mobile nav


Spitalfields engine-house


Categories: Armed Forces

'Engine-house' was an early term for what we would now call a fire station. The engine was initially merely a hand-operated pump. This and some ladders might be housed in the local church, but as the equipment became larger an engine-house would be required.

British History Online informs that in 1689 George Bohun or Boun gave a fire-engine to the hamlet of Spitalfields. Also, 1688-9 he granted further building leases, mainly on the east side of the market and in Red Lion Street, which happens to be where the engine-house was later built.

Our image is taken from the Greenwood map of 1827 and shows some buildings to the south-west of the church - on land now occupied by Commercial Road, constructed 1843–5 and 1849-57. 

Talking about works carried out on this church in 1726-8 British History Online gives "The pavior completed his work, including the pavement in the front of the church, or ’Esplanade’, to the south of which the engine-house and Charity School were later built."

British History Online also gives: "A fund of £700 had accrued by 1782 ... and in that year a faculty was obtained permitting a school to be built on the edge of the churchyard. This site, which measured eighty-six feet from east to west and twenty-eight feet from north to south, abutted on Red Lion Street {now Commericial Street} in front of the west end of the church and had formerly been occupied by the parish engine-house.The school was erected in 1782 and faced north. It is illustrated by a plaque on the present school building in Brick Lane."

All of which suggests that the engine-house (the old engine-house implied by the words on the plaque at the church) was built and demolished during the period 1728 - 82. But the plaque suggests that it was still standing shortly before 1861, and what did the parish do for an engine-house from 1782 - 1861 when the new engine-house was built? The simplest explanation would be that the phrase "formerly been occupied by the parish engine-house" is inaccurate and that the engine-house and the charity school existed side by side. The map certainly shows two separate buildings: the one to the north could be the engine house with the larger one to the south being the school, with an east-facing front overlooking the "Church Yard". This larger building is even separated into two wings, exactly right for co-ed schools at the time.

See our page 'Christ Church Spitalfields - pavement - ownership' for more information about this engine-house.

We've cobbled together this history of Spitalfields engine-house from the inscription on 3 plaques, a number of maps and a variety of online sources, none of which do more than mention the engine-house in passing. While doing this we've wondered whether anyone has thoroughly researched Spitalfields engine-house and even published a book. If so we found no trace of it.

See other memorials in this area

This section lists the memorials where the subject on this page is commemorated:
Spitalfields engine-house

Information Commemorated at

Christ Church Spitalfields - men and ladders

The inscription is weather-worn particularly at the right so the words "men",...

Read More

Christ Church Spitalfields - pavement - ownership

The vacant ground extending 61 feet east, 13 feet west and 30 feet north of t...

Read More

Christ Church Spitalfields - wall - engine-house

The stone now built into the wall of the new engine-house formerly stood 103 ...

Read More