English Martyrs RC Primary School, St Mark Street

1969–70, school, designed by Broadbent, Hastings, Reid & Todd

Goodman’s Fields Tenter Ground and its first development
Contributed by Survey of London on Aug. 4, 2020

The tenter ground on Goodman’s Fields was a large open quadrangle, unevenly sided but roughly 200 yards squared or eight acres. It was used for stretching and drying newly made cloth on frames called tenters from at least the beginning of the seventeenth century. Access was from Goodman’s Stile at the north-east corner and there were warehouses and workshops, presumably connected to this use, along the north side of what later became Alie Street. The laying out of this and other streets on Sir William Leman’s estate from about 1678 presaged the building of rows of houses backing on to the tenter ground, now reduced to about 150 yards squared or somewhat less than five acres. Walled private gardens behind the houses, many of which were large enough to be called mansions, opened onto a perimeter carriageway around which trees were planted. A passageway at the west end of Prescot Street was the only public entrance to the tenter ground from the 1680s till about 1815. The preservation of this sizeable open space cannot have been determined purely by considerations of amenity. The houses of the 1680s and later backed on to rather than faced the ground – this was not a garden square. Sir William Leman intended that the space should be called Leman’s Quadrangle, not Square, though this never took. Continuing commercial use of the tenter ground must have been a decisive factor in the unusual, even unique, layout of the Leman estate. Many members of the Clothworkers’ Company lived in close proximity to Goodman’s Fields from the 1650s to the 1720s, and John Rocque’s map of the 1740s shows eleven tenter lines. In 1743, a newspaper reported that ‘rogues’ attempted to steal cloths hung high up on the tenter ground’s drying poles by throwing weighted cords to pull the poles down. They were caught because one of the poles fell onto the roof of a house alerting its occupants to the scheme.1

The open ground was still being used for tenters in 1756 when it was let to a Mr Richardson, likely Richard Richardson (1718–1765), a Clothworker who lived in a house on the site of 22 Alie Street. The Leman estate was partitioned at this date, and the tenter ground was divided, ownership of its north part going to Elizabeth and John Newnham, of the south part to John Granger Leman. Demand for continuing cloth-working use was perhaps declining as it was proposed as part of this agreement that when Richardson left the occupiers of the surrounding houses might collectively pay for the space to be enclosed as an open pleasure ground, even suggesting a 32ft-wide perimeter carriageway with rounded corners. This, however, did not come to pass.

In 1775 Edward Hawkins (1723–1780), the locally eminent carpenter–builder based on Leman Street, took thirty-one-year leases of both halves of the Tenter Ground, now a place name not a description, with covenants to prevent development. Hawkins bought half the Newnham moiety of the Leman estate copyhold in 1779 (which included the north half of the Tenter Ground), and Samuel Hawkins (1727–1805), Edward’s brother and heir, bought the other half of the Newnham moiety in 1787, all with covenants against development perpetuated. Samuel Hawkins had, however, enclosed the ground in 1786 by erecting a 6ft-high open palisade around the carriageway. Inside it a garden was densely planted on much of the eastern side, and there were grassy meadows for the grazing of horses and cows to the west and south-east. By way of buildings there was only a wooden cowshed, then a low brick shed, later converted into a house.2

By 1803 the fence had been destroyed, and the ground had fallen to use as a dump. The destruction was later dated to 1799, when 50,000 volunteer soldiers gathered to be inspected by George III, ‘the garden of the tenter-ground became the field of Mars, and the spring and summer flowers yielded to the flowers of chivalry’. The inspection turned into farce as the volunteers and the king failed to meet, the former gathering on Alie Street while the king waited on Prescot Street, and then both circling the field to find each other until the king departed in frustration, ‘a prettier game of hide and seek never was played’.3

Through the first half of the nineteenth century, the Tenter Ground was used for a variety of gatherings, including of the Whitechapel Volunteers, 500 strong drilling here in 1807, of H division of the Metropolitan Police, based on Leman Street from 1830, and of East India Company recruits. The ground became established as a site for public speaking. In 1832 the Rev. Edward Irving, the radical preacher and founder in that year of the Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, riled the local Jewish population by ‘haranguing’ in the Tenter Ground on Saturdays, against the personal counsel of members of the Rothschild family, provoking crowds to await him, rotten eggs in hand. Thomas Perronet Thompson MP, an advocate of ‘sensible Chartism’, addressed crowds in 1841, and there were also civic processions, fairs, and duels. By this date any sense of even an inverted garden square had been lost, with many of the private gardens built over for workshops, some for noisy or noxious industries, including chemical, gun, and pencil factories. The loss of peace and pleasantness would have vitiated reservations about development of the ground.4


In 1806 Edward Hawkins (1749–1816), a banker in Neath, Glamorganshire, inherited the northern part of the ‘Tenter Field’ property that had pertained to his cousin, the younger Samuel Hawkins. The Hawkins lease of the southern section having expired, that land had reverted to William Strode (1738–1809), the successor of John Granger Leman. Hawkins and his son, also Edward Hawkins (1780–1867), began to negotiate a plan with Strode for the development of the Tenter Ground. After Strode’s death, and the complex and contested division of his estate, copyhold of the southern section of ground passed to the Scarborough family.

Development intentions were facilitated in 1814–15 by the demolition, following auction, of two vacant Prescot Street houses (between what became Nos 60 and 61), to create a gap for an access road into the ground. The southern part of the ground was put up for auction in six lots, but it appears not to have sold. The Hawkins responded to these manoeuvres by demolishing three houses on Alie Street (between Nos 26 and 30) for a northern access road that was initially called Alie Place. Flanking houses were built in the 1820s, but the younger Hawkins failed to negotiate a way round the prohibitive covenants that prevented building further south. When the Scarborough interest then over-rode those to advance its own development plans, Hawkins went to law in 1833 to stymy his rivals, but the case was dismissed.5

After the failure of the lawsuit in 1833, development with modest terrace houses on a grid layout on the southern or Scarborough section of the ground began fairly immediately. A church was a standard anchor for a housing development and St Mark’s Church was built in 1838 on Hawkins’s northern ground, on the east side of what was initially called St Mark’s Street. By 1841 there were around twenty houses with around 100 inhabitants on the north side of Tenter Street (now South Tenter Street). The west side of the southern stretch of St Mark Street was also built up around this time. The perimeter carriageway had fallen into disrepair to the extent that stagnant pools of foul water posed a health risk and were said in 1843 to be ‘an eye sore to many respectable families who inhabited the new houses built on a portion of the old tenter ground’.6

By the time plans for proper drainage were made in 1849, the  Tenter Ground was almost fully developed, with the Jews’ Orphan Asylum of 1846 standing immediately north of the church, Scarborough Street and Newnham Street laid out running east–west across St Mark’s Street, and the former carriageway reformed as Tenter Street times four, differentiated by compass direction. Loney & Dunkinson of Philpot Street had begun to build forty to fifty houses in 1845, but did not see that through. The main builder–developers were William Hawksworth of Mansell Street, who put up twenty-nine houses on Scarborough Street and the Tenter Streets in 1847–50, and Charles Johnson, of Rotherhithe, responsible for nine with John Hall in 1846–7 and twenty-four independently on Scarborough Street and the Tenter Streets, mostly to the east, in 1849–51. Newnham Street and remaining St Mark’s Street and Tenter Street frontages for around forty houses were handled by William Antcliffe from Blackfriars in 1849–52. By this time there were altogether around 130 houses on the former Tenter Ground. Most of these were standard two-storey brick artisans’ dwellings, many but not all with rear outshuts, none with yards of any size except behind a few three-storey houses to St Mark’s Street. The piecemeal nature of the development under two estates gave rise to some confusion as to street names and addresses, the 1861 census noting that the numbering was very irregular.7

At first, settlement in the Tenter Ground’s houses was mixed. Residents varied in ethnicity and occupation, with some merchants occupying the better buildings along St Mark Street. By the end of the nineteenth century, the area was overwhelmingly east-European Jewish, the main employment being tailoring. This remained the case up to the Second World War. Yoel Sheridan, a resident, has written about the place on Friday afternoons in the 1930s:

‘Newnham Street was busy preparing for Shabbas. [My mother] was not alone in whitening the square area outside the front door. All the pavements had been washed and the white squares outside each household looked like a bouquet waiting to be presented to the Shabbas bride. People were hurrying home in their work clothes. Food had to be prepared before Shabbas as no active cooking could be done on that day. ... The most popular and traditional recipe was cholent. ... The larger pots belonging to the larger families were too big to go into the family ovens and so an arrangement was made with the local Jewish baker for the cholent to be cooked overnight in his oven. ... On Friday afternoons {my elder brother and I} would take the family cholent in its two- handled brown enamel pot to the bakers located in St Mark’s Street next to the Scarborough Arms Pub on the corner of Scarborough Street.’8

Wartime bombs wreaked havoc on the Tenter Ground. By the 1960s less than half the nineteenth-century houses (around fifty-five) had been salvaged and made habitable and LCC prefabricated mobile homes were up on part of the cleared ground. Many pre-war residents failed to return to this Jewish enclave, while Geoffrey Fletcher thought the mix of survivals and prefabs lent ‘a pleasingly mournful 1947 quality to the composition’.9

  1. Ogilby and Morgan's map of London, 1676: The National Archives (TNA), C10/544/6: London Metropolitan Archives (LMA), LMA Q/HAL/298: www.londonroll.org: Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives (THLHLA), cuttings 221.2, unidentified newspaper, 1743 

  2. TNA, PROB11/908/360: The Law Journal for the Year 1833, vol.11/ns vol.2, 1833, pp.126–8: Richard Horwood's maps of London, 1792–9 and 1813 

  3. Economist and General Adviser, 11 Dec 1824, pp.471–2: Jewish Chronicle, 10 April 1874, p.22 

  4. The Times, 7 Jan 1804, p.3: Sun (London), 15 Jan 1830, p.2; 23 June 1830, p.3: Morning Advertiser, 4 Nov 1830, p.2; 6 Dec 1843, p.4: Evening Mail, 4 June 1832, p.4: Bell’s Life in London and Sporting Chronicle, 10 June 1832, p.2: Bell’s New Weekly Messenger, 5 July 1835, p.13; 28 Feb 1841, p.5: Evening Chronicle, 18 June 1841, p.2: Express (London), 13 Sept 1847, p.3 

  5. THLHLA, P/SLC/1/21/1: British Library, Crace Port. 16/9: LMA, LMA/4673/D/01/004/002; Collage 35141; Land Tax Returns: The Law Journal for the Year 1833, vol.11/ns vol.2, 1833, pp.126–8: TNA, PROB11/1436/196: Horwood, 1819: Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies, DE/X22/28997: Morning Advertiser, 9 Oct 1830, p.4: Star (London), 11 Oct 1830, p.4 

  6. Morning Advertiser, 6 Dec 1843, p.4; 3 Dec 1840, p.4: Perry’s Bankrupt Gazette, 5 April 1834, p.7; LMA, SC/PM/ST/01/002, William Grellier’s map of Whitechapel, _c._1840–5: Census 

  7. London Evening Standard, 19 Jan 1849, p.4: Morning Advertiser, 17 March 1849, p.4: Census: LMA, District Surveyors Returns: Collage 119332 

  8. Yoel Sheridan, From Here to Obscurity, 2001, p.59 

  9. Geoffrey Fletcher, Geoffrey Fletcher’s London, 1968: Ordnance Survey maps: THLHLA, L/SMB/D/4/14; L7832 

English Martyrs’ Roman Catholic Primary School, St Mark Street
Contributed by Survey of London on Aug. 4, 2020

Tower Hill Roman Catholic School on Chamber Street was found to be overcrowded in the 1950s when the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) set out to reorganize Catholic schools in partnership with the Catholic Diocese. It was clear that short-term rearrangement was not enough to bring class sizes down and address a need for more places in schools in line with guidelines. Recognising the need for more radical action, in 1967 the ILEA purchased a large site for a new school on the west side of St Mark Street between Scarborough Street and North Tenter Street. There had still been around fifty houses on this land in 1960. The re-accommodation of tenants was  a cause of delay, but the project was seen through in 1969–70. The architects were Broadbent, Hastings, Reid & Todd, the partner in charge being J. F. H. Hastings. This practice, formed in 1959 as successors to H. S. Goodhart- Rendel’s partnership, was best known as responsible for a swathe of London Catholic churches in a Scandinavian modernist style. Construction of the school was undertaken by E. J. Lacy & Co., and it was opened by the Cardinal John Heenan, Archbishop of Westminster, on 20 June 1970, that date chosen as it was the exact centenary of the laying of the foundation stone of the Chamber Street school.1

English Martyrs’ School followed a ‘hen and chickens’ layout or cluster plan, typical of its time and avoiding corridors, with two blocks of classrooms arranged around a central double-height assembly hall, an arrangement the architects regarded as compact and simple, to accommodate 250 children in seven classrooms. From an entrance on St Mark Street, a lobby links the hall to the north with a two-storey block of junior-school classrooms and a library and staff offices to the south. To the west lies a single-storey block of infant-school classrooms. The architects clustered the accommodation on the north-east part of the site to avoid overshadowing from tall buildings that were envisioned for Mansell Street, to allow classrooms to have south aspects, and to permit the formation of large outdoor areas. These generous play spaces were carefully landscaped, with a caretaker’s house placed in the site’s south-east corner. A nursery, intended from the outset, was added in 1978 at the northern edge of the site, to continue to maximise play space. It is separately entered from West Tenter Street. Classrooms were added in 1995 and 2002 when Abbott & Associates formed a single-storey extension on the east side of the assembly hall for a computer suite.2

  1. English Martyrs’ Church (EMC), Codex Historicus; correspondence, 20 Feb 1956 and 10 Aug 1967; agreement, 21 June 1962; misc. notes: Robert Proctor, Building the Modern Church: Roman Catholic Church Architecture in Britain, 2014, p.41 

  2. EMC, correspondence 20 Dec 1965, 20 Jan 1970, 9 June 1976, 28 Feb 1978; Broadbent, Hastings, Reid & Todd notes, 8 Nov 1966: Tower Hamlets planning applications online 

Return to Newnham Street
Contributed by Survey of London on Feb. 6, 2018

Yoel Sheridan grew up in Goodman's Fields in the 1930s and 40s and has written about the experiences of his family at this time in a book called 'From Here to Obscurity' (Tenterbooks, 2001).

"If one stopped almost any inhabitant of the East End of London and asked for directions on how to find Newnham Street, the chances are that the otherwise knowledgable person would be unlikely to have even heard of the street, let alone point in its direction. Yet, Newnham Street was a real street.

If however, when standing in Aldgate High Street, one asked for the Tenter Streets, then faces would light up. People would become knowledgable and ask, do you mean the Tenter Streets or the Tenter Grounds? This is because the former is to the south, close to the Minories, while the latter is to the north, close to Bell Lane. The former please, because there, in the centre of the North, East, South and West Tenter Streets, Newnham Street could be found. There, Shulem [father of Yoel or Yulus] lived until the German bombers in the second world war totally obliterated the Street from the map. Today, it is no longer a street and its name no longer appears on a modern map of London. In its stead, stands a Catholic School that occupies the whole of what was once the living accommodation of a thriving, industrious, diverse community. Yulus, as an adult, visited the school. One of the senior Nuns asked him whether he had lived in the area. No, said Yulus. No? said the Sister querulously, then what is your interest? I lived on here, said Yulus emphasizing the word on. He then pointed to the very spot where the house of his childhood once stood. It is a pity, said the Sister in her strong Irish accent, that the Jews left this area. They were so clean. It was a pleasure to hear her lyrical voice rising at the end of the last sentence.

The Jewish enclave of Goodman's Fields was socially similar to, if physically different from, other Jewish enclaves in the East End ghetto. The four to five storey tenement buildings in East Tenter Street and Buckle Street were not as high or as formidable as the seven storey Rothschild Buildings in Thrawl Street. Nor were they spread over such a large area as the Brunswick Buildings in Goulston Street and Hughes Mansions in Vallance Road, all to the north of Whitechapel. They did not have the enclosed courtyards of those other 'grander' buildings, which acted as playgrounds for children and meeting places for adults. The surrounding streets were the playgrounds and meeting places. Important facilities that existed in the enclave were utilised by the whole East End community, such as the Workers' Circle building in Alie Street that was both a political and cultural centre. Monickedam's wedding reception hall was also in that street. Camperdown House that housed the headquarters of the Jewish Lads Brigade and the Hutchinson House Youth Club, was located in Half Moon Passage. Leman Street boasted the headquarters of the Cooperative Wholesale Society (CWS), the central Police Station for the area, and, at one time, the Temporary Jewish Refugee Centre that later moved to Mansell Street with a back entrance in West Tenter Street.

[The Newnham Street] house was so much better than the previous overcrowded two room apartment that [Yulus's father, Shulem] had rented in the tenement buildings in Bacon Street, off Brick Lane, where toilet facilitites had to be shared with six other families living on the same floor. Now that he was living in a six roomed house with its own private toilet, he could not imagine how they [a family of nine] managed to live in those terribly cramped conditions...When number ten [Yulus] was due to come on the scene...a move to better housing conditions became inevitable. Now, at least, in Newnham Street, the family could breathe and the girls had the privacy of their own room.

Times had since become harder and [Yulus's father] had agreed with Rivka [his wife] to take in a lodger. They had moved their bedroom downstairs to the back room that had a window that looked out onto the back yard. The room was divided from the front parlour by large wooden double doors that were usually kept closed, as the back room also housed a foot treadle operated Singer's sewing machine...The upper back bedroom was to be converted to accommodate the lodger...The only toilet in the house was situated in the back yard, in a small outhouse. Access to the yard was through a door in the scullery that adjoined the kitchen. Access to the scullery was through the kitchen which was also the main living room where the family would congregate for meals, listen to the newly acquired wireless set, meet, discuss, quarrel, reconcile, laugh and, in the summer months, count the number of flies that had come to a sticky end on the fly paper hanging from the central light fitting...

One of the reasons for furnishing the front parlour so nicely when they came to Newnham Street, was so that suitors for the two girls could be received in style. They could then tell their parents how well they had been treated. Likewise, the eldest son could entertain his potential bride and Rivka and Shulem could entertain the potential in-laws with pride. the front parlour had not been used too many times for these purposes. But Rivka continued to hope.

[On Friday afternoons] Newnham Street was busy preparing for Shabbas. Rivka was not alone in whitening the square area outside the front door. All the pavements had been washed and the white squares outside each household looked like a bouquet waiting to be presented to the Shabbas bride. People were hurrying home in their work clothes. Food had to be prepared before Shabbas as no active cooking could be done on that day...The most popular and traditional recipe was cholent...The larger pots belonging to the larger families were too big to go into the family ovens [on Friday night] and so an arrangement was made with the local Jewish baker for the cholent to be cooked overnight in his oven...On Friday afternoons Yulus and his elder brother would take the family cholent in its two-handled brown enamel pot to the bakers located in St Mark Street next to the Scarborough Arms Pub on the corner of Scarborough Street. Other youngsters from other families would do likewise. The baker would place an identifying mark on the pot with chalk and place it deep into his oven with a long loaf paddle which he also used to remove the pot the following noon when the two boys came to collect it and carry it back home using rags to wrap around the handles for insulation against the heat."

Auntie Rosie & Uncle Harry's wedding thank you card, 1957. Submitted by Cat.
Contributed by Sarah Milne, Survey of London

Entrance to school, looking towards the west
Contributed by Derek Kendall

The speech by Danny McLaughlin, a pupil, to the Cardinal
Contributed by danny

Cardinal Heenan in procession to open the new school in St Mark Street
Contributed by danny

English Martyrs RC Primary School, block plan as built in 1970 (drawing by Helen Jones)
Contributed by Survey of London

Invitation to the opening of English Martyrs' School, 1970
Contributed by danny