The Story of Trinity Green Almshouses, Whitechapel Road

Along Whitechapel Road, glance up at the right moment and you’re stopped in your tracks. The serene historic sight of Trinity Green Almshouses transports you back into a London from hundreds of years ago.

Trinity Green Almshouses

This is a delightful slice of East London in the 17th century.

TRINITY GREEN ALMSHOUSES

The almshouses belong to the Corporation of Trinity House, an organisation going back over 500 years.

On 9 March 1513 a group of mariners who were fed up with the lack of regulation on the Thames petitioned the King to set up a fraternity to license pilotage along London’s liquid thoroughfare.

However even before they got their official credentials, Trinity House were a benevolent group that looked after mariners in need along with their widows and dependants.

The charity was based at Deptford and built two sets of almshouses there, today neither survive.

However in 1695, 28 almshouses and a chapel were built to accommodate the growing group and Mile End was chosen as a suitable location.

Trinity Green Almshouses

The money for all these new homes came from Captain Henry Mudd of Ratcliffe (1630-1692) who had donated the land to Trinity House in his will. He is mentioned on a lovely little cartouche on the side of the building.

Trinity Green Almshouses

Design and Details

Even without knowing the history, a closer look at these exquisite boats would probably give away the sea-faring connections.

Trinity Green Almshouses

to make the point even clearer, in the 19th Century there was a large mast in the middle of the green! You can see what this looked like from the stock image here.

It’s become part of East End folklore that the design for Trinity Green was by none other than Christopher Wren, Britain’s most famous 17th century architect.

Trinity Green Almshouses

It’s repeated so often that it’s taken as fact, but the issue is there isn’t a shred of proof for the claim!

It’s more likely that the architect was Sir William Ogbourne, master carpenter (1662-1734).

Trinity Green Almshouses

Survival

It seems unthinkable that these gorgeous homes could possibly be knocked down, but they’ve come close a few times.

Trinity Green Almshouses

In 1895 they were rescued from destruction by Charles Robert Ashbee, founder of the Guild of Handicrafts in Bow who was a resident at Toynbee Hall by Aldgate East tube station today.

They also narrowly escaped total destruction in the Second World War, in the end just the 8 almhouses behind the chapel were destroyed by bombs.

Protection became official in 1950 was the building received its Grade I listing and later the London County Council restored the remaining almshouses and chapel.

As recently as 2017 it still had a near miss though, with a plan for a 28-storey tower to loom over the historic garden, ruining Trinity Green’s striking visual impact. Thankfully this plan was scrapped.

Trinity Green Almshouses

Luckily we still have Trinity Green Almshouses to admire. Today they’re a mix of private and council homes.

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2 Comments

  • Anwen Evans

    Reply

    I was a student at Queen Mary back in the 90s and I used to walk past these every time I went to the Sainsburys in Whitechapel. One evening when I was trying to read some of the plaques on the buildings a lovely man spotted me and gave me a mini lecture on the history. It’s such a beautiful place and a real break from the business of the main drag just a few hundred yards away. A real nostalgic post for me. Thanks!

    March 11, 2020 at 7:58 am

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