Building   

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.

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

Commemorated ati

Christ Church Spitalfields - men and ladders

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

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Christ Church Spitalfields - pavement - ownership

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

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Christ Church Spitalfields - wall - engine-house

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

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Other Subjects

A. E. May

A. E. May

Resident of Willesden who volunteered and died in the Anglo Boer War, 1899-1900.

Person, Armed Forces, South Africa

War dead, Other war
1 memorial
T. Duke

T. Duke

Employed at the Holloway tram garage. Served and was killed in WW1.

Person, Armed Forces

War dead, WW1
1 memorial
A. Lane

A. Lane

18th London Rifle Brigade. Fought but did not die in WW1

Person, Armed Forces

War served, WW1
1 memorial
R. W. Grant

R. W. Grant

Co-partner or employee of the South Suburban Gas Company. Served but did not die in WW1.

Person, Armed Forces

War served, WW1
1 memorial
Gunner John Barnes

Gunner John Barnes

John Barnes was born in 1896, one of at least five children of John and Ethel Maria Barnes. His birth was registered in the 4th quarter of 1896 in the Marylebone registration district, London. In ...

Person, Armed Forces, Belgium

War dead, WW1
1 memorial