History 1855 – 1900

There is an entry for Mornington Road in M F Elliston’s work, A Topography of Tower Hamlets – unpublished at present (summer 2017), but available for consultation at Tower Hamlets Local History Library. The following extract is published with kind permission of the author, but copyright remains with him:

Mornington Road, Bow Road E3

[c1855-1938] [BSL] (J5) {50}

Much of Mornington Road was built from 1854 by Charles Martin, a civil engineer born in Holborn and later of Redcliffe Square, Brompton. The name is for Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington and the son of the 1st Earl of Mornington. William Wellesley, who became the fourth Earl of Mornington, lived on the north side of Bow Road and
Mornington Road was east of Wellington Road. Mornington Road was laid out from 1854 on the south side of Bow Road to the east of Wellington Road.
Originally it had twenty houses on the west side, 1-20 n-s, and six houses in the centre of the east side, 21-26 n-s (which belonged to Charles Martin of Redcliffe Square, W). The other plots on the east side appear to have been left vacant (or were gardens?).
Mornington Road was adopted by Bromley 21/07/1890, quite a time after it was first laid out. In about 1890-1891 two terraces were built on the east side: St Leonardʼs Terrace (1-13 n-s) to the north of the existing 21-26 and St Georgeʼs Terrace (1-9 n-s) to the south. Thus there were three ranges 1-9 in Mornington Road which bought objections from the earlier occupiers. Mornington Road was renumbered 27/09/1892, Plan 4725 and St Georgeʼs Terrace and St Leonardʼs Terrace renumbered therein and the original houses became 30-35.
This Mornington Road was renamed Mornington Grove 4/07/1938 wef 1/01/1939 (no plan). Numbers 1-6 on the west side and nos 29-43 on the east side were
demolished in about 1900 to enable the construction of the Underground Railway cutting and the diverted Eleanor Street. Nos 7 & 8 were demolished in the second war and
44-48 were demolished in 1990 for the Magistrates’ Court on Bow Road.
© Copyright M F Elliston 2017

[See District Line Devastation for more detailed account of houses demolished for the Underground Railway cutting.]

Who built the houses?

A minute of Ratcliff and Barking Monthly Meeting of the Society of Friends (Quakers) dated 18th of the 4th Month 1854 reports that an agreement has been entered into for letting the land at Bow Road to Thomas Waterman and Charles Martin for the time of 99 years from the 25 of the 3rd Month 1854, at a peppercorn rent for the first nine months and at a yearly rent of £200 for the rest of the term; they agreeing to erect upon the land in the first ten years at least 20 houses of the total annual value of £1000. [At £50 a house, the equivalent in today’s money that might be over £4000 a year per house.]

Charles Martin was a Civil Engineer based in Brompton, west London.  Thomas Waterman was a Naval Architect of East India Road and Charles Martin’s father-in-law. When they took on this lease, Charles was 29 and Thomas 57.

A year after the deal was struck Thomas Waterman was ‘afflicted by mental disease’ and died in May 1855.  As Charles Martin had laid out a considerable sum in the formation of a road and a sewer on the land it was arranged that the land should be taken by Charles Martin.

Who was Charles Martin, and why did he build such ‘unusually grand’ houses?  So far information is sparse. He was born in 1825 in Holborn. He married in 1849 in the Holy Trinity Brompton, but he and his wife, Sarah Waterman, gave birth to a son, Charles Jnr, at No. 2 Wellington Road on October 10th 1854, so he obviously had connections with East London, perhaps through his wife’s family. (Their son was to achieve some fame as an actor/manager under the name Charles Charrington, marrying the actress Janet Achurch, a very close friend of Bernard Shaw and the first to perform Ibsen plays in Britain.  There was an extensive correspondence between Charles Charrington and Bernard Shaw; even more extensive between Janet Achurch and Shaw. This intriguing story can be found in an essay by Dr Bernard Ince – A Janet Achurch Chronology from which comes much of the information of the whereabouts of Charles Martin snr.) .  In 1861 census, Charles Martin was living in Thurloe Place, Brompton; by 1866 records show he was living in Sumner Place, South Kensington, and a application for drainage to Poplar District Board of Works, for six houses on the east side of Mornington Road, is made by Charles Martin in 1873, address given as Sumner Place.  By the time of the 1881 census he is living at 15 Redcliffe Square, South Kensington.  He died on October 11th 1891 – about the time when Mornington Road was complete, with fine housing along both sides of the road.  In his will he leaves property in Wellington Road, Mornington Road and Haverstock Hill to his offspring.

Support the Poor

The primary purpose of the rents raised in Mornington Road and the associated development along the 90 yard frontage on Bow Road was to “support the poor,” as this minute from Ratcliff Monthly Meeting explains:

20th of 3rd Month 1856

“To The Monthly meeting,  The committee to whom it was referred to consider what should be the future annual payment to Croydon school as the income of the legacy of Elizabeth Hearn, having considered that subject, and finding that the proceeds of the original investment of that legacy constituted about one twentieth part of the cost of the Bow Road estate, recommend that one twentieth part of the rents of the estate from the beginning of the year 1855 be paid to Croydon School in lieu of the annual sum of £2.8s heretofore paid to that institution.    The committee also find that of the remainder of the purchase money of the Bow Road estate (£890 in all), the sum of £253  being about two seventh parts of the whole, consisted of money given to the Monthly meeting out of the estates of Joseph Talwin and Elizabeth Talwin for its own use.  We therefore recommend that two seventh parts of the rents of the Bow Road Estate be henceforth considered applicable to the general purposes of the Monthly meeting, including the support of the Poor so far as they may be required for that purpose, and that the remainder of the rents subject to the above mentioned payment to Croydon School, be applied to the support of the poor exclusively.  The Funded property in the hands of the meeting appears to be derived (with very small exception) from funds given or bequeathed for the use of the Poor, and we think that the whole income from that property should still be so applied.  We think that the accounts should be so kept hereafter as to show at the end of each year the receipts as well as the payments on account of the Poor, distinctly from those for the general purposes of the meeting.”

This distribution of multiples of ‘sevenths’ of the income to various purposes was to have difficult implications for Quakers in the 1950s who wished to use funds arising from the ownership of the estate to build a new meeting house.

My thanks to Friends House Library and its very helpful staff for assistance in this endeavour to find the origins and purposes of Mornington Road

Why “Mornington”?

Mornington Crescent, built in the 1820s, was named after the 2nd Earl of Mornington, 1760-1842.  And maybe that precedent led the builders of Mornington Road to name their new little street after the 4th Earl of Mornington, who died at the time the street was being built, in 1857, though I can as yet not found evidence that he ever lived on the north side of the Bow Road as Elliston asserts, on the basis of the highly reputable work of Daniel R Bolt in List of Streets, Places and Subsidiary Names in the Borough of Poplar (Metropolitan Borough of Poplar 1938). But the 4th Earl of Mornington was such an unpleasant and unwholesome character, one would really rather the road were found not to be named after him. His conduct was thoroughly disreputable and he died in ignominy. His name, before becoming known as the 4th Earl in 1845, was William Pole Tylney-Long-Wellesley.

WILLIAM POLE WELLESLEY, afterwards fourth Earl of Mornington and second Baron Maryborough, was born on June 22, 1788, and is chiefly remembered for his extravagance, and for having married the “pocket Venus,” Catherine Tylney-Long, whose hyphenated name he then inserted before his surname, and became known thenceforth as Long-Wellesley. …

Obituary notices are almost invariably tempered with mercy, and bad indeed must have been the man of whom it was written : “A spendthrift, a profligate, and gambler in his youth, he became a debauchee in his manhood, and achieved the prime disgrace of being the second person whom the Court of Chancery deprived of paternal rights, and withdrawing out of his care his children, whose early tutors and whose morals he wickedly endeavoured to corrupt, from a malicious desire to add to the agonies of their desolate and broken-hearted mother. Redeemed by no single virtue, adorned by no single grace, his life has gone out, even without a flicker of repentance – his ‘retirement’ was that of one who was deservedly avoided by all men. …” (The Morning Chronicle, July 4, 1857.)

For years before his death on July 1, 1857, Long-Wellesley had lived in lodgings. He was a member of parliament from 1812 to 1832, representing in turn Wiltshire, St. Ives, and Essex; and he was one of the Tories who, on November 15, 1830, succeeded in defeating the Wellington Ministry. Otherwise, his career in the House of Commons was uneventful, though a misdeed of his brought him into temporary notoriety. In July 1831 he removed his daughter from the guardian appointed by the Court of Chancery; whereupon Lord Brougham, then Lord Chancellor, committed him to the Fleet for contempt of court, officially informed Mr. Speaker Sutton of his action, and refused the application of the Sergeant-at-Arms to surrender his prisoner, who claimed privilege as a member of parliament. Long-Wellesley was permitted to remain at his house in Dover Street in charge of two officers of the Court of Chancery, and further trouble was averted by the girl being restored to the authorities. In 1845 the third Earl of Mornington died, and Long-Wellesley came into the title; but by this time he had disappeared from society – which, indeed, was no longer inclined to receive him. He spent the last years of his life in lodgings in Mayer Street, Manchester Square, London, deeply involved in debt, and subsisting on a small allowance, the bounty of his cousin, the second Duke of Wellington. His wife outlived, but can scarcely have regretted, him; while the news of his decease was welcomed by his numerous creditors, who were secured by large insurances on his life.

He was succeeded by his eldest son, William Richard Arthur Pole Tylney Long-Wellesley, who was born in 1813, and died unmarried in 1863, when the Irish earldom of Mornington passed to the Duke of Wellington, and the English barony of Maryborough became extinct.
[from THE BEAUX OF THE REGENCY by Lewis Melville(1908), from Friends of Wanstead Park website: http://www.wansteadpark.org.uk  ]
The 2nd Earl of Mornington was brother to the 1st Duke of Wellington and this connection between the two titled men may account for the adjacent street names, Wellington Road and Mornington Road.  It would also suggest that the streets had a connected origin, but I have yet to find what that connection might have been.

But I also had verbal information from a late relative who worked at the Quakers’ London ‘headquarters’, Friends House Euston Road, that he had discovered Mornington Grove was named after a Quaker group known as The Fellowship of the Morning – but I have not been able to find any evidence that this was truly the case.

Slow Progress

Progress in building the houses is very slow and often delayed.  Throughout the 1860s and 1870s and 1880s there are repeated minutes in Ratcliff and Barking Monthly Meeting reporting that Charles Martin has asked for an extension in the time in which he was covenanted to build houses.  By 1863 Nos 1-20, the ‘unusually grand’ houses on the west side appear in Kelly’s Post Office Directory.  On 14 May 1868 the Monthy Meeting minutes that Charles Martin has asked for permission to erect a Church in connection with the Scotch Church or Evangelical Departers from the Church of England on a part of the Estate and for an extension of the time for building in the residue of the land, this meeting assents generally to the proposal. Houses on the east side don’t begin to appear until 1875.  There was a “little iron building” functioning as a Presbyterian church opened in 1868 near the Bow Road end, later replaced by a grand brick built church opened in 1876, with its frontage on Bow Road. The terrace of six houses, originally numbered 21 – 26 (north to south – and later to be renumbered in 1892 30 to 35, south to north) show up for the first time in 1882.  It is not until 16th May 1889 that the Ratcliff and Barking Monthly Meeting minutes are able to report  that the whole of the ground comprised in the Building Agreement entered into with Charles Martin and dated 31 March 1855 has now been de…(?) including the Road known as Mornington Road and that the rent reserved by the various leases amount altogether to the sum of £200 per annum in accordance with the said agreement.  The lease of a portion of the ground which is still vacant contains covenants by Charles Martin that if he erects any buildings thereon they shall be in accordance with the terms of the original agreement and be approved by the lessors Surveyor and the lease of the road, containing a covenant for its repair and maintenance until taken over by some Public Authority.

It took 35 years for this little street to receive its full complement of houses; just over a year later, Charles Martin died.

Only 10 years later a third of the new houses would be demolished!  A minute of the Monthly Meeting on 13 December 1883 was as follows: The trustees of the Bow Road Estate report that notice has been received from the promoters of the Metropolitan and London Tilbury and Southend Railway that they have scheduled nearly the whole of the estate for the purposes of an intended railway.  The trustees are directed to reply to the promoters that they dissent from the proposed undertaking.

See District Line Devastation!