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.

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 :


  1. Ruth Saunders

    At last I’ve found something on the web about Bethnal Green I can associate with. All my relations were brought up in either Wilmot Street, Corfield, Finnis Street. I remember visiting my aunt and gran who lived next door to the pub, The Lamb, in Wilmot Street just after the war.

    R Saunders

    • interested

      Thanks Ruth, I’d love to know more about the estate in that era, I’ve been searching for photographs but so far I’ve not turned up much. I suspect The Lamb has been turned into flats now now. Thank you for the comment,

      all the best !

  2. Ruth Saunders

    Last time I travelled up (about a year ago) The Lamb was just an office block. The buildings seemed to be the originals, but with different roofings. Allen and Hanburys site was called Greenways, not pulled down yet. And The Good Shepherd mission was still there.

    • Michael Patton

      I lived at 99 Corfield Street from 1949 until 1960.This block has been demolished. I went to Wilmot Street Primary School and the Good Sheperd on the corner of Wilmot St.The Lamb pub was in full swing in those days and the Lion pub or [Widows] just under the arch was the Kray twins drinking den.You might like to know that during the 50s at the South of Corfield St under the railway arches was a Knackers yard,horses were not killed there but their meat was stored there.As a child I remember the place being alive with rats and blood running under the gate into the street.A 1953 Jubilee party was held for all us kids in what is now gardens at the top of Corfield St.In 1957 my Mum paid 15 shillings a week rent [75p].I don’t suppose I could afford to live there now.

      • Author

        Hi Michael, thanks for your memories of growing up on Corfield Street. Very interesting to hear of the horse meat storage under the railway arches !

        Sorry for the long delay in responding. I’m just reviving this site now and hoping to post some new content. I don’t suppose you have any photographs from that era that you could share do you ?

        all the best

  3. John Paxton

    I was born in Wilmot street in 1944. I remember playing in all the streets previously mentioned. I went to Wilmot Primary School until passing the ‘eleven plus’ exam. We lived in a basement at number 196 Wilmot street. I recall the coal man’s deliveries and Fred the milkman and Copeland’s stationer’s shop on the corner of Ainsley and Wilmot streets. As boys, we would go up onto the rooftops, which were flat then and we were often berated and chased back down by owners of the flats beneath. More memories flood in of the railway junction in Three Colt’s Lane; a barbers shop,run by a chap called Ron; Arnold’s sweet shop, opposite the site office where my Mum would go to pay the rent to a Mr Beard; and an old man who went around the estate with a barrel organ which he would park and play for ages. A sign to us kids of the approach of Christmas was the arrival of the brass band, called the Waites (?) which toured the estate playing carols. I vaguely recall the Coronation Party in the street and the yards of red white and blue bunting.
    Simple days without care…….

    • Author

      Hi John, Thank you for your comments and your detailed memories of living on Wilmot Street. I’ll be updating the site over the next few months so if you have anything else to share do get in touch .. I’d love to include it !

  4. John Mossell

    I lived on Corfield as a child in the 1970s but have had family living there since the 1950s. To confirm there were a total of 43 block on Corfield , 21 blocks that still exist and 23 that were demolished in two sections, one lot demolished in about 1976 and the other part demolished in about 1987/88 prior to the estate being modernised by Barratts.

    • Author

      Thank you John for the details on the blocks on Corfield Street. I’m putting together some new posts, focusing on Corfield Street, I don’t suppose you have any photographs from that era that you would be happy to share ?

  5. John Mossell

    Sorry 22 demolished not 23

  6. Linda Kirrage

    My maternal grandparents lived in finnis street. They had thirteen children and two flats, on the ground floor, to accommodate them all. My mother was born in 1908 in Poplar. I was born in Hitchin Hertfordshire but only because that is were they send pregnant ladies in 1942. We lived in Corfield Street opposite my paternal grandmother. As a child I remember having aunties and uncles scattered all over Corfiled and Finnis Street . In 1949 we were rehomed in Debden Essex. We moved back to Mile End in 1953.

    • Author

      Thank you Linda for your comments and memories of your family living on Finnis and Corfield Streets. If you have any memories of photographs that you would be happy to share please do get in touch as I’d love to include them.

  7. Jo

    I Found this site by chance, but I’m so pleased I did.
    My family the Hobdells lived in several different flats in Corfield, Finnis and Wilmot Streets, from just after the first world war until 1945. When they all.moved to London Fields.
    My Mum was born in Finnis Street and my Uncle in Corfield Street, during the 1920s. When I was a child we would do our shopping at the Roman and often visited friends who still lived in the buildings. I went for a nostalgic visit a few years ago and was shocked at the changes that had taken place. We couldn’t afford to live there now, we’re in Essex now.

    • Author

      Thank you Jo for the memories of your family living in the Waterlow Estate. The Estate does seem to have been through a series of radical changes, I’ve found evidence of changes in 1963 and the major overhaul in 86 but nothing before that date. Do you know if the buildings were in their original Victorian state in the 40s ?

      Many thanks for the comment !

      • Lesley Larkins

        I lived in Corfield Street from 1956 and the layout of the flats had changed from those shown on your archive pages. I could probably provide a rough outline of our flat if it is of interest. Also, by that time the top of the buildings were flat and provided a place for people who did not live on the ground floor (who had direct acccess to the communal yard between the buildings), to dry their washing in the fresh air. In the winter it was great fun to go up there and have a snowball fight across the street with kids on the roof of the opposite building.

        • Author

          Hi Lesley, Anything you can provide would be fabulous thank you. The flats on the East side of Wilmot street still have a flat roof with access for the tenants, but all the others on the estate are now pitched.

          The image of you all having a snowball fight across the street is wonderful.

          Feel free to email anything you can share to and with your permission I’ll include it in my next update.


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