Residents First

Tower Hamlets People Network


Local residents, schools, community groups, amenity societies and businesses working with British Waterways, Tower Hamlets Council and others for the protection and beneficial use of the six mile waterway ‘ring’, its historic buildings, structures and habitats.


As fully detailed in Newsletter No. 8, the Council is consulting on its proposed new Limehouse Cut Conservation Area. This supplement contains Tom Ridge’s email letter on the draft character appraisal and management guidelines. Please read the email letter (in conjunction with the draft document) and write or email by 29 May should you wish to support Tom Ridge’s formal requests to:

  • transfer the former Spratt’s Biscuit Works and Violet Road Bridge from the Langdon Park Conservation Area to the new Limehouse Cut Conservation Area
  • add the former Spratt’s Biscuit Works and six other buildings in the new Limehouse Cut Conservation Area to the Council’s local list and include them as locally listed buildings in the final document to be approved by Cabinet.

Also, please support or comment on the urgent need for a design code for sites adjacent to the waterspaces and the boundaries of the conservation area. And support or comment on some or all of Tom Ridge’s amendments to the draft character appraisal and management guidelines.

Download the Draft Character Appraisal and Management Guidelines here (PDF)
Download the Limehouse Cut Conservation Area Map here (PDF)
Limehouse Cut Conservation Area Designation Consultation on LBTH website


Vicki Lambert
Development Design and Conservation Officer
Mulberry Place (AH)
PO Box 55739
5 Clove Crescent
London E14 2BY
[email protected]
10 May 2011

Dear Vicki,


I am writing in support of the proposed new conservation area and to welcome the improved and extended character appraisal. Also to formally request that the former Spratt’s Biscuit Works and Violet Road Bridge are transferred from the Langdon Park Conservation Area to the new Limehouse Cut Conservation Area. Although included in a recent extension to the Langdon Park Conservation Area, the works and the bridge are separated from the latter by a railway embankment. Furthermore, the works was supplied mainly by barge, and the canalside elevation still bears evidence of the loading doorways and three examples of the company name.

And to formally request that the former Spratt’s Biscuit Works and the following buildings are locally listed, and appear as such in the final document to be approved by Cabinet:

  • former mid-1930s bonded warehouse at 24 Gillender Street
  • former 1880-81 still house at 23 Gillender Street
  • former c.1865 furniture factories, Dod Street (Towpath House and Printer’s Gate)
  • former 1872 provision warehouse, Dod Street (The Sail Loft)
  • former c. 1892 provision warehouse, Dod Street (The Spice Store)

As you know, PPS5 sets out a presumption in favour of the conservation of designated heritage assets. In this respect, I note that locally listed buildings in the Elder Street Conservation Area are considered to be designated heritage assets and are to be retained and refurbished. It seems to me only right and proper that exceptionally rare and important surviving buildings in the proposed Limehouse Cut Conservation Area should also be locally listed and protected as designated heritage assets.

The four buildings in Dod Street are described in the character appraisal and should more information be required for local listing, it may be found in my January 2009 report. The warehouse at 24 Gillender Street is fully described in the character appraisal; and there is plenty of information about Spratt’s at the Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives. However, the situation at 23 Gillender Street has been complicated by the 1994 English Heritage delisting of the “four-storey” building, in the mistaken belief that it was a boiler house.

As Malcolm Tucker states in his 12 April 2010 letter, only the two-storey parts are still listed. My research indicates that the “four-storey” building was built by a local builder as a new still house for the Four Mills Distillery, together with adjacent two-storey spirit store and two-storey bonded warehouse. Until its adaptation as a warehouse, the “four-storey” building was a windowless building providing a three-storey-high hall for distilling apparatus, heated by steam for the production of raw alcohol from fermented malt. The steam was raised in a single-storey boiler house with three boilers (demolished) served by a 140ft hexagonal chimney shaft (truncated). Although floors have been inserted in the three-storey-high hall and window openings inserted in the formerly blind tall recessed bays, this remarkable building is one of the few surviving representatives of the formerly important London distillery industry. Its national importance is enhanced by the complete survival of its adjacent two-storey spirit store and the partial survival of its two-storey bonded warehouse. As English Heritage is unlikely to be persuaded to reverse the 1994 delisting, I sincerely hope the Council will add the former still house to its local list, together with the other five named buildings.

As designated heritage assets, the former still house (with spirit store and bonded warehouse walls) and the former warehouse at 24 Gillender Street are more likely to be sensitively adapted for reuse. Especially now that such an excellent development is proposed for Sun Wharf (site currently occupied by three single-storey warehouses on the peninsula between the River Lea and Bow Creek).

I cannot end this section of my letter without reference to the totally disrespectful development right next to the listed former Bromley Public Library at 45 Gillender Street. Not only does it seriously harm the setting of the listed building but it harmed the setting of the original Limehouse Cut Conservation Area and will harm the setting of its proposed replacement. Clearly, your planning colleagues are going to need far more guidance than the fine words contained in the summary on page 19. In this respect, I am disappointed to see that the preparation of “a design code for sites adjacent to this waterspace” is still no more than a suggested priority for action (page 31). Given that the appraisal acknowledges past failures (pages 5 and 17), it is imperative that, in addition to the fine words in the summary, there is a clear statement on the necessity for all new developments in and adjoining the boundaries of the conservation area to fully respect the setting of the landsides as well as the watersides of the proposed Limehouse Cut Conservation Area. In this respect, I for one would ask that the preparation of a design code for sites adjacent to the waterspaces and the boundaries of the conservation area is made the number one priority for action, together with “identifying opportunity sites within and adjacent to the Conservation Area (page 26). On a more positive note, may I say how pleased I am that page 26 also includes reference to “a two-way passenger boat service” and the need to replace the “diagrammatic maps” provided by British Waterways.

I end my letter with the following amendments to the draft document.

  • page 6 line 1: change “Bow Locks to “Bromley Lock”
  • page 10 lines 23 and 24: to read “Containerspace Ltd (Nicholas Lacey and Partners)”
  • page 11 line 11: to read “John Currie and Co’s”
  • page 11 line 13: please insert after Bow Creek, “The tall building was the still house where pure alcohol or spirit was distilled. The adjacent two-storey building was the spirit store and the breached front wall is all that survives of the bonded warehouse.”

N.B. The twin-roofed former still house is mentioned on page 18

  • page 11 lines 17 and 18: move c.1930 to between “built” and “by”
  • page 12 Barchester Street change to 83 Barchester Street
  • page 12 line 7: delete “and was intended” and after joinery works, insert “but by 1931 was being used for the storage and packing of christmas crackers”.
  • page 12 line 10: delete “slightly later 1960’s building” and insert large c. 1956 extension”
  • page 12 line 13: delete “The style of this building is”
  • page 12 lines 14 and 15: move the rest of the sentence, preceded by “; and is” to page 13 line 5
  • page 13 line 7: insert after Violet Road Bridge “(original 1890 brick piers with 1971 box girders)”
  • page 13 lines 9-11: delete “whilst … Conservation Area” in line with transfer request at the start of my letter
  • page 13 line 16: after “c 1865” insert “by Charles Dunk of Burdett Road”
  • page 13 line 21: delete “are a rare survival of buildings built for that purpose” and insert “are the only surviving former large nineteenth century furniture factories in Tower Hamlets”.

N.B. all the other representatives are small workshops

  • page 13 line 23: insert “built” between “(1872)” and “by”
  • page 14 line 12: change “plan” to “plant”
  • page 14 line 15: insert “and appearance” between “character” and “of the”
  • page 14 line 22: delete “horse ramps”
  • page 14 line 26: delete “known as Bow Locks” and insert “Bromley Lock and the western of the two Bow Locks”.
  • Page 15 line 2: after “Mills” please insert “There were old tide mills on the peninsula between the River Lea and Bow Creek” followed by the first sentence from paragraph 2.
  • page 15 line 5: change “isthmus” to “embankment”

N.B. The “southern end of the River Lea” was either the main channel of the River Lea or one of its many braided channels. In either case, it probably flowed more or less alongside and at the same slightly falling height above sea level as Bow Creek, joining it in the vicinity of the bay downstream from the peninsula between the River Lea and Bow Creek. It is more than likely that by the thirteenth century the narrow spit of land between the western and eastern channels had been artificially raised or embanked, and the mouth of the western channel had been dammed to form a mill pond or head for the tide mills on the dam.

  • page 15 line 6: change “store” to “stone”
  • page 15 line 8: insert “probably” between “was” and “built”
  • page 15 line 10: change “drain” to “dam”
  • page 15 line 15: add after “Limehouse Cut” “and is included in the St Anne’s Church Conservation Area. One of the youngest is Poplar Borough Council’s 1929 Bow Common Bridge, known locally as Stinkhouse Bridge”
  • page 17 lines 17 and 18: change “a narrow peninsula bridge by Bow Locks” to “the peninsula between the River Lea and Bow Creek”
  • page 17 line 18: change “this space” to “the open space on the peninsula”
  • page 17 line 22: change “2004” to “2003”
  • page 17 line 23: change “this peninsula of land” to “the peninsula”
  • page 17 line 24: delete “and a characterful Victorian gothic building” and insert “a disused 1908 single-storey engine house, two single-storey warehouses on the site of the Four Mills, and a third towards Gillender Street.”
  • page 23 Locally Listed Buildings: 21 Gillender Street as well as 22 Gillender Street, making up the pair of semi-detached cottages known as Emu Cottages
  • page 28 line 11: please insert “and locally listed buildings” between “buildings” and “make”; also insert “and appearance” between “character” and “of”
  • page 30 under following organisations: please add “& Archives” to “Tower Hamlets Local History Library”; the direct telephone number is 020 7364 1290, email address is [email protected], and webaddress is
  • page 31 Listed Buildings at Risk: as the “Aplins Spirit and Liqueur Warehouse” name runs across the front elevations of the two-storey and four-storey buildings and it appears that only the two-storey part is still listed, may I suggest that the Aplins name is deleted. Instead, insert “two-storey former spirit store and part front wall of two-storey former bonded warehouse”
  • page 31 Any other threats to the Conservation Area

As well as the threatened listed two-storey buildings at 23 Gillender Street, there is also the threatened unlisted “four-storey” building. Hopefully, this will be locally listed and included in the final documents list of Locally Listed Buildings.

  • page 31 under Priorities for Action: please move and amend no. 3 and move to no.1; delete “at the junction of the Limehouse Cut and the River Lea” from existing no. 1 and insert “on the peninsula between the River Lea and Bow Creek”

Finally, to end with reference to the section on opportunities and potential for enhancement. My view is that ‘landmarks’ are not appropriate nor needed anywhere in the proposed conservation area. The straight and hard-edged urban canal in its dramatic cutting, and the tidal Bow Creek (in and beyond the NE end of the conservation area) already have appropriate landmarks in the shape of their bridges, locks, historic buildings, and the one or two reasonably well-designed recent developments along the canal. However well-designed, ‘landmarks’ would in fact detract from the special character which the conservation area is intended to protect.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Ridge


May 10th, 2011

Posted In: Uncategorized

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