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Wednesday, 5 August 2009

School House Lane

Before building their own works The British Gas Light Company were said to have taken over and run the elusive Mackintosh Limehouse works and then to have built a large works of their own. The site of the works was in Schoolhouse Lane. On the other side of the Lane, between it and Glasshouse Fields, stood a glass makers which had been there since the seventeenth

The description of the location as ‘Stepney’ comes from Stewart although the address is not in an area which is easily described as 'Stepney'. the site is actually in the hinterland between Wapping, Ratcliffe, Shadwell and Limehouse. It was not particularly far from either the East London Company/Ratcliffe Wapping works or from Sun Tavern Fields. It was actually in the Ratcliffe parish area for local government purposes.

School House Lane and Cock Hill are in an area is small and closely packed. The riverside is now covered with huge of blocks of housing and Cock Hill is part of the Highway through-route which soon after disappears into the Limehouse Link Tunnel. School House Lane and, parallel, Glass House Fields remain but north of the Highway is now council housing from the 1960s and 1970s. Stewart gave the address of the works as ‘Schoolhouse Lane, Wharf near River Thames at Cock Hill’. I have found no mention of this works on any map of that area. Schoolhouse Lane ran, and runs, between Cable Street and The Highway at their eastern ends. It is parallel with Glasshouse Street where a glass works must have been in existence at the same time as the gas works.

On The Highway at the end of Schoolhouse Lane, stands a large London School Board School now in other use. Between it and the river stands the ziggurat flats on the site of Free Trade Wharf - which again would have been in active use as Saltpetre Warehouses in the 1820s. Alongside today is the park on an area which in the 1820s was crowded with tiny wharves.

On the Horwood plan School House Lane is home to a Quaker Meeting House, a foundry and the Coopers’ Almshouses. Walking round the area it seems even smaller and more cramped. School House Lane itself is a narrow alleyway which you can walk in half a minute! The gas works appears to have been on the west side of School House Lane the British Company having leased the site and adjacent wharf from the Bowles family who had no need of it.

The British Company decided to pull out of London in 1855. The works was sold to the Commercial Company who immediately closed it. The site eventually passed to the London School Board and the wharf subsumed into the area of Free Trade Wharf where it is now completely covered by the ziggurat flats.

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