The façade of the Cock and Hoop Tavern: A crime against architecture

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The old façade of the Cock A Hoop tavern in Spitalfields

When developers buy old buildings, there is often fear of what will become of them. Depending on what protections have been put in place by local councils, some can be changed beyond all recognition or even demolished. However, some buildings can be mostly destroyed with only the façade remaining. Sometimes this can be done with great sensitivity and the modern building can complement the older. However, there are some pretty horrendous examples of ‘façadism’, one of which I’m going to look at in this post.

Gun St facade © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The windows of the façade don’t line up with the modern windows of Lilian Knowles House

Spitalfields is one of my favourite areas of London – I love the architecture, the history and the atmosphere. Admittedly there has been a lot of development in the past 10 years especially, both good and bad. However, when wandering around the back streets of the area, I often sigh when passing by this shocking example of façadism.

On the corner of Gun Street and Artillery Lane stands what remains of the Cock A Hoop tavern. Today, only the 19th century façade remains, with the modern Lilian Knowles House student housing behind. What is so bizarre, is the windows of Lilian Knowles House don’t even line up with the façade’s windows so residents would have limited lighting and views of brick walls… a very strange design decision.

When I attempted to research the history of the building, there wasn’t much around. The Cock A Hoop tavern was established in 1810 and was first run by publican Joseph Hammond. I’m presuming (although please comment if I’m wrong!), that name referred to an earlier building on the site and the current façade we see today is the second building. The pub belonged to Meux’s Brewery, owned by brewer Henry Meux (1770-1841) and subsequently his son, MP Sir Henry Meux (1817-1883). Although the brewery no longer exists, its name became infamous due to the London Beer Flood of 1814. At the time, the company was named Meux And Company and its brewery was based on Tottenham Court Road – around the current site of the Dominion Theatre. Surrounding the brewery was the incredibly impoverished slums of St Giles. On 17 October, one of huge vats ruptured, spilling 323,000 imperial gallons of beer onto the surrounding streets. The beer flooded basement homes and destroyed several buildings, resulting in the deaths of eight people, half of which were children. Meux and Co were taken to court, but amazingly managed to escape prosecution, with the judge and jury claiming the spill was an ‘Act of God’. The brewery was later demolished in 1922, with the Dominion Theatre going up on the site in 1928-29. 

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The rest of Lilian Knowles House encompasses the former Providence Row refuge

Returning to the Spitalfields pub, by 1884, it had been renamed The Artillery Tavern under publican Charles Wiggs. The pub appears to have closed by 1915.

Today, the façade casts a shadow over the modern extension of Lilian Knowles House – an accommodation building for students of the London School of Economics. Lilian Knowles House also encompasses the Victorian buildings of the former Providence Row Night Refuge around the corner. The refuge was run by the Sisters of Mercy who provided accommodation for 300 destitute women and children and 50 men. Mary Kelly, the last victim of Jack The Ripper, was said to have sought sanctuary at the refuge at some point. She was found murdered in her rented room at Miller’s Court, Dorset Street (now demolished) across the road from the refuge, on 9 November 1888. The refuge left the building in 2002 when it moved to new premises, with Lilian Knowles House opening in 2006.

Meanwhile, developers are currently creating another piece of façadism on the site of nearby Dorset Street. The 1920s Fruit And Wool Exchange has been partly demolished, apart from the façade, to become office and retail space. Despite Tower Hamlets Council turning down planning permission, then-Mayor of London Boris Johnson (who became renowned during his tenure for frequently taking the side of developers over heritage campaigners) overruled them and gave permission, to the disgust of locals and heritage groups. Let’s hope it looks better than the Gun Street façade when it’s finished.

  • The façade of the Cock A Hoop Tavern is at the junction of Gun Street and Artillery Lane, Spitalfields, E1 7LS. Nearest station: Liverpool Street.
 © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2017

The striking façade features Tuscan baluster windows on the 1st and 2nd floor, patterned brickwork and ornamental stonework on the top storey

For more of Metro Girl’s history posts, click here.

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About LondonMetroGirl

Media professional who was born, brought up and now works in London. My blog is a guide to London - what's on, festivals, history, restaurant reviews and attractions, as well as the odd travel piece. All images on my blog are © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl, unless otherwise specified. Do not use without seeking permission first.

Posted on 23 September 2017, in Architecture, History, London and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Hey another excellent blog, facadism is really one of the laziest forms of conservation and the example you cite in this article is truly the worst of them all. I wrote a piece about this a few years ago which you might like. Thanks for the research into the background of this place though, really interesting

    https://inspiringcity.com/2016/02/14/facadism-the-laziest-and-most-unsatisfying-form-of-preservation-is-causing-irreparable-damage-to-spitalfields-and-to-london/

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