History Behind The Space, E14

Walking along Westferry Road on the Isle of Dogs, a striking building jumps out at you. It’s now known as The Space, E14.

The Space E14 | Look Up London

Built in 1859 and designed by T E Knightley, it was a church; St Paul’s Presbyterian Church which was in use until 1972.

Taking a closer look, it’s truly a feast of colour and texture, the multi-coloured bricks and varied depths meaning sunlight plays across the surface continuously offering up new angles to appreciate.

The Space E14 | Look Up London

According to the architectural historian Pevsner, it was based on the West Facade of Pisa Cathedral (constructed 11th century) and seeing them side-by-side you can see the resemblance.

Connection with The Great Eastern

The foundation stone for St Paul’s was laid by John Scott Russell, the Scottish Civil Engineer. He, along with Isambard Kingdom Brunel, worked on the Great Eastern; the largest ship ever built when launched in 1858, a year before the church opened.

The Great Eastern was built at Millwall and a short walk from The Space you can find the preserved slipway. The ramp used to launch the massive – all-iron – construction.

Great Eastern Slipway | Look Up London

Unfortunately for Brunel and Scott, the launch was a disaster. Brunel had wanted to launch the ship quietly on 3 November 1857, but its huge size – over 6 times bigger than anything seen previously – attracted large crowds. Apparently 0ver 3,000 tickets had been sold to spectators, oops.

Great Eastern | National Maritime Museum @ Flickr Commons

Construction of Great Eastern at Millwall, August 18, 1855 | National Maritime Museum @ Flickr Commons

Over the course of the day the ship only moved 4 feet and tragically a man was killed while several others were injured. It would only be on 31 January, 1858 that the Great Eastern finally floated. It led to the bankruptcy of Scott and eventually a stroke and the death of Brunel in September 1859. You can read more about the history and launch from Historic England.

Get the latest London secrets to your email
See the city from a new angle, discovering little things you miss everyday and get the latest news about upcoming tours.
Once a week. No spam, just inspiration.
Your details will never be shared with any 3rd parties

But back to the Church…

As a church, St Paul’s went through some ups and downs too, expanded to double its capacity in the early 1860s. However, in 1866 the congregation had fallen to just 6 people! Thankfully by the next year it had jumped back up to 100.

Because of the rise of containerisation, when the London Docks closed in Wapping 1967, the effects were felt across the whole of the industry and the area felt the decline. The church was deconsecrated in 1972 and the Millwall Docks finally closed in 1981 along with the Royal Docks further East.

The Space E14 | Look Up London

The building was then used for a brief period to test crane equipment, the evidence for this still seen on the South elevation where a window was replaced with large double doors. Seen on the right hand side, painted red, in the image below.

Image from Google Street View

In a state of dereliction in the 1980s, the building was bought by the St Paul’s Art Trust. They restored and transformed the building into a theatre and today it’s Grade II listed.

The Space E14 | Look Up London

You can visit their website here and see images inside the building here.

Thank you to the brilliant, thorough history of the building and its architecture by Steven J Pilcher, which you can read in full here.

More London Inspiration

  • Mark Lane Ghost Station | Look Up London

    Mark Lane | The Tower Hill Ghost Station

    As you walk along the traffic-packed Byward Street, with All Hallows Barking, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge in the distance, it’s thoroughly understandable that you’d miss a ghost station hiding in plain sight. Abandoned or ‘Ghost’ stations can be seen all over London......

  • M&S Oxford Street | Pantheon History Look Up London

    M&S Oxford Street | The Former Pantheon

    Oxford Street has a bad rep from Londoners, but there’s a surprising among of fabulous history if you know where to look. From a hidden little oasis to the more gruesome reminders at Tottenham Court Road and Marble Arch, often you have to look up......

  • bull and mouth coaching inn

    The Bull and Mouth: A Lost London Coaching Inn

    By the Museum of London you can see an amazing little clue to uncover the history of the Bull and Mouth Coaching Inn...

  • Inside Crosby Moran Hall | Look Up London

    Inside Crosby Moran Hall

    I’m constantly surprised by the wonderful doors that have opened since starting this blog back in 2015. A case in point was that a few weeks ago I wrote about the extraordinary history of Crosby Hall; the Medieval Mansion that was moved 5 miles across......

  • Putney Bridge WWII Pillbox | Look Up London

    A WWII Relic at Putney Bridge Station

    If you look up along Ranelagh Gardens, atop the railway viaduct for Putney Bridge Tube Station, you can spy a curious WWII Relic; a Pillbox. This concrete pillbox was erected in 1940 across Britain, a final line of defence should Germany invade during WWII. They......

  • Lavers and Barraud Stained Glass Works | Look Up London

    Lavers and Barraud Stained Glass Works

    Look up at 22 Endell Street in Covent Garden, and you’ll see the striking facade of a former stained glass studio. Built in 1859 and designed by Robert Jewell Withers, between the multi-coloured decorative brickwork you can make out the proclamation in stone; Lavers and......

Loading comments...