The Waterlow Estate
Comprising Wilmot, Corfield, Ainsley and Finnis Street in Bethnal Green, East London the Waterlow Estate was built by the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company starting in 1869. The Estate was the largest of all the IIDC developments and the majority of it still stands today.
About this site
When I started researching the history of the Waterlow Estate a few years ago I realised that with enough time and digging there’s plenty of information to be found, but rather than just leave this information scattered across the web and gathering dust in various archives I decided to pool everything together and leave it here for others to enjoy
Along with the more factual content I’d really love to bring to life the personal histories of those that have lived in the buildings over the years. As such I’m really keen to hear from past tenants of the Estate, especially if you’re prepared to share your experiences and photographs.
There’s a couple of posts I’m working on .. if you could help me fill in some details I would love to hear from you:
- I’d love to hear stories about The Lamb pub on the corner of Wilmot Street and Three Colts Lane.
- I’ve heard a rumour about a man who lived on Wilmot Street in the 1960s who won the pools. Apparently he paid the rent of everyone nearby, can anyone tell me more about this story ?
- Does anyone know where the Wilmot, Corfield, Ainsley and Finis Street names come from ?
- Does anyone remember Copelands stationers on Ainsley and Wilmot street ?
- Was there a horse knackers yard on Three Colts Lane ?
- I’m putting together a longer series of posts about the streets that were cleared in the 50s and 60s to create Weavers Fields. Did anyone live on those streets that could tell me more about them ?
- What was Ayshford house in Weavers fields ?
Please get in touch via the comments section below with any information or corrections.
Reading this just makes me want to have a huge reunion of the people who live or lived in the waterslow estate area and discuss the history, it would be amazing to hear what it was like before,first hand. I would really be up for it! Im sure others will too, I still visit my old house alot , i love to just walk past by it just for my memorys sake.
Thank you so much for creating this site and adding such wonderful pictures and stories.
I moved in to Wilmot Street about five years ago and have gradually become more and more interested in its history.
I was so amazed to read today that the west side of Corfield Street was demolished and am eager to do some more research.
Thanks again and look forward to finding out more.
Hi Douglas, Glad you like the site. I’ve been looking into the 1960s and 1980s renovations quite a lot recently and have some new images to post when I get some time. I’ve also been researching Weavers Fields and have quite a lot to share there. Please do drop me a line if you find anything interesting that I haven’t covered here !
I have a reply to your questionnaire but foolishly have lost your Web address. Could you please advise.
Hello there, I have just sent you an email .. let me know if you don’t receive it !
Have lost your e-mail address again.I do apologise.I have a couple of small amendments to your draft.
Hey there. Love your site – amazing content. I’m not sure if you’re interested but I recently rediscovered some of the Barratt sales literature from the mid-eighties redevelopment. Let me know if you’d like some scans.
Either way, great stuff. Gareth.
Hi, my name Susan Allen, I lived at 328 Wilmot St from 1958 – 1964, as a young child.
Our flat was above the two shops that fronted the estate opposite Bethnal Green mainline station. My Grandfather had the newsagents , which was under out flat, next door to the Grocer’s. The entrance to our flat was between the two shops.
My Aunt and her family lived in the flat above us at number 330.
She remembers the rent strike, when the flats were taken over and the rents doubled. They planned a march against the rise but the estate was eventually taken over by council and rent was set at a reasonable amount.
She also remembers the week that one of the residents, Charlie Cooper, had a big win on the pools and paid all the resident’s rent for a week, which was quite something at the time!
As our family had the shop, we did know lots of the residents at the time but I was very young and my memories are quite vague.
I do remember the shire horses delivering the beer for the pub next door – and the live singing every night from the Lamb pub. .
I was an apprentice at the LEB, the story I was told a week after Charlie won the Football Pools. I took particular interest in it as my Grand parents lived in a Wilmot Street flat after they married in 1923.
Charlie Cooper lived with his Mother in a flat in Wilmot Street worked for the London Electricity Board (LEB) in Cambridge Heath Road he enjoyed his win around 1963. Approximately £11,000 which was the equivalent of 12 years wages for the average man. Charlie used to mend watches for additional income. After the win, he returned to work on the following Monday morning to hand in his notice along with a brown paper bag full of unrepaired watches and an apology that he wouldn’t be repairing them. It was also confirmed he had paid all the rents of his fellow residents.
Did you find anything out about the origin of the street names?
Hi Chris, Nothing definitive I’m afraid. Based purely on guesswork I think Wilmot Street might come from the builder David Wilmot. You can read about him in the excellent book The Boss of Bethnal Green – http://spitalfieldslife.com/2016/10/09/in-search-of-the-boss-of-bethnal-green/ Purchase the book here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Bethnal-Joseph-Merceron-Godfather-Regency/dp/0957656963
during the 1960’s I worked in London and travelled on the railway line. there was a large tenement building inscribed ‘Waterlow Buildings – homes for 1064? families’. it was an absolutely classic building with balconies and washing lines and always fascinated me. any information on it would be gratefully received.
I don’t have a photograph from the exact view you describe but you would have been travelling along the railway line parallel with Threecolts Lane and looking toward the estate. Facing toward the right in this photograph:
I think the building with this inscription may have been one of the blocks that was demolished in the 70s, However many of the other blocks still stand today.
I have a colour slide, dated 1965, of Waterlow Buildings seen from Bethnal Green Station. It shows the inscription described by Susan Saunders. If it is of interest, and you can give me an email address, I can send you a copy.
You have a very impressive and detailed site.
I have now managed to find a photograph of the inscription. Please see this post – wilmotst.mytimpani.co.uk/508-waterlow-estate-in-1965/
Hi. The inscription that Susan describes was on the dedication stone that I vaguely remember as a child in the 1970s. It was located on the upper stories of the end block of the section of Finnis Street that was demolished in 1980. It can been seen if you look carefully at the aerial view photo that exists. Yes at it peak all the blocks housed over a 1000 flats.
Hi, great website. At Oxford House we’re starting a heritage project so I’d be interested to talk to you. Cheers john
Hi John, Thanks for the comment. That sounds great, I’ll drop you a line at your email address.
Thank you for hosting this site which I have just discovered.
I lived in Wilmot Street from my birth in 1942 until my marriage in 1967.
I would be happy to talk with you about my memories and may be able to answer some questions.
I can be contacted either by phone – xxxxxxxxx or by email.
Hi Peter thanks so much for the comment, I’ll drop you a line via email if that’s ok ?
I was born in 99 Corfield Street in 1952. I went to Stuart Hedlam school and had friends Tommy & Barry Kirk who lived in the Lamb pub in Three Colts Lane. My other mates were Jimmy Chandler, Connie Taylor & Michael Pierce who lived in Ainsly Street. We moved out to Haverhill, Suffolk in 1962.
My in-laws are Finnis and there is a Wilmot Finnis in the family tree. b Deal 1855. No connection to this part of London that I can see but seems an unusual coincidence. Do you know how Finnis Street got its name?
Hi Annette, I don’t know how Finnis Street got it’s name I’m afraid. Most likely a family name of some sort, I’m fairly sure Wilmot Street comes from David Wilmot, you can read about him here: http://spitalfieldslife.com/2016/10/09/in-search-of-the-boss-of-bethnal-green/
You asked about a knackers yard in three colts lane. Well they never killed horses but they stored the meat inside one of the arches at the bottom end of Cornfield Street under the Railway. Opposite Ron’s the barber’s and Vicky’s veg shop.
Thank you Michael!
The picture of Lesley with an ice lolly maybe with her Mum in Three Colts lane.In the background are two men speaking to each other. One looks like a Priest tbut the other older man is the owner of Wasstels fresh fish shop where they are both standing outside. It was lucky not to be bombed as the shops on the corner and most of Seabright Street were. I believe the fish shop was there until around 1960.
I lived in Corfield street
I lived at 215 Wilmot St from about 1971 – 1976
As a child
I played football and learned to ride a bike on the flat roof
I have pics taken on the roof early 70s
We would use the roof to visit neighbours as we were on the top floor
Also around 72 a little kid was run over crossing Wilmot st on the way to the corner shop
That was me
Hi Danny, thanks for the comment. I would LOVE to see and share the photographs if you’re agreeable? .. my email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi, just found this site and was fascinated by the volume of information within. My Great Grandfather Richard Burton (1852 – 1929) lived at 82 Corfield Street, as recorded in the 1881 Census, his occupation was a Wood Turner, and lived with his wife Sarah & 1st son Henry Richard Burton. Not sure when he moved into the street, as by the 1891 Census he had moved to Walthamstow, then back Bethnal Green, to 85 Sommerford St (1901C), and 5 Hague Buildings (1911C). I visited Corfield Street a couple of years ago, hoping to find No. 82, only to be disappointed with that side of the street demolished & rebuilt. However, my walkabout of the area gave me some indication of what it was like.
My parents lived in Finney St and they and their friends started the petition. My mother and father can be seen in the photograph. – happy to share more info if requested
Oh thank you for the info June. Do you mind if I drop you a line via your email ?
What a wonderful research project. Thanks for sharing this. I am happy to tell you that I can add at least some information to your research, especially related to Ayshford House.
I believe it was built by my G G G Grandfather and was part of his factory behind.
Please email me and I will share my own research on area.
My wife has family who lived in Wilmot Street from 1881 to 1911 at various numbers. Does anyone know where number 186 was? Google maps suggests at the site of what is now a school. But the school appears to have been there since at least 1900ish. Surely they wouldn’t have demolished relatively new buildings to build the school?
Hi Paul .. I believe 186 was a lower ground floor flat, three doors back from Bethnal Green Road and on the West side of the street
Many thanks indeed. I didn’t think I could trust Google! I think the school site was purchased by the education authorities around 1873 so am guessing it was part of the development and has ‘always’ been there.
Congratulations on a fantastic interesting, well researched and well presented website.
Thanks Paul for the kind words. I’ve emailed you a screengrab of a map that shows the numbering circa 1940s, which should help your search. Regarding the school, I have seen some maps show a ‘School Board’ on the north west side of the street, but I’ve never been able to untangle which school this could have been, perhaps it relates to the original ownership of this end of the street?. The current school (situated at the South East end) is the only one I know of that was actually built .. I do keep coming across this picture however, but I’ve never found any evidence of where or when it stood – wilmotst.mytimpani.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/s-l1600.jpg
Actually, you prompted me to dig further and I’ve found the issue – https://archive.org/details/gri_33125006202051/page/244/mode/2up
(pictures on the following page)
This is the school which currently stands, so either the design was changed during construction, or the building was subsequently altered.
Thank you for the numbering info.
I note the article says that it is actually under construction so I assume it was built. Comparing old OS maps suggests the footprint of the school changed radically, but I haven’t narrowed this down to a particular date range yet. Maybe it was completely demolished at some stage and a new building erected.
Maps suggest a completely changed layout somewhere around the 1938 – 1948 period.
I have also found the following extract on the BHO website under ‘Bethnal Green: Education’
It clearly says ‘rebuilt’.
‘Wilmot. Opened 1873 as Wilmot St. bd. for 542 B, 472 G, 686 I in bldg. designed by Giles & Gough on site bought from Industrial Dwellings Co. on E. side of street. Damaged by rioting B 1877. (fn. 359) a.a. 1887: 1,426 B, G, I. Alterations 1887, 1901, 1904, 1905. Accn. 1908: 465 B, 456 G, 616 I; a.a. 429 B, 426 G, 454 I. Reorg. 1930 for 352 SG, 406 I; a.a. 1932: 268 SG, 240 I, when rebuilt (fn. 360) I dept. closed 1936. Roll 1944: 398 M & I. (fn. 361) After war reorg. as Wilmot primary for I and Wilmot sec. for SG. Primary sch. amalg. with Stewart Headlam 1955/8. Wilmot sec. closed 1965. (fn. 362)’
Hi, thanks for such a great deep dive into Wilmot Street. I work at Oxford House, just across the park and was trying to see it in the photos,without any luck. Wearing another hat I run Love Bethnal Green,including the website (www.lovebethnalgreen.com) and socials. Be great if we coudl do a feature with you and the blog?