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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Greater London Authority
Tower Hamlets (London Borough)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
TQ 33852 82014


788/8/98 BRICK LANE 29-DEC-50 (West side) 91 The Directors' House, Truman Brewery (Formerly listed as: BRICK LANE E1 BLACK EAGLE BREWERY) (Formerly listed as: BRICK LANE E2 BLACK EAGLE BREWERY) (Formerly listed as: BRICK LANE E1 TRUMAN'S BREWERY) (Formerly listed as: BRICK LANE E2 TRUMAN'S BREWERY)

II* This list entry has been amended as part of the Bicentenary commemorations of the 1807 Abolition Act.

The Directors' House is part of the remarkably complete group of buildings which was once Truman, Hanbury and Buxton's Black Eagle Brewery. The buildings lie on either side of Brick Lane, the Directors' House being on the west side.

The house was a combined private residence and company headquarters, the offices occupying the ground floor with residential rooms above. John Price, who had recently rebuilt the brewhouse, is thought to have enlarged an early C18 counting house c1745, for Benjamin Truman. Major alterations, also for Truman, now Sir Benjamin, in the 1770s. Some modifications in the late C19 and early C20, and a major restoration and new entrance range c1971-5 by Arup Associates.

EXTERIOR: Stock brick with red brick dressings to projecting ends of Brick Lane elevation; slate roofs. Regular two-storey range with corridor to front. To rear at southern end a staircase; at northern end a distinguished first-floor suite of rooms off a corridor set at right-angles. The main façade has a 7-bay main front with round-headed first-floor windows at ends, otherwise regular sashes with glazing bars in earlier flush moulded boxes under gauged brick heads. Rendered first-floor band and cornice under parapet. Projecting single-bay ends with first-floor Venetian windows and reticulated glazing between giant pilasters, narrow blind bay to north. Projecting double panelled doors in Gibbs surround under heavy voussoir, no longer used. From first storey of projecting north bay hangs the sign of the Black Eagle Brewery. Return elevation restored c1971-5 with renewed French windows into courtyard; the building is now entered through the (1970s) mirror-glazed screen linking it with the Brewmaster's House (qv).

INTERIOR: The principal rooms are on the first floor, reached by a C19 stair with cast iron balustrade. A series of rooms with sunken panelling and box cornices typical of the 1740s, though some with heavy modillion cornices also - more elaborate than customary for the date. The present reception room, historically the directors' dining room, has a simpler dentilled cornice more pure in its style. This is reached off a second corridor to the north, reconstructed 1770s with five-bay circular arched vaults rising alternately into domes between fluted Ionic pilasters. Fluted and pedimented doorcases and much formalised floral plaster decoration. At end the former boardroom, originally Sir Benjamin's drawing room, reached through a screen of marble Corinthian columns. Heavily moulded plaster panels to walls, with floreated modillion cornice and formal floral band, late C18 fluted doorcases and fireplace, the fine rococo ceiling said to be much renewed but still authentic in composition.

HISTORY: A brewhouse was built on land to the west of Brick Lane by Thomas Bucknall c1666; this was purchased by Joseph Truman in 1679. The Black Eagle Brewery produced porter, a heavy black beer robust enough to stand the hazards of large-scale production, long storage, and distribution. The brewery prospered hugely during the C18 under the direction of Sir Benjamin Truman, and much of the surviving building dates from this time - expansion began c1730 and the premises were enlarged further in 1742-3, possibly with John Price as surveyor. The interior of the Directors' House, principally of c1745, was extensively remodelled in the 1770s. According to Sir Benjamin's will, these improvements were undertaken to encourage his great-grandsons 'to spend some part of their time in Spitalfields, especially during the winter season', which perhaps explains why several of the interiors are reminiscent of a country mansion rather than a town house. Nevertheless, Sir Benjamin's descendants declined to follow the trade. Following his death, the business was taken over by one of his partners, Sampson Hanbury, and in 1835 by Thomas Fowell Buxton, when the company's name became Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co. In 1873 the company built a new premises in Burton upon Trent, also called the Black Eagle, and production gradually shifted to the north. The Brick Lane brewery eventually closed in 1988.

The buildings which remain form a remarkably complete example of a C18-20 brewery complex. The former Engineer's House, vat house, and stables - all C18 or early C19 - are listed. Also listed is the former Brewmaster's House, which stands across a courtyard to the north of the Director's House. These two houses are linked by the former brewhouse, rebuilt c1973-7 by Arup Associates with a façade of mirrored glass - an early use of the material and an impressive contextual modern design overall. In 1972, following criticism of the recent demolition of a Georgian terrace in Hanbury Street and its replacement by an brick wall for Truman's Brewery, it became clear that Truman's development of its frontage to Brick Lane had to be better conceived. Arup Associates were commissioned the same year to provide new offices, canteen and recreation facilities, and warehousing. Their clever solution for Brick Lane placed the different functions in tiers over six floors, with three storeys of offices over the recreational floor and two storeys of warehousing beneath. The new building linked the Director's House and Head Brewer's House and reflected the Vat House and Engineer's House opposite, elegantly completing the square of listed buildings. In 2008, the brewery buildings have been redeveloped as an arts, fashion and commercial enclave. The Directors' House was the principal residence of Thomas Fowell Buxton, later Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton (1786-1845) from 1808-15; he continued to stay there occasionally in later years. A leading figure in the international movement to eradicate slavery, Buxton was the son of an East Anglian squire; his mother was a Quaker. He was educated at Charles Burney's school at Greenwich, and at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1807 he married Hannah Gurney, whose Quaker family had an important influence on his spiritual life and political career - Elizabeth Fry, the prison reformer, was his sister-in-law, and Joseph John Gurney, the anti-slavery advocate, his brother-in-law. Buxton himself remained a member of the Church of England. In 1808 he joined Truman, Hanbury & Co, Sampson Hanbury being his maternal uncle, and moved into the Directors' House ('it is a very nice house and will save the rent of another', he wrote.) In 1811 Buxton became a partner in the company. He oversaw the improvement of the brewing process, and converted the works to steam power; in 1835, on Sampson Hanbury's death, he took over the business.

The brewery was renowned for treating its workers well - providing free schooling for their children, for example. The C19 blend of business and philanthropy which Buxton exemplified, and which in his case was to flower so effectively in the campaign against slavery, was fostered at Truman, Hanbury & Co. Involved in charitable activities in Spitalfields, at a national level Buxton was an advocate of legal and penal reform, and served as MP for Weymouth from 1818 to 1837. But his greatest political contribution was as an abolitionist. He was an active member of the African Institution, which had been founded in 1807 to ensure that the legislation outlawing the trade in slaves was adhered to, and in 1821 William Wilberforce asked him formally to become his partner, and then successor, in the great crusade. In 1823 Buxton joined with Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, Zachary Macaulay and others in forming the Anti-Slavery Society. That same year, Buxton began the parliamentary campaign against colonial slavery by introducing a motion in the House of Commons for the gradual abolition of slavery, and undertook extensive research to support his recommendations. After the 1833 Act bringing about the end of slavery in the colonies, Buxton concerned himself with treatment of aboriginal peoples in South Africa, the foreign slave trade, and the enforced temporary apprenticeship of former slaves in the West Indies. His investigations into the system of apprenticeship contributed to its termination in 1838, earlier than originally intended. Buxton's devotion to the elimination of slavery continued; in 1839 he published 'The African Slave Trade', and in 1840, 'The Remedy' - books advocating Christianity, civilisation, and commerce as bulwarks against slavery. In 1839 he established the Society for the Extinction of the Slave Trade and the Civilisation of Africa. Of his own achievements, Buxton said: 'With ordinary talents and extraordinary perseverance, all things are attainable.'

Following Buxton's death in 1840, Prince Albert headed a movement for a public tribute to his memory; donations came from the West Indies and from Africa, and a statue by Frederick Thrupp was placed near the monument to Wilberforce in the north transept of Westminster Abbey. In 1865-6 Buxton's son, Charles Buxton, erected a drinking fountain (q.v.) in Parliament Square, to celebrate the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, and the achievement of his father and associates in bringing it about. The fountain, designed by S.S. Teulon assisted by Charles Buxton, was moved to Victoria Tower Gardens in 1957. Buxton's name is preserved in Buxton Street, adjacent to the brewery, and in 2007 an English Heritage blue plaque was erected on the Directors' House commemorating Buxton's residence there.

SOURCES: Dictionary of National Biography Victoria County History, Middlesex, II (1910) Survey of London, vol. XXVII (1957) Architects' Journal (19 Jan. 1972) Arup Journal, vol.12, no.2 (June 1977) pp.2-13 RCHME Historic Building Report: Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Company's Black Eagle Brewery (March 1997) EH report' Truman's Brewery, Brick Lane, Spitalfields, LB Tower Hamlets' (March 1990) B Cherry, C O'Brien and N Pevsner, The Buildings of England, London 5: East (2005) Blue Plaques Final Report: Thomas Fowell Buxton (English Heritage, 2006)

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION: 91 Brick Lane is designated at Grade II* for the following principal reasons: * A rare surviving gentleman's town house in London, of more than special interest for the quality of its principal rooms and its double function as domestic residence and company headquarters * Part of a remarkably complete example of a C18-C20 brewery; the surviving buildings, formerly the Brewmaster's House, Engineer's House, vat house and stables are all listed * The 1973-7 entrance by Arup Associates was an early use of mirrored-glass and an effective and contextually designed linking block * A strong connection with anti-slavery campaigner Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton adds to the historical interest of the building.


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This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

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Date: 08 Oct 1999
Reference: IOE01/01466/29
Rights: Copyright IoE Ms Clare Glenister. Source Historic England Archive
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