 

  11. LMA, GLC/AR/BR/07/0574: DSR: POD: Goad map, 1890 

  12. Newton in Sims, _loc. cit._ 

  13. LMA, GLC/AR/BR/07/0574: London County Council Minutes (LCC Mins), passim: Goad map, 1899: DSR 

  14. LMA, GLC/AR/BR/07/0094; GLC/AR/BR/07/0574; GLC/AR/BR/19/0094; GLC/AR/BR/22/ES/021945: LCC Mins, 12 Nov. 1912, p. 1122: DSR 

  15. LMA, GLC/AR/BR/07/0574; GLC/AR/BR/22/ES/021945: DSR: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography sub Coles 

St Mary's Station
Contributed by Survey of London on April 19, 2018

St Mary’s Station was built in 1883–4 on the site of Meggs’ Almshouses for the Metropolitan and District Railway’s extension to Whitechapel. The booking office on the west side of the site was a single-storey six-bay building with a louvre-vented hipped roof behind a balustraded parapet. The east part of the site was left open near the road to ventilate the steam railway. After electrification it was built over for the Rivoli Cinema. The station closed in 1938 when the addition of an eastern (Gardiner’s Corner) entrance to Aldgate East Station caused it to be deemed superfluous. Its platforms were bricked-up and used by Stepney Borough Council as a public air-raid shelter from 1940, but the booking office was destroyed in the Blitz. Below ground level original ornamental cast-iron columns, staircase balustrades, a lattice-sided footbridge and brick-arch and composite-girder ceilings survive, disused and inaccessible to the public.1

  1. The National Archives, HO 207/859: London Metropolitan Archives, District Surveyors Returns: Goad maps 

Ibis Budget Hotel and Adagio Aparthotel (formerly Brunning House), 100 Whitechapel Road
Contributed by Survey of London on April 19, 2018

The Rivoli Cinema and St Mary’s Station site with other land extending back to Fieldgate Street was all redeveloped in 1959–63 in a speculative office scheme by R. Seifert and Partners, architects. The builders were Marshall-Andrew & Co. Ltd. This incorporated a petrol station and garage/vehicle depot with a basement car park, a semi-circular forecourt at ground-floor level and a first-floor car showroom in a podium across the frontage, on which an eight- storey slab block was set at right angles bisecting the semi-circle. The white-mineralite faced slab block had enamelled apron panels on the main elevations, originally dark gray, latterly blue. The first occupants of the offices were the Brunning Group Ltd, an advertising and marketing firm, from which the block took its name. Citroen moved in at the lower levels. In 1988–9 the east forecourt quadrant was infilled with a single-storey car showroom extension for the Citroen dealership.

Around 2010, with the site now owned by Alyjiso Ltd, a Jersey-based company, Brunning House was converted to hotel use, its part-open ground floor crudely bricked up. The Ibis Budget Hotel was enlarged in 2015–17 on the west part of the site in a project by Bamfords Trust plc as developer and contractor, working with the Accor Hotels Group, and Webb Gray & Partners Ltd as architects. The single-storey depot on Fieldgate Street was demolished and an eight-storey brick-faced block erected for what became a 169-bedroom hotel above ground-floor retail (still intended in 2018). The same consortium gained permission in 2016 for a nine-storey 131-bedroom building, the Adagio Aparthotel, to replace the east side of the podium, leaving a gap for a pedestrian passage, to be named Zabadne Way after the surname of several Bamfords directors, and wrapping round on the south side of Vine Court. This was designed by T. P. Bennett.1

  1. London Metropolitan Archives, GLC/AR/BR/17/039144: Tower Hamlets planning applications online 

St Mary's tube station

Short film of stills showing the remains of St Mary's underground station. This opened in 1884 and closed in April 1938 because of the imminent opening of the new eastern entrances to Aldgate East station, which, it was considered, made St Mary's station superfluous.

Contributed by Aileen Reid on Nov. 27, 2016