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.

Wilmot Street in 1938

I recently found this photograph of A.R.P. (Air Raid Protection) parading along Wilmot Street in 1938. There’s an interesting brick structure on the west side of the road, it seems to be about 6 feet tall. I’ve no idea what it is and it’s no longer present on the street. If anyone can shed any light on this I’d appreciate the help !

UPDATE: I’ve had some suggestions that this was might have been a communal air raid shelter. Interestingly it seems that a high explosive bomb fell very near this spot on Wilmot Street at some time between October 1940 and June 1941 (link). This bomb could be related to this event referenced by the ARP WW2 Twitter project:

There is also mention of an air raid shelter near Wilmot Street in this book about the Kray Twins (Reggie Kray’s East End Stories: The lost memoirs of the gangland legend).

The structure does look similar to this communal shelter:

If you can help solve this mystery then please leave a comment !

Here’s a photograph from today from roughly the same area (although a little further north).



  1. B.Catt

    A bomb did fall in Wilmot Street and although I was evacuated at the time, my mother told me about it.The bomb landed in the back yard and went under my parents bedroom at number 22 .Fortunately, it didn’t explode. After this everybody had to leave .After a few days and before the Bomb Disposable people arrived my mother went back in she said ” to get the insurance books”. The air raid warden saw her and she got a severe ticking off ” Don’t you know that walking on that floor could have set that bomb off”.

  2. Craig Thomson

    My mum, Jean Wilson was born in 1932 in Corfield Street and lived in Wilmot Street during the war. I hope to add some of her memories to this site in due course. In the meantime, I think I can help with the photo. It was a design of communal shelter for the local residents but wasn’t too popular and was nicknamed the jam-sandwich by rescue workers due to the propensity for the concrete slab roof to collapse on the shelterers when a near-by bomb explosion caused an over-pressure which resulted in the walls falling outwards. After a few examples of this, local residents took to the Underground even though the Government discouraged it at first for fear of Trogladytic communities! My mum narrowly missed being a victim of the Bethnal Green Tube Disaster and my Grandfather helped with the extrication of the bodies of that tragedy.

    • Sydney

      Thank you Craig for shedding light onto the shelter (along with it’s grim nickname). Do drop me a line via the comments form as I’d love to feature your memories of the estate on the site.

    • Rea

      Was your mum originally a Nicholls?

  3. Rea

    Does anybody know if no 10 is in this photo? my great greath grandparents lived at no 10 Wilmot House , Mansford Street which may be error and actually be Wilmot Street?

    William Nicholls and Charlotte nee Beale. Children William, Elsie, Walter, Gladys, Victor, Bert, Marie and Reginald (my great grandfather).

    Gladys Married a man with surname Machin and Victor had a daughter called Jean.

    Reginald had 1 son, David Nicholls, my grandfather. Reg died in 1946. Was a Soldier

    • Sydney

      I believe number 10 is in this picture yes. It’s taken towards the South end of the street facing North West .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *