Waterlow Estate History

Documenting the history of the Waterlow Estate in Bethnal Green, East London. Comprising Wilmot, Corfield, Ainsley and Finnis Street the Waterlow Estate was built by the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company starting in 1869.

Month: August 2010

More from the Archives

Here’s some pages from the Register of Estates :

Looking at the plans below of the Estate as it stood in 1870 it seems that there were once blocks on either side of Corfield Street, where the Barrett style houses and Ainsley Gardens are now situated.

A close up of the signed and dated text :

There’s a page missing here, I wonder if that had featured the layout of the blocks on Corfield Street ? :

I think this is the layout of the blocks on the West side of Wilmot Street :

And this the plans for the blocks on the East :

Pictures from the Archives

As mentioned in another post, I visited the Metropolitan Archive a little while ago and managed to get a look at two IIDC documents. There was a book of land valuations and another of plans for various blocks around London. Both books seemed to be very old or at least featured original plans and documents that were very old (the drawings are dated 1870).

Firstly here’s some images from the valuation book :



The Improved Industrial Dwelling Company

There were a number of philanthropic organisations coming into being from 1860 onwards, set up in reaction to the squalid conditions many of the working classes experienced in areas such as Bethnal Green’s notorious Jago (now the Boundary Estate).

Sir Sydney Waterlow proclaimed of his Improved Industrial Dwelling Company that

“We build for the future and look forward to the time when no family need be compelled to live in a single room. It is impossible that either sanitary or moral conditions can ever be satisfied under such a system. No proper feeling of decency or self-respect can be cultivated in families living in a single room”.

The Improved Industrial Dwellings Company started in 1863 by constructing the Langbourn Buildings in Mark Street, Finsbury (now demolished). Other than the Waterlow Estate other notable developments include the Leopold Buildings on the corner of Columbia and Hackney Road and Clarendon Flats in Mayfair. The company lasted until the 1960s by which point they owned around 6000 tenements in and around London.

The IIDC operated on a freemarket basis, although the profits were limited to 5%, the rest of the money being reinvesting into further properties and developments. Waterlow also encouraged investment from others, unlike Peabody who seemed to fashion a legacy for himself as much as he wanted to help the poor.

Links about the IIDC :
Workhouses – A site about the various Victorian philanthropic organisations.
Five per Cent Philanthropy by John Nelson Tarn

The Waterlow Estate

The Waterlow Estate is the collective name for the Victorian blocks of flats lining Wilmot, Ainsley and Corfield Streets in Bethnal Green, London. It was constructed from 1869 to 1890 by Sir Sydney Waterlow’s Improved Industrial Dwellings Company. The two blocks nearest Bethnal Green Rd were built first, they would have been surrounded by the old weavers cottages which were eventually cleared as the road layout was progressively altered.

This quote gives a pretty clear picture of the order in which the Estate was constructed :

“The first blocks, in the north, opened in 1869. Homes for 72 families had been completed by 1871 and for another 130 by 1873 and 90 by 1875. The School Board for London purchased ½ a. between Wilmot and Finnis streets in 1873 and work began on 21 blocks (for 210 families) in the rest of Finnis Street in 1875 and on 12 blocks for 295 families in Corfield Road in 1878. The estate, later called Waterlow, complete by 1890 and the largest built by the company, was grim and canyon-like in appearance.”

Source : A History of the County of Middlesex by T.F.T. Baker

The photograph below is taken from what is now Finnis street (then Pettits Walk) looking northwest towards Bethnal Green Rd.

Looking at the scaffolding I’m assuming it was taken during the construction of the first two blocks. It’s interesting to see that the blocks weren’t quite the shape they are now, with the top floor being set back a little.

I visited the Metropolitan Archive recently and found a number of original IIDC documents. I’ll post a few more of them in the future but this plan shows the layout of the estate on the completion of the first blocks.

Extra bits,
A chapter about the establishment and layout of Bethnal Green Streets

Maps showing the development of the nearby road layout

1853

1882

1952