Goodman's Fields (1)
history of the area ~ Theatres ~ Jewish influences ~ Tenter Streets ~ Alie Street

see also St Mark Whitechapel
Goodmans' Fields (2) for the area around Prescot and Leman Streets,
Goodman's Fields (3) for the Mansell Street area. Right is an aerial view of the whole area.

A House of Minoresses [whence the street name 'Minories'] or Abbey of St Clare was established in Aldgate in 1293, by Edward I's brother Edmund, Duke of Lancaster and his French wife Blanche of Navarre. They were Franciscan Poor Clares and although they lived in poverty the King and/or Pope granted them freedom from taxation and tithes, episcopal control and prosecution under the law except for treason or felony touching our crown. When Edmund died in 1296 his heart was buried under the high altar, and many significant medieval figures, particularly women, were buried within the convent walls, including in 1360 Elizabeth de Burgh, Countess of Clare and founder of Clare College Cambridge in 1360, and Anne Mowbray, Duchess of York and wife of the younger prince murdered in the Tower in 1481 (her coffin was discovered in 1964 and transferred to Westminster Abbey). The House continued to attract the widows and daughters of the wealthy, and gradually increased its holdings of land, rents and tenements.

In 1515, 27 of the nuns died of infection, and shortly after the outbreak of plague the convent buildings were destroyed by fire. Rebuilding was aided by contributions from the mayor, aldermen, and citizens of London to the sum of 200 marks but, at the special request of Cardinal Wolsey to the Court of Common Council, it was decided in 1520 to give 100 marks more to complete the building. The king donated £200. After the Dissolution, the nunnery was surrendered to Henry VIII by the last abbess, Dame Elizabeth Salvage, in 1539, who was subsequently granted a pension of £40, and the nunnery became the residence of John Clark, Bishop of Bath and Wells, Henry VIII’s ambassador to the Duke of Cleve [left is a drawing of the ruined abbey in 1797].

Goodman's Fields

The convent ran a farm in the area, which in time was tenanted, the first recorded tenant being one Trolop or Trollope, who sold it to Roland Goodman, giving the area its name. John Stow, whose Survey of London was published in 1598, reported that Near adjoining to this abbey, on the south side thereof, was sometime a farm belonging to the said nunnery; at the which farm I myself in my youth have fetched many a halfpenny worth of milk, and never had less than three ale pints for a halfpenny in the summer, nor less than one ale quart for a halfpenny in the winter, always hot from the kine, as the same was milked and strained. One Trolop, and afterwards Goodman, were farmers there, and had thirty or forty kine to the pail. Goodman’s son being heir to his father’s purchase, let out the ground first for the grazing of horses, and then for garden-plots, and lived like a gentleman thereby.

From the 16th century, the open ground was divided into garden plots. It was bought by Sir John Leman, Lord Mayor of London, whose great-nephew William Leman laid out four streets, named after relatives - Mansell, Prescot, Ayliff and Leman. John Strype in 1717 described them as fair streets of good brick houses, but by the end of the century most were replaced by Richard Leman and his builder Edward Hawkins: the area remained fashionable, until sugar blowing, and then warehouses, encroached. Left is Roque's map of 1746, and right an 1814 map of part of the estate sold after the death of City magnate William Strode (far right: Hogarth's 1730s picture of the family is in the Tate - details here.)

Dick Turpin 
By the 18th century the area had acquired a reputation for wild behaviour. John Walsh's collection of dance tunes, published in the 1730s, includes a 'Goodman's Fields Hornpipe' [left].

In 1737 there was a shoot-out in Goodman's Fields involving the highwaymen Dick Turpin and 'Captain' Tom King. Turpin had recklessly stolen a Mr Major's horse in Epping, renaming him 'Black Bess', and hiding him in stables at the Red Lion inn in Whitechapel. Constables tracked down the horse, and when King came to collect it, with Turpin in wait nearby, a gun battle ensued. In the confusion Turpin shot King, who as he lay dying revealed the location of their hideout. Turpin escaped, but was hanged two years later in York for sheep-stealing. Legends about him abounded - see Harrison Ainsworth's romance Rookwood (1834).


The first Goodman's Fields Theatre  - and the first theatre outside the West End, and beyond the jurisdiction of the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London - was opened by Thomas Odell under Letters Patent (which gave a certain authority), in a converted shop in Ayliffe [now Alie] Street in 1727. The opening play was George Farquhar’s Restoration comedy The Recruiting Officer, and in 1730 Henry Fielding's The Temple Beau was premiered.

But there were protests. A 'general meeting' in 1729 in the Hoop and Grapes alleged that being so near several publick Offices, and the Thames, where so much Business is negotiated, and carried on for the support of Trade and Navigation, will draw away Tradesmen's servants and others from their lawful Calling, and corrupt their Manners, and also occasion great numbers of loose, idle and disorderly Persons, as Street-Robbers and Common Night-Walkers, so to infest the streets, that it will be very dangerous for His Majesty's subjects to pass the same. Arthur Bedford, chaplain of Hoxton Hospital and Sunday afternoon preacher at St Botolph Aldgate, inveighed against the project from the pulpit. He cited a line from the play Gibraltar: 'Whores are dog-cheap here in London. For a man may slip into the play-house Passage, and pick up half-a-dozen for half-a-crown'. Odell was forced out, and handed over management to the audacious Henry Giffard.

Sir John Hawkins commented, around this time, What was apprehended from the advertisement of plays to be exhibited in that quarter of the town, soon followed: the adjacent houses became taverns in name, but in truth were houses of lewd resort; and the former occupiers of them, useful manufacturers and industrious artificers, were driven to seek elsewhere for residence.

In 1736 they put on the political satire A Vision of the Golden Rump (possibly also by Fielding), critical of Robert Walpole and the Whig government. This triggered the Licensing Act of 1737, which notoriously established censorship of public performances, banning any play that criticised the government or the Crown. The theatre was forced to close. Giffard rented Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre for a time but managed, through skilful political machinations, to reopen Goodman's Fields in 1740. The Winter's Tale was produced there in 1741 for the first time in over a century.

The same year the actor-manager David Garrick made his successful début as Richard III [playbill left, plus William Hogarth's 1745 picture of him in this rôle]. As Benjamin Victor wrote, Coaches and chariots with coronets soon surrounded that remote playhouse (History of the Theatres of London and Dublin 1761). The final production,The Beggar's Opera [right], was in 1742. Four years later it was pulled down; a further building on the site briefly showed other forms of entertainment, but was converted into a warehouse and burned down in 1809.
 [See Frederick T. Wood, 'Goodman’s Fields Theatre' in The Modern Language Review, Vol. 25, No. 4 (Oct. 1930), pp. 443-456, and Watson Nicholson, The Struggle for a Free Stage in London (1966) chapter 2].

A local businessman/playwright who crossed swords with Garrick - though to his credit later secretly championed him in a conflict with Kenrick - was Joseph Reed (1723-87). Born in Stockton-on-Tees, where his father was a rope-maker, he continued this trade when he settled in Sun Tavern Fields in 1757. It funded his literary activities, which began with a 'mock tragedy' of 1758, Madrigal and Trulletta [right], performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden 'under the direction of Mr Cibber', which occasioned a riposte to the criticism of Tobias Smollett,  A Sop in the Pan for a physical critick, in a letter to Dr. Sm*ll*t, by a Halter-maker. This was followed by The Register Office in 1761. His 1767 version of Dido was the cause of his clash with Garrick: it played for three nights only, and was only later published. More successful was his comic opera version of Tom Jones two years later, also performed at the Theatre Royal. He also published The Tradesman's Companion, or Tables of Avordupois Weight, a treatise on the monopoly of hemp, and a humorous account of his own life. He was buried at Bunhill Fields cemetery.

Beazley, in his 1703 Historical Account of the London Theatres, mentions a New Wells Theatre in the passage betwixt Prescot Street & Chambers Street - at the bottom of Leman Street, giving Wells Yard its name - but there are no references to plays there in the papers of the period. According to the Universal Spectator (12 April 1732) the area was formerly inhabited by Silk-Throwsters, Riband-weavers, etc, who employed the industrious poor; immediately upon setting up this Playhouse, the rents were raised, and there is nowe a Bunch of Grapes hanging at almost every door, besides an adjacent banjio or two. It was funded by subscribers, and designed by Edward Shepherd (who also designed the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden). It seems to have re-opened (perhaps rebuilt) on 2 October 1732 with a performance of Henry IV Part I. Peter Prelleur (c1705-41), also the organist of Christ Church Spitalfields from 1735, from a Huguenot family) wrote music for this theatre, publishing the music for a burletta Baucis and Philemon and other stage works; he is mainly remembered for The Modern Musick Master (1731) - instructions on singing and performing various instruments, with a brief history of music and a dictionary of terms. From around 1738 other entertainments were offered; for example,
At the New Wells, the bottom of Lemon-street [sic], Goodman's fields, this evening will be perform'd several new exercises of rope-dancing, tumbling, vaulting, and equilibres [= balancing acts]. Rope-dancing by Mons. Magito, Mons. Janno; and Madem. de Lisle will perform several equilibres on the slack rope. And variety of tumbling by the celebrated Mr. Towers, the English tumbler, Mons. Guitat, Mons. Janno, and Mr. Hough. Singing my Miss Karver, and dancing (both serious and comic) by Mr. Carney, Mr. Shawford, Madem. Renos, Madem. Duval, and Mrs. Hough. With several new equilibres by the famous Little Russia Boy, who performs several balances upon the top of a ladder eight foot high; and then comes down, head foremost, through the rounds of the ladder; he also performs all the balances on the chairs, and several others never yet perform'd, which no one can do in England but himself. To which will be added, a great scene after the manner of the Ridotto al' Fresco. The whole to conclude wih a grand represenation of Water Works, as in the Doge's Gardens at Venice. The scenes, cloaths, and musick, all new. The scenes painted by Mons. Deroto. To begin every evening exactly at half an hour after five.

In 1744 it was one of four theatres (together two gaming houses in Mayfair) presented before the Grand Jury of Middlesex as places kept apart for the encouragement of luxury, extravagance, idleness, and other wicked illegal purposes. [See the Gentleman's Magazine of 1813 for a retrospect of this theatre.]

There were other theatres in the area in the 19th century: the Royalty Theatre in Well Street, and Wilton's Music Hall in Grace's Alley, and the Garrick in Leman Street.

Jewish influences, past and present
John Strype, whose 1720 Survey of London updated Stow, describes the area as chiefly inhabited by thriving Jews. From 1748 there was a Portuguese Jews hospital in Leman Street - it moved to Mile End Old Town in 1792.

According to tradition (the details are challenged) the celebrated tenor John Braham - for whom Braham Street was named in 1922 - was born in the 1770s in Leman Street, as Johan Abraham, son of a German maker of hair-rollers. Orphaned as a child, he was taken up by Leoni, and before his voice broke sang as Cupid at the Royalty Theatre, Wellclose Square. His career lasted over sixty years; his Jewishness, and also a marital scandal, loom large in contemporary accounts [right: painting by John Opie RA].

Joseph Nightingale's London and Middlesex (1815) shows that the Jewish (mainly Sephardi) influx had continued: A little to the east of the Minories are Goodman's Fields, consisting of several handsome broad streets, the houses being large and convenient, with garden ground behind. Mansel, Prescot, Leman, and other considerable streets here, are mostly inhahited by rich Jews.

In 1838 St Mark's Church was built in the centre of this area, with St Mark's Street running from Great Alie Street to Prescot Street; see here for an account of its engagement with the local Jewish population.

But while the area remained Jewish (see here for more details), in the coming decades it descended into extreme poverty, with ten or a dozen families sharing each house, and various welfare agencies were set up in the neighbourhood. In 1831 the Jews' Orphan Asylum, for boys and girls, had been established after the death of Noah Assenheim and his wife, who had left their eight children in the care of Isaac Valentine, a humble purveyor of cucumbers and olives. A benefit concert for the children was held at the Surrey Theatre and a house in Leman Street was obtained; in 1838, it had ten male and ten female pupils. in 1846, a home for 40 orphans was built in North Tenter Street (here are the residents in the 1851 census), and was later enlarged to accommodate 61 children, whom it maintained, clothed, educated and apprenticed. By 1852 it had maintained 83 children, but current numbers were down to 17; it had £6,677 invested, which provided half its annual running costs of £600. [In 1877 it left the area having merged with the Jews' Hospital (Neve Tzedek), which had moved from Mile End to a green-field site in Norwood; after various expansions and name changes it became the Norwood Home for Jewish children in 1956 - here are some residents' memories - and is now simply Norwood, a trust providing specialist Jewish care. See here for another Jewish care institution which originated in the parish.]

On 24 April 1889 The Palace Journal reported:  
.....We make a small excursion into Mansell Street, which is quiet. All about here, and in Great Ailie [sic] Street, Tenter Street, and their vicinities, the houses are old, large, of the very shabbiest-genteel aspect, and with a great appearance of being snobbishly ashamed of the odd trades to which many of their rooms are devoted. Shirt-making in buried basements, packing-case, or, perhaps, cardboard box-making, on the ground-floor; and glimpses of very dirty bald heads, bending over cobbling, or the sorting of "old clo'," through the cracked and rag-stuffed upper windows. Jewish names - Isaacs, Levy, Israel, Jacobs, Rubinsky, Moses, Aaron - wherever names appear, and frequent inscriptions in the homologous letters of Hebrew. Many of these inscriptions are on the windows of eating-houses, whose interior mysteries are hidden by muslin curtains; and we occasionally find a shop full of Hebrew books, and showing in its window remarkable little nick-nacks appertaining to synagogue worship, amid plaited tapers of various colours.

David Bomberg
The artist David Garshen Bomberg (1890-1957), a member of the group of local Jewish artists and writers which later came to be known as the 'Whitechapel Boys' (Isaac Rosenberg and Mark Gertler were two other members), made this drawing [left] in chalk on paper of his sister Raie (1897- c1921), according to their younger sister in about 1910 when he was still living at the family home at 20 Tenter Buildings, St Mark's Street.
Bomberg was was born in Birmingham, the son of Abraham, a Polish leather-worker; they moved to the East End in 1885 (where he attended Castle Street School, unlike his siblings who went to the Jewish Free School), which opened for him the world of Jewish theatre and culture which inspired much of his early art. His mother Rebecca died in 1912 at the age of 48, when he was studying at the Slade; she had supported his career, including helping him set up a studio next door, and the loss hit him hard. It inspired two drawings of 1913 entitled 'Family Bereavement' [right] - and he moved away from home. (The first and third of these pictures are in the Tate Gallery.)

Tenter Streets
From the 17th century, boggy land had been drained for tenter grounds, with frames (tenters) for drying washed woven cloth: hence Tenter Street, and the expression 'to be on tenterhooks'. There were other Tenter Streets and Grounds - including the one in Spitalfields which in time became the centre of the Dutch Jewish community (the Sasieni family website gives an excellent account). In past times there was a meat market between Red Lion Street and Minories, and a thrice-weekly hay and straw market until 1928. But by 1678, the land was beginning to to be sold off for the construction of housing, and this process continued apace. As explained here, by 1829 there was a roadway around the site which became North, South, East and West Tenter Streets, and it became criss-crossed with small streets and houses, including St Mark's Street [originally Mark Street], Newnham Street and Scarborough Street.

Left is the 1894 Ordnance Survey map of the area. As explained above, and on the St Mark Whitechapel page, it became an impoverished - but vibrant - Jewish quarter, as the following 1921 street directory of shopkeepers and other premises in St Mark's Street shows. (The synagogue in Scarborough Street had moved to Mansell Street in the 1870s.) According to an article in the Jewish Chronicle in 1920, around the feast of Purim (based on the story of Esther, when various kinds of mischief-making by children was part of the ritual, including stamping and booing at the mention of the villain Haman) children in these streets were hawking 'Haman toffee' at inflated prices - impressing the reporter with their enterprise!

St Mark's Street - South Side
7   Morris Borenheim, hairdresser
  Mrs Hetty Goldstone, coffee rooms
11 Joseph Assenheim, ice cream maker
15 Miss Annie Jones, dairy
21 Joseph Jackson, french polisher
25 Jacob Davis, greengrocer
     St Marks Church
29 Rev Lionel Smithett Lewis MA (Vicarage)
31 Joseph Levy, chandlers shop
33 Mrs Ada Cohen, baker
35 Scarborough Arms, Mrs Mary Weinberg [pictured above]
... here is Scarborough Street ...
45 Federation of Synagogues Burial Society
47 Alec Golding, tailor
... here is Tenter Street South ...
North Side
4 Nathan Renkachinsky, boot repairer
6 Mrs Minnie Ginzburg, greengrocer
8 Lazarus Cooper, chandlers shop [premises right in 1977]
... here is Tenter Street north ...
10 Hyman Indick, tobacconist [1]
26 George Rosenfeld, furrier
34 Mrs Betsy Carter, chandlers shop
... here is Scarborough Street ...
... here is Tenter Street South ...

[1] born Russia c1879; his wife Fanny died 1922, he died 1955

The Blitz took its toll [left is South Tenter Street, looking west, after 1940 bomb damage], and in St Mark's Street only the Scarborough Arms (closed 2010) of 1855 [right, with a bollard in Scarborough Street] and two houses at 31-33 remain: the other housing is of the 1970s and 1980s, now with English Martyrs primary school (1969) on the right, where the bomb fell. As the 1967 picture of Scarborough Street [far right] shows, there were prefabs on this site for some years after the war. Geoffrey Fletcher's London (Hutchinson 1968) comments condescendingly Stand at the door of the Scarborough Arms, and survey the typical mid-nineteenth-century artisans' dwellings in Scarborough Street — two storey in red and yellow brick, with round headed windows and doors — and take in the prefabs on the spare ground opposite, which impart a pleasingly mournful 1947 quality to the composition. In fact despite their temporary nature prefabs were generally popular homes, and proved more durable than expected.

Newnham Street figures as a 'Ripper site' - Albert Bachert lived at Gordon House, and there are many web references. It also provides the setting of a semi-autobiographical novel by Yoel Sheridan [right], who grew up in the street and now lives in Israel, and whom we thank for his contact: From Here to Obscurity (Tenterbooks 2001) gives a vivid account of the life of the Yiddish-speaking community in and around this street in the Hitler years 1933-45, and includes material about the evacuation of pupils from the Jews' Free School (JFS) to communities in the Fens (the Junior and Senior departments to the city of Ely and the Central School to the villages of Soham, Isleham and Fordham), on which the Ely Standard [right] commented when the book was published.

Past and present

Left is Moses Brothers' Warehouse (c1888 by Dunk & Geden) at 18 North Tenter Street in 1977 and after conversion to flats in 1995; and two 18th century houses opposite. Right is 4-6a (1977) and 13-29 North Tenter Street (looking west) in 1967, and 5 St Mark's Street at the corner of North Tenter Street in 1975, all now demolished.

Moses Brothers also built 29-31 West Tenter Street, a clothing warehouse by Tenter Passage, designed in 1899 by Dunk and Bousfield - left 1977, and after conversion to offices in 1988 (linked to 58 Mansell Street behind); 25-27 (also 1977) were demolished. Rght are houses in this street, and the last building to be demolished in the 1990 excavation.

Right are two views of tenements in East Tenter Street, back to back with those on Leman street, speculatively built c1900 by N & R Davis, with attic workrooms - perhaps with Jewish tenants in view? - and the exterior and interior of the adjacent warehouse, now offices.

Alie Street

Variously shown on old maps as Ayliffe, Aylie and Alie Streets, often divided between 'Great' / 'Little' (west / east of Leman Street), little remains of its history, for instance as the location of several dissenting chapels (see here), though on the eastern side the German Lutheran Church and school remain. On the western side, at nos. 30-44, is a terrace of houses of c1720 (much altered), some with ground-floor shop extensions out to the street [left], mostly modern but the one at 32 is Victorian. 34 has a carved doorcase (noted by Summerson in Georgian London). Across the road, opposite the north end of St Mark's Street (originally Alie Place, with houses of c1820 on the corner), is Half Moon Passage [right in 1981 and today], an alley between a symmetrical pair of 18th century houses [now offices] at nos.17-19 leading to Braham Street. The Half Moon Theatre Company began life in a former synagogue at no.27, before moving in 1979 to a former Methodist chapel on the Mile End Road (now closed, though their work with young people continues). See here for 'The Hutch' - the Jewish Working Men's Club and Lads' Institute, and headquarters of the Jewish Lads' and Girls' Brigades.

The group of buildings from nos. 21-29 [left  in 1973] show how the street has changed. The early 19th century White Swan public house, at no.21, with its curved window and fancy lamp bracket, is still here - now with an extension into no.23. The small building at no.25 had been Miss Lily Gray's wholesale grocer's shop (also at 19 Prescot Street) until she went bankrupt in 1938. Later it became Mrs Millie Ginsberg's Dining Rooms - 'Tea Always Ready', read the sign. By 1981 it was occupied by Khan and Sons [right]. Nos. 23-25 were demolished and replaced by a 4-storey office building, with 5-storey flats (nos.29-47) to their right.

Left is 28 Alie Street, at the northern end of St Mark's Street, in 1975. Right are the impressive premises of Hammer, Theelen & Co on the corner of Alie and Mansell Streets, in 1977. 'Ellenberg, Hammer & Co', the partnership of Francis Siegfried Ellenberg, Sevrin Theelen and Carl Erich Hammer, general merchants of Great Winchester Street in London and Broadway in New York, was dissolved in 1909, continuing as separate companies on both sides of the Atlantic. Hammer, Theelen & Co were trading from Lawrence Lane in Cheapside in 1913 as Japanese silk merchants, but also involved with other products, including the 'Landophone', a device to enable chauffeurs to communicate with their passengers in traffic. The Auto for 1913, commented that speaking tubes were potentially hazardous and none too cleanly, and that electric telephones were not much louder:
If, therefore, the sound at the receiver could be intensified, the electric telephone would be much the best way of speaking to the driver ... All that [the Landophone] really is, is an extra powerful telephone, consisting of an ordinary transmitter, an intensifying induction coil, a megaphone-like receiver and a battery of accumulators. The receiver hangs on a hook mounted inside the car and is held by a spring clip; the receiver is fixed near the driver to some convenient part of the car, such as the steering column, or even on the dash. The intensifying coil with the necessary terminals, is contained in a neat, polished wood box so that should it to be exposed to view it does not spoil the appearance of the car. To obtain the best results a battery of eight volts should be employed. A complete 'Landophone' set, without the accumulators, is sold at the price of £4 15s. and the finish and appearance are good in every way.
A correspondent in The Autocar the following year enquired of this and another similar device Are they quite clear and distinct in London traffic? Chauffeurs' opinions as to the clearness and distinctness of the voice would be greatly appreciated.
In their final years Hammer, Theelen & Co traded from Bishops Way EC2 as export/import agents, and then in E16 as Hillbrow Fashions (fashion accessories) before insolvency in 2011.

Here are some further contrasts. Left are pictures from 1930-49....

... and here are scenes of dereliction in the 1980s (including Shaffer Ltd. at no.33 and 'British Smoked Salmon'); right today are flats at 14-20, and at the end of the road the office blocks on the opposite corners - no.1, and 55 Mansell Street (including RBS).

On the east side of the street, beyond the German chapel, planning permission was given to Barratt's in 2007 for a 27-storey tower block (235 flats plus retail units)  - their tallest East London project to date - and an adjacent 7-storey commercial block on the site of former factory at nos.61-75, with completion originally envisaged by 2012. Left is the derelict site, and visualisations of the future.

On the corner of Alie Street is an Indian restaurant, possibly the first in the East End, started by Jafferjee who was a merchant seaman who jumped ship at Tilbury around the turn of the 20th century, and still known by that name in the 1950s, when it was sold by his son to the present owner. (Thanks to  Sonny Hamid for this information.)

And finally.... the north-west corner of the parish is the Hoop and Grapes at 47 Aldgate High Street (nearly opposite Aldgate tube station). Allegedly the oldest licensed house in the City, parts of it were built in 1593, over much older cellars. Originally called The Castle, then the Angel & Crown, then Christopher Hills, it took its present name (referring to the sale of both beer and wine) in the 1920s. It is one of three timber-framed buildings (the one on the right was refaced in the 18th century) to survive the Fire of London, which stopped 50 yards away. It has been much-restored since this 1950s picture. More details and images here

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