This handsome mid-terrace house lies upon the coveted and historic central section of Ashfield Street in Whitechapel. Immediately between Ford Square and Sidney Square, and therefore in the middle of the Ford Square and Sidney Square Conservation Area, the house is believed to have been built around 1830. Made from red brick and with a wide gabled dormer window positioned in the steeply pitched clay-tiled roof, it is set over four light-filled levels and measures over 2,000 ft internally. The house has four bedrooms and an incredible loft room, bathed in exceptionally good light and was originally designed to accommodate the weavers that lived and worked from here. Recently restored to an exacting standard, the house is a brilliant amalgamation of historical preservation and contemporary design, with excellent ceiling heights and a plethora of traditional detailing.
Setting the Scene
Sidney Square and Ford Square were developed in the 1820s on the site of former fields, which were owned by John Sidney Hawkins (after whom Sidney Square is named). The squares were built for the professional class involved in the incredible growth of the London Docks at the time, with the connecting Ashfield Street built up by 1839. Along with the adjacent Halcrow Street and Sidney Street, and to the rear, Newark Street these four terraces have private gardens facing inward and were built as one ‘lot’ in a unified design and palette of materials, and thought to have been constructed by Thomas and John Goodman builders.
The main red-facing brick façade of the house is punctuated by the fully restored dark-blue painted box sash windows; decorative brick arches and key stones rest above the fenestration . The original front door features fine mouldings and unlacquered brass door furniture with brushed brass Banham security locks. For more information, please see the History section.
The Grand Tour
Entrance is to the private hallway, which has hand-chipped limestone flags underfoot; conveniently, the entire ground floor features underfloor heating, in addition to the burnished cast-iron radiators on all of the upper floors. The entrance hall leads directly to the living room at the very rear of the ground floor and the dining room to the left, forming a wonderful circular plan. The walls throughout are painted in the subtle chalky colours of Farrow & Ball.
The dining room is wonderfully light. Pale oak floorboards extend underfoot into the kitchen, and it has a wonderful vista directly through to the garden beyond. A decorative cast-iron chimneypiece provides a focal point to the room; a simply designed plaster cornice provides further historical detail, both in this room and throughout most principal rooms in the house.
The kitchen is positioned centrally on this floor, thoughtfully connecting living and dining spaces. Here, beautiful handmade panelled cupboards are painted dark blue with brass ironmongery. Carrara marble rests atop the floor cupboards; a double butler sink with an aged brass Ionian crosshead mixer tap is positioned centrally. Appliances are discreetly concealed behind the cupboard doors, with additional space for a range cooker in the open hearth; laundry facilities are cleverly hidden in a bespoke understairs cupboard.
The living room overlooks the garden with trifold panelled half-glazed doors opening to the exterior space. The open-pitched roof allows further light to flood the room, care of an additional large Velux window, and allows for a greater sense of volume to the otherwise cosy room. The room features butt and bead panelling along one wall.
The first and second floors are each home to two bedrooms and their own separate bathrooms, with both floors on mirror plans. All the bedrooms have built-in panelled cupboards, and the principal bedrooms on both floors feature cast-iron chimneypieces and grates and bipartite box sash windows. Bathrooms are finished to an exceptional standard and feature traditionally designed Lefroy Brooks brass and sanitary ware, honed dark slate tiles underfoot and Edwardian tiles in the shower enclosures. Butt and bead panelling used sparingly adds additional character to the rooms, while the bathroom on the second floor has a glorious cast-iron roll-top clawfoot bath.
At the apex of the house lies, perhaps, the most impressive room. Spanning the entire top floor, it has wide-set windows at both aspects and further skylights set into the roof’s open pitch. Rafters have been left exposed and painted a pale stone colour to complement the butt and bead panelled roof structure. This floor was originally the workroom of the fabric weavers that lived here, where a particularly excellent light was required for their endeavours. It now makes for a capacious additional living area, or possibly, a grand main bedroom.
The Great Outdoors
Accessed through trifold panelled half-glazed doors from the living room, the courtyard garden is wonderfully private. York stone forms a charming terrace, which acts as an additional living space in warmer months.
Out and About
Whitechapel is an incredibly vibrant and centrally located part of east London. A short walk or cycle from both the River Thames and the City, the area offers excellent local amenities. The historic buildings on nearby Whitechapel Road have been extensively and sensitively restored in recent years in consultation with Historic England, presenting a multifarious union of the finest late 19th-century commercial architecture. The original Royal London Hospital building and its façade are currently being restored for use as the Tower Hamlets new Town Hall. They will complete the full architectural restoration of the area.
The famed Punjabi restaurant Tayyabs is a short walk away, as is the much-loved bakery Rinkoffs and several excellent coffee shops, including Aldgate Coffee House. The eclectic George Tavern is recommended for drinks and occasional music events on Jubilee Street, while the Whitechapel Gallery and independent Genesis cinema provide cultural distractions. Nearby Spitalfields and Shoreditch offer further opportunities for dining, entertainment and shopping, with restaurants including Ottolenghi, Cecconi’s and St. John Bread & Wine. Spitalfields Market and the surrounding streets now offer shopping opportunities comparable to the West End.
Transport links are excellent; Whitechapel underground station runs Circle and Hammersmith & City Line services, as well as providing access to the East London branch of the Overground. The Elizabeth Line has recently opened and operates from Whitechapel underground station, from which trains run to Paddington station in 14 minutes and from later in 2022, Heathrow Airport in 38 minutes.
Council Tax Band: F
Until the beginning of the 19th century, most of the East End was arable land and nurseries. Owned by John Sidney Hawkins, Sidney Square and Ford Square were developed in the 1820s on the site of the former fields, with Ashfield Street connecting the two. Ashfield Street was also variously called Henry Street and then Rutland Street during the 19th century, while Ford Square was initially called Bedford Square.
This was, in part, due to the last flourish of neighbouring Spitalfields’s silk industry, which took place in the early 18th century and was associated with a new distinct change in housing. Unlike weaver’s houses of the previous years, their new dwellings in the East End were entirely made of brick and had excellent natural light.
An area steeped in history, it is perhaps best known for the siege of the adjacent Sidney Street in 1911. This was a gunfight between two Latvian revolutionaries and the army, led by a young Winston Churchill, who was Home Secretary at the time.
Interested? Let’s talk
- Home Comforts: Arthur Parkinson on all things fair and fowlLeisure
- Inspiration of the Week: histories ancient and modern mingle in a Gloucestershire treasureHomes
- Built to Last: Inigo’s founders become honorary fellows of the RIBA
- A Room (or Two) of One’s Own: Buchanan Studio’s boundary-pushing ablution solutionsInteriors
- A Maker’s Story: Margit Wittig on playing with patina – and finding the perfect amount of imperfection