3 and 5 Club Row, with 31 Whitby Street


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
3 and 5 Club Row, with 31 Whitby Street, Bethnal Green, London, E1 6JX


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Statutory Address:
3 and 5 Club Row, with 31 Whitby Street, Bethnal Green, London, E1 6JX

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:


Two terraced tenement houses, formerly part of a group of six, built for occupation by weavers in 1764-5.

Reasons for Designation

Numbers 3 and 5 Club Row, two weavers’ tenement houses built in 1764-5, together with 31 Whitby Street, which is the address of the ground floor and basement of 3 Club Row, are listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as a pair of adjoining weavers’ tenement houses of 1764-5, surviving in legible form; * the outward form of the houses declares their original use, with large segmental-arched windows designed to light workshops, and a partially blank wall expressing the front staircase; * the distinctive plan form of the two houses, being a single room deep, with a front-corner stair in front of the stack survives, as does the contemporary or near-contemporary lean-to rear section; * the houses retain early fabric, including sections of staircases. Number 5 retains very plain early panelling to the ground floor, first floor and stair.

Historic interest:

* weavers’ tenement houses of this type were developed in the C18 to serve the silk industry of Spitalfields. Reflecting the requirements of the industry in their design, such houses were perhaps the first in which design was directly associated with the needs of a single industry, and were peculiar to this district; * the houses stand as an extremely rare survival of a house type which was once ubiquitous in this area.

Group value:

* with number 113 Redchurch Street, a comparable house of about 1735, listed at Grade II, with numbers 125 and 127 Brick Lane, and number 149 Brick Lane, also listed, and with other surviving weavers’ tenement houses identified in the vicinity. Number 34 Redchurch Street is a listed public house with C17 origins and substantial C18 fabric behind a C19 frontage; immediately to the south of the Club Row houses is another listed public house, this one entirely Victorian.


The width of Club Row probably reflects the fact that it forms the boundary of two estates, with the Byde estate to the west, and Swan Field within the Red Cow estate to the east. The west side of Club Row, formerly used as garden ground, was developed in the late C17, with a continuous row of houses by 1681-2. In 1736 the Byde estate was acquired by Anthony Natt, a successful local carpenter; his son, also Anthony, became a clergyman and moved to Essex, but retained his property interests in Bethnal Green. In 1764 he redeveloped the west side of Club Row with eleven new houses, built in two phases: a row of five to the north, including the current numbers 3 and 5, was completed by 1765, with a row of six being built to the south of Little York Street (now Whitby Street) by 1766. The southern part of Club Row was demolished for the re-routing of Bethnal Green Road in 1878-9, and the house immediately to the south of number 3 was demolished at some time between 1872 and 1894, to improve access to Little York Street. Numbers 7 and 9 were apparently redeveloped in the early years of the C20, and number 11 later in the C20. Numbers 3 and 5 Club Row have both received a number of alterations during the course of their history, both externally and internally; both have C20 rear extensions, and the attic of number 3 is now converted.

Numbers 3 and 5 Club Row, together with the other nine houses with which they formed a group, were built as workshop tenement houses designed to accommodate silkworkers. Houses of this sort were developed in Bethnal Green during the C18 in association with the growth of the industry, largely for occupation by weavers, and are therefore industrial as well as domestic buildings. Erected by speculative builders, these houses were typically three or four storeys high, sometimes with garrets, and one room deep, frequently with a rear outshut. They were intended for multiple occupancy, often accommodating one family per floor. Typically, a small enclosed stair was located at the front of the house, next to the entrance, in front of a party-wall chimney stack; buildings with this plan-form may sometimes be identified by a small window lighting the stair. Such houses generally had broad segmental-headed windows on the upper floors to maximise light, and some surviving houses have long horizontal workshop windows on the top storey.

The silk industry was one of the largest in London in the C18, employing about 10 per cent of the working-class population. Beginning in the mid-C17, the industry became heavily concentrated in Spitalfields and Shoreditch, fuelled by the arrival of refugee Huguenot silk weavers from France after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) outlawed Protestant worship, their skills and families soon integrating with those of the local population. Silkworking overflowed into the area of Bethnal Green to the north-east of Spitalfields; it has been estimated that 59 per cent of adult males in the parish of Bethnal Green were silkworkers in 1770. Weavers were much the largest group within the industry, but there were related occupations, notably silk throwsters or silkwinders (often women) and dyers. Imported raw silk was thrown then dyed, bought by a master weaver and ‘put out’ to journeymen for weaving at home.

The 1760s was a turbulent decade in Bethnal Green. Trade expanded during the Seven Years War of 1756-63, when French foreign trade was temporarily captured. In 1762 the Spitalfields weavers agreed a ‘Book’ of prices, to resist undercutting through cheap labour; in the period 1762-8 the workforce was reduced by 50 per cent, leading to great impoverishment. Nonetheless, a London-wide housing boom of 1766 was reflected in Bethnal Green. In 1763, 1765 and 1766 there was rioting in response to the introduction of labour-saving machinery, and the removal of silkweaving to locations outside London. In 1766 French silks were prohibited, reducing competition, but unrest continued, leading to the execution in 1769 of two leading campaigners in Bethnal Green. The first Spitalfields Act of 1773, which regulated the wages of journeyman weavers, brought a measure of stability, but in the long term trade was depressed. After a last boom in the early C19, reflected by a surge in house building within Bethnal Green, the area’s silk industry was in gradual decline. As silk receded, the clothing and furniture trades grew, boosted by immigrant Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe after 1860.

In the 1840s, the inhabitants of numbers 3 and 5 Club Row included silk weavers, alongside people in other trades. By the 1890s commercial use was firmly established, with a coffee room at number 5 and a dealer in birds at number 3. Until the later C20 Club Row was the centre of a market for live animals, reptiles and birds, which reputedly traced its origins to the silk weavers’ love of birdkeeping. From at least 1951 number 5 was in use for the manufacture of cane furniture, and was latterly used for clothing manufacture; the ground floor and basement are now in commercial use with the upper floor in residential use. Number 3 was a handbag factory in the latter years of the C20, and is now in residential use.


Two terraced tenement houses, formerly part of a group of six, built for occupation by weavers in 1764-5.

MATERIALS: brown stock brick, painted to number 3, with the south wall of number 3 being rendered. The steeply-pitched roofs are covered with replacement tiles. The chimney stacks to both houses have been reduced in height. The window frames are all replacements; a photograph of 1953 shows multi-pane sashes.

PLAN: the two houses are set on a north/south alignment, with number 3 to the south and number 5 to the north; the houses are entered from the east. Each house had a single room on each floor, within the main building. The plan-forms of the buildings reflect the original configuration of the terrace, in which these houses shared their chimney stacks with their neighbours to north and south. The historic plan of number 3, therefore, with the stack behind the ridge within the southern wall, and the stair rising in the south-east corner, is mirrored in number 5. The plan survives largely intact in both houses. Both houses have two-storey rear sections spanning the width of the main buildings; these appear to have been constructed at the same time as the main buildings, or shortly afterwards. Both plots are now filled to the western boundary of the plot by additional two-storey C20 extensions, adjoining the principal extensions. Number 3 also has a two-storey projection at the west end of the south elevation, visible on the Ordnance Survey map of 1916, and small extensions at second-floor and attic level.

EXTERIOR: the houses are three storeys high, with the roofs rising behind parapets. Both houses have basements, though there is currently no external sign of this at number 5. The attic of number 3 is now converted. Each house is two bays wide, with an asymmetrical frontage reflecting the distinctive plan-form. The entrance to number 3 is to the south and the entrance to number 5 is to the north, though leaving space for the corner staircase rising immediately from the entrance lobby. The wall above is blind, with a single window bay at the far side of the frontage; the openings are large, to light what were designed for use as workshops. The segmental heads are formed using regular rather than gauged bricks. Ground-floor shopfronts were inserted in the C19, with numerous subsequent changes.

Number 3 retains the outline of its C19 shopfront, which has an early-C19 appearance, with reeded jambs to the doorcase, and a reeded fascia frame above. A tripartite window has been reinstated in this area, with reproduction reeded mouldings to either side. The panelling beneath is also a recent addition. The door is a replacement, beneath a plain rectangular fanlight. There is an opening at the centre of the plinth for a window lighting the basement, in front of which is a pavement grille. The first- and second-floor windows of number 3 are replacement tripartite timber sashes. The second-floor window opening was altered in 2019, with the cill slightly lowered, and the top of the opening blocked. The first-floor cill is also a replacement. A dormer window has been added at the south end of the roof, over the stair. The south wall of number 3, formerly the party wall between number 3 and number 1, is rendered, and has been strengthened by buttresses, projecting from the position of the stack. Small windows have been inserted between the buttresses at ground- and first-floor level. To the west of the stack, the party wall which formerly divided number 3 from the house to the south has been heightened and extended westwards. In the principal western rear section, a door has been inserted providing access to 31 Whitby Street. The roof of the principal rear section has been flattened to provide a terrace. A further lean-to extension, which is of lesser interest, continues to the western edge of the plot. At second-floor level there is a shallow extension with a small projection to the south, which is also of lesser interest; to the north French doors open onto the roof from the main building. Above, at attic level, there is a small slate-hung projection to the south, whilst to the north is a long dormer containing a four-light window; these alterations are thought to belong to the early C21. A door now opens on to a small terrace. The south-west two-storey extension, which does not contribute to the special interest of the site, has a second-floor window to the south, and a steeply-pitched roof rising to the north, with a window overlooking the first-floor roof terrace.

Number 5 had a fully-glazed shopfront installed in about 2000; the box cornice of the C19 shopfront noted prior to the change has gone. The doorway has a divided rectangular fanlight above a moulded band; the opening contains a boarded door, and a repaired timber doorstep. The cill of the upper window opening has possibly been lowered; the two front windows to number 5 are uPVC replacements. To the rear, the rendered wall of the second floor is visible above the outshut roof; there are two window openings, separated by a narrow pier, now also containing uPVC frames. The outshot now extends to the western edge of the plot, covered with bitumen-impregnated fibreboard; late-C20 or C21 skylights have been inserted. The westernmost section is C20, and is of lesser interest.


Number 3 has a winder stair rising in the south-east corner – its original position – from ground to attic storey. The original extent of the stair lobby is apparent in the floorboards at first- and second-floor level. The first flight of stairs, from ground to first floor, is a recent replacement in modern timber, but in the original form. The flight from second floor to attic is also a replacement, using some reclaimed timber. The central flight appears to be original, though with some replacement of treads, the steps rising around a plank newel. On the upper floors of the house, old floorboards remain, though there has been much replacement; those on the first floor appearing to show the greatest degree of survival. There are new doors and skirtings. On the ground floor, the rear wall separating the main room and the principal rear section has been removed. Beyond the principal rear section, the C20 extension, already noted as being of lesser interest, is divided by recent partitions. Access to the basement is from the north-west corner of the principal rear section; now divided into three rooms, this area is much rebuilt. On the first floor a partition has been erected, creating a passage to the south. In the main room, an axial beam is visible, with exposed peg holes. A chimney opening remains to the south wall; the chimneypiece is not original. Within the principal rear section, at first-floor level, there is a corner fireplace, now blocked, in the south-east angle; the slate hearth remains. The C20 western extension does not retain historic features. On the second floor, a partition has been erected enlarging the stair lobby, and the chimneybreast has been removed. The rear wall has been removed to the west, linking the main room with the second-floor extension. In the attic a tie beam is visible in the floor with newly replaced floorboards to the south. On the eastern roof slope rafters are visible, possibly original. A rooflight has been inserted in the centre of the eastern slope. Below the rafters, reclaimed panels have been inserted.

Number 5 retains its winder stair rising from ground to second floor around a plank newel. The entrance lobby remains, lined with replacement matchboard panelling. The first flight retains boarded panelling, painted, which is probably original, with some reinforcement; the steps are currently covered, but the underside of the steps, visible in the understair cupboard, demonstrates that these are early. The flight between first and second floors appears to be original, with some replacement of timber; the matchboard panelling to this section is thought to be later, perhaps early-C19. At second-floor level there is a later turned newel post and balustrade. On the ground floor half-height panelling survives to the western portion of the south wall, within what is now the stairwell to the cellar; the stair is not in its original position, and the panelling originally belonged to the main ground-floor room. It is understood that similar panelling survives to the north wall, beneath a modern wall lining. The rear wall between the main room and the principal rear section has been removed. Within this rear section, there is a corner fireplace, now blocked, in the north-east angle. Beyond the rear section, a C20 extension, already noted as being of lesser interest, is divided by recent partitions. The basement extends under the main building and the principal rear section, with angled brickwork and a relieving arch in the position of former fireplaces on the floors above. On the first floor, the stair lobby has been partitioned internally so that the second flight of stairs is only accessible from the first-floor room, reflecting the change from multiple-occupation. In the first-floor room, half-height plain unpainted vertical boarded panelling survives to the north wall, thought to be original. The panelling hides the projection of the chimneybreast to the east, but there is a fireplace with a bead around the opening; the opening contains a hob-grate, probably early-C19. To the west two cupboards are set into the recess; the door of the upper cupboard has what appears to be original butterfly hinges, whilst those to the lower cupboard are smaller replacements. The panelling above rises to ceiling height. There is an axial beam in this room, apparently more recent than that in the same position at number 3. The floorboards appear to be C19. In the principal rear section the structure of the lean-to roof is exposed; empty mortices indicate that this area was originally ceiled. The central section is now open, probably as the result of a fire in the 1970s; some charred timbers which have been re-erected are now decorative. The central section of the brickwork of the main building’s west wall is now exposed; the C18 brickwork is crude, not conforming to any bond. There is no evidence of any window opening. The floorboards in this area appear to be C19, and of a type similar to those within the principal rear section of number 3. As at number 3, there is evidence of a former corner fireplace against the west wall of the main building; here, to the north, the former hearth is indicated by a diagonal area of concrete. Beyond the principal rear section, the C20 extension is divided by recent partitions. On the second floor, the brickwork of the stack is exposed; this appears to have been rebuilt in the C19. The opening is understood to contain a hob-grate. The beams visible in the ceiling of this room are probably C20 replacements. The roof structure has been replaced.


Books and journals
Guillery, P, The Small House in Eighteenth Century London, (2004), 78-115
'Industries: Silk-weaving', in A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 2, General; Ashford, East Bedfont With Hatton, Feltham, Hampton With Hampton Wick, Hanworth, Laleham, Littleton, ed. William Page (London, 1911), pp. 132-137, accessed 16 May 2019 from http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol2/pp132-137
Survey of London: Volume 27: Spitalfields and Mile End New Town (1957), accessed 16 May 2019 from http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol27
Peter Guillery, Another Georgian Spitalfields: 18th-century houses in Bethnal Green's silk-weaving district (English Heritage Survey Report, July 2000)


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

End of official listing

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