The first mention of Chapel House Street on a map was around 1870, when it was a very short street off Westferry Road which turned 90 degrees to the right after a few yards. Later, when Chapel House Street was extended to East Ferry Road, the short section on the right became Chapel House Place.
The houses and The Ship public house – shown in the 1870 map below – were built from about 1850 onwards. Nos. 423-427 Westferry Road and the first houses on the west side of Chapel House Street (starting at No. 1, odd numbers) were built during the decade after publication of this map.
Although I am using the 20th Century house numbering here, originally most terraces had a name which was more commonly used in postal addresses. The row of houses from No. 429-451, for example, was originally named Silver Terrace. The houses directly behind this terrace were Dahlia’s Cottages, and the houses in the later-named Chapel House Place were known as Griffin’s Cottages.
It was a small residential area almost surrounded by industry, but with market gardens to the north. Some enterprising residents in the 1880s included:
- Joseph Taylor at 429 Westferry Road, partner in the firm, J. & J. Taylor (machine makers, coppersmiths and brass finishers);
- George Griffin Cook, local manufacturing chemist, at No. 451. Cook built the first few houses in Chapel House Place, which were known as Griffin’s Cottages;
- Omnibus propietor, George Hames also lived at No. 451 at some stage;
- Thomas Weaver, who ran a chandler’s shop (a greengrocer in modern parlance) at No. 294;
- Landlady, Sarah Walker, of the The Glendower public house at Nos. 296-8.
No houses were built east of No. 451 (except for those few in Lead Street, close to the later fire station) and this land was occupied by various firms over the years, including Matthew T. Shaw and the lead firm, Locke Lancaster.
Since the demise of the Thames shipbuilding industry around 1870, industrial specialisms of the Island included the manufacture of not only iron and steel but also of chemicals. That lead manufacturing can be harmful to health was known at the end of the 19th century, but the dangers of asbestos were not. Residents’ neighbours included United Asbestos at Nelson Wharf, and just a few yards east: an oil wharf, a lead works and a copper depositing works!
The following photo was taken in the early 1900s and shows new setts being laid in Westferry Road, close to the corner with Chapel House Street on the right.
Apart from the working men it shows, left to right:
- The entrance to Nelson Wharf at 302 West Ferry Road, with a sign mentioning Burnett’s Disenfectant
- 298-292 Westferry Road (left to right)
- The Ship public house at 290 West Ferry Road
- Footbridge connecting the buildings of Burrell’s Wharf on both sides of Westferry Road
- 413-427 Westferry Road
- The entrance to Chapel House Street
- 429 Westferry Road
The following photo was taken a few years later very close to the same spot (although from an upstairs window). It more clearly shows Burnett’s entrance, The Ship and Maconochies.
Survey of London:
Sir William Burnett (1779–1861) was a naval surgeon who distinguished himself at Trafalgar and other battles, rising to become Inspector of Hospitals to the Mediterranean fleet and, in 1822, one of two Medical Commissioners to the Navy Victualling Board.
In about 1836 Burnett devised an anti-rot and mothproofing treatment for timber, cordage, canvas and other cloths, using an aqueous solution of chloride of zinc. ‘Burnettizing’ became a standard wood-preservative technique.
Timber preserving and timber merchanting were the principal activities at Nelson Wharf in the mid-1890s, though disinfectant continued to be made there in the 1920s. Soldering fluid was also produced. By the 1930s the business was exclusively concerned with timber.
The Ship Public House
One of no less than five pubs* opened close to Scott-Russell’s yard at the time of the construction of the Great Eastern in the 1850s, undoubtedly hoping to benefit from the trade offered by workers and visitors. The Ship pub was created by rebuilding two houses, which themselves were relatively new, having been built in the 1830s.
* See this article for more information about Island pubs over the years.
James Maconochie (1850-1895) and Archibald Maconochie (1854-1926) were two of eight siblings born in England to Edinburgh-born Archibald Maconochie Sr. and Elizabeth Richardson from Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire. The brothers’ first business was a fish-curing factory in Lowestoft, started in 1873. The business was a great success and it expanded to include food processing, packaging and canning, and they were one of the largest employers in the town.
By the end of the 1890s, Maconochies was the largest producer of canned food in the world, and they had a number of premises throughout Britain. In 1896 (a year after the death of James Maconochie from pneumonia), Maconochie Brothers – a name the business would retain despite the death of James – took over the former Northumberland Wharf in Westferry Road on the Isle of Dogs. This was a couple of years before the company secured a lucrative contract to supply tinned meat and vegetable stew to British troops fighting in the Boer War (1899-1902). See this article for more information about Maconochies.
Chapel House Street was extended to East Ferry Road well before WWI, but it was 1919 before houses were built along the new section when Poplar Borough Council built the Chapel House Estate. The older houses on the left side of Chapel House Street in the following photo are Nos. 1-11; beyond them are houses of the new Chapel House Estate.
The following photo was taken opposite Maconochie’s and shows a hint of the refreshment bar or café that was at No. 423 since at least before WWI. I remember that there was still a café (‘Sid’s Cosy Café’) there in the late 1960s when I walked home from Harbinger School to my home near Christ Church.
The corner of Chapel House Street and Westferry Road was clearly a popular place for the departure and arrival of outings and beanos. In the following photo a group of young women are dressed-up and standing outside The Ship, undoubtedly waiting for their charabanc to turn up. The entrance to Chapel House Street is on the left of the photo.
The bus in the following photo is obscuring the entrance to Chapel House Street, but the photo does show many of the houses from 413-451 Westferry Road.
No. 413, the tallest house on the left, was recquistioned during WWII and used by the Auxiliary Ambulance Service.
This and other houses in the terrace as far as Chapel House Street survived the War, but neighbouring houses did not. The worst damage was done on 11th November 1941 when a 250 Kg high explosive bomb fell on the opposite corner, destroying 5 houses, Nos. 429 to 437 (there are no reports of any fatalities due to the bombing).
Later, a bank was built on the site of the destroyed houses at No. 429 and higher. I didn’t have an account with the NatWest, but my mum did and I recall spending quite some time in there. Remember when everything was done with cheques? What a palaver.
Despite surviving the War and inhabited until well into the 1960s, the remaining old houses from No. 413 and higher were cleared and demolished. The old houses at Nos. 1-11 Chapel House Street were also demolished.
Some Comparisons With Present-Day Views
And finally, a photo of the same section of road shown in the 1900s photo of men laying the street. There’s a very good chance that at least some of the stones they laid are still present here under a few layers of asphalt.