History since 1945

Local Authority Housing

During World War 2 the houses in Mornington Grove were requisitioned by the local authority, and following this there was a further agreement between the local authority and the Quakers, Ratcliff and Barking Monthly Meeting, under which the local council continued to let them out until some time in the 1970s.  A member of Ratcliff and Barking Monthly meeting comments that although the local authority had ‘a full repairing lease’ they did very little to keep the buildings in good order: “One lunch time in the 1970s I took time off from my job as a structural engineer … to see sections of the outer skin brickwork that had peeled off near an elegant window in one of the villas’ flank walls.”


No. 5, 6, 7 & 8 Mornington Grove, that were on the west side of the street, immediately south of the District Line, were destroyed, presumably during the War – either as a result of the incendiary bomb that landed on Mornington Grove on the first night of the Blitz, 7 October 1940, or maybe one of the three high explosive bombs that landed on Wellington Way. In their place were erected 4 ‘prefabs’ – shown on the OS map of 1948 – rectangles numbered 6, 7, 8 and 9.


Access was down a central path. Reportedly they each had very nice gardens.  ‘Prefabs’ were prefabricated houses used by the government to address the post-war housing crisis.  See more about prefabs HERE    This photo of a prefab in Tooke Street, Millwall, was taken by Peter Wright.
Prefab cropped


Ian Hutchings in The Society of Friends (Quakers) in Havering identifies these Bow Road and Mornington Grove properties when discussing raising finances for a new Quaker Meeting House in Romford:

By the late 1950’s Friends were dissatisfied with [their Meeting House] 171, Victoria Road [Romford]. It was inadequate for their needs and little alteration could be made. A building fund was set up. About this time the Monthly Meeting – now the Ratcliff and Barking Monthly Meeting, learnt that leases on property in Bow were due to ‘fall in’. The properly included the old Bow Magistrates Court … which was scheduled for demolition.

There were, also, several large houses both on Bow Road and an adjoining side road. The property was very dilapidated and needed considerable expenditure before the buildings (converted to flats) could be let. Eventually, they started to yield a good rental income.  Friends of the Monthly Meeting were naturally delighted with this news.

However, using the income was not straightforward:

In the meantime, the Monthly Meeting learnt that by the terms of the various wills and covenants governing the Bow Estate, 5/7ths of the income was to be used for the relief of the poor and needy, and only 2/7ths for general purposes. Furthermore, it was necessary to contribute the 2/7ths to the executive committee of Friends that runs the business of the Monthly Meeting in the London Area – the Six Weeks Meeting.

Theses 5/7ths and 2/7ths arise from the portion of the legacy of Elizabeth Hearns used in 1812 to buy the land that Mornington Grove was built on.  The minutes of Ratcliff and Barking Monthly Meeting of 20th March 1856 which explains how the proportion was arrived at can be read on the pre-1855 history page of this site.

Mornington Grove Community

When Ratcliff and Barking Monthly Meeting Trust and Funded Properties sold the whole street to Springboard Housing Association, nos. 13 and 14 were not included in that sale but were made available to a group wishing to set up a community along the lines of Some Friends Community in Bethnal Green road.  Some Friends Community had been founded in 1973 and continued for 35 years, until it closed in 2008.

The Quaker connection was significant at the time of the foundation of the Mornington Grove Community in 1981, but during the 1990s the community split from the Quakers through what the community referred to as an ‘amicable divorce’, to become an independent community. But due to the Quaker history, the buildings of the community have been owned outright almost since its conception. (see Rhiannon Firth: Utopian Politics: Citizenship and Practice – Routledge Innovations in Political Theory – Routledge, 2012).  When Firth interviewed residents in 2007 she noted that historically different tendencies of ideological focus between the two houses had informally emerged – one resident suggesting that one house more was concerned with spiritual, alternative ways of living and thinking, the other maybe somewhat cynical and atheistic and more into political action.

Their current web-site [July 2017] describes the community as it is today:                           The community was founded in 1981 to be a stable and secure home. It occupies two large semi-detached Victorian houses, with communal garden, in a quiet road in East London. Over thirty years later the community is still going strong.                     Mornington Grove is a city community of up to 14 diverse people. Our main commitments are to communal living and creating an inclusive home, and to working by consensus; the community is vegetarian and non-smoking. Our legal status is as a fully-mutual housing co-op, and we make all decisions by consensus at fortnightly meetings. Over the years members have varied widely, with trends at times towards music, activism, macrobiotics, psychotherapy, design, various forms of spirituality and more. Now many of us are involved in work, study, campaigning, performing, friends and interests outside the community as well as our lives here. We welcome and value diverse life style and choices. 

We’re open to new members of all ages who seek to live in and contribute to an active community. Each member takes on responsibilities for co-op, community and household jobs ranging from finances to maintenance and gardening work or organising a summer party.

To celebrate their 25 anniversary in 2006, the Mornington Grove Community organised a street party – a very jolly event which continued a tradition of occasional street parties in Mornington Grove, and provided an opportunity for residents of the street to get to know not only members of the Community, but their neighbours up and down the street as well.

You can find out more about the Mornington Grove Community HERE.

Springboard Housing Association

1980 – Given the increasing dilapidation of the houses in the street, the Quakers decided to sell the whole street, nos. 9-20, and nos 21-26, to Springboard Housing Association – with the exception of nos 13 & 14 in which the Mornington Grove Community was established.  The leading figure from Springboard Housing Association was the Reverend Ken Start, a Methodist minister, and Springboard had the motto “Social Care through Christian Concern”. He came and spoke to tenants at a meeting at Bromley Public Hall to reassure them when the future looked unsettled.

Our memory is that Springboard Housing Association paid £250,000 for the whole street – a price which today (2017) couldn’t even buy a one-bedroomed flat. After Springboard HA purchased the street a period of extended refurbishment began, residents being moved into other properties as their homes were done up.  Many houses were empty, and occasionally loud noises could be heard in the night as thieves stole original fire places and fittings and reclaimed old bricks. By the late 1980s the whole street had been refurbished with central heating, proper bathrooms and lavatories.

At that time there was a rent collector, Clive Durdle, and his regular visits to collect the rent were combined with social concern, helping tenants with problems and putting them in touch with each other when he thought they could help each other.

No. 27 and No. 28 Mornington Grove

The construction company, Crispin & Borst, founded in 1938,  had a considerable post-war presence in Mornington Grove.  One resident remembers them having use of all the houses on the east side of Mornington Grove.  There is a record of a short-lived company called Shirewing Construction Limited, incorporated in 1964, having its address as Mornington Grove, and then changing its name to Crispin & Borst later that year. Crispin & Borst had registered offices at No.27 Mornington Grove, 1964-1995, and the land now occupied by No. 28 was effectively a builders yard for the company, with storage sheds, portakabins and such like.

In 2002 Crispin & Borst was bought up by Vinci Construction PLC, and at about that time their house and land in Mornington Grove had been acquired by Telford Homes and the present flats at 28 Mornington Grove were built.  The architects were Mark Adams and Partners.  Mark Adams submitted a planning application in February 2002, including a design statement, that reads as follows:

Site Analysis:  The triangular corner site is flanked by Mornington Grove and Eleanor Street; and can be seen from the Main Bow Road to the North.  The site boundary encompasses an existing three storey terrace house (a continuation of the Mornington Grove terrace frontage), and old light industrial single storey units that are proposed for demolition.  Mornington Grove is a tree lined street with 3 storey bay fronted terraces to the east side, and four and a half storey terraces to the west side.  The Grove is very quiet as it is a no through road.

Proposed Design:  The proposed residential scheme allows for a corner feature to the north of the site, and a reduced scale change, south across the site, to relate to the existing three storey terrace.  Apartments 3, 6 and 9 are of a comparative width and height to the existing terrace, taking its level datums from existing bay window features.  The proposed also infers a symmetry line along the end of terrace gable end wall, which continues the existing bay symmetry rhythm along Mornington Grove.  These apartments are also in line with the existing bay frontage; the following proposed units then step forward towards the pavement line, to line through with the corner feature.  This articulates the façade and emphasises the proposed.

Moving north along the frontage, the remaining apartments increase in width and height, to relate to the four and a half storey terraces opposite, and keep the symmetrical bay feature rhythm.  Design, materials and finishes will be of a high standard.  Externals will be primarily masonry and self-coloured render.  Entrance features, canopies, and full height glazing above entrances will add further elevational detail.

In total (excluding the existing terrace), 9 new high quality apartments are achieved. A balance has been obtained, achieving maximum density whilst not using the entire available site footprint as this allows for units to be stepped, and for scale to be changed across the site, to better relate to the existing building proportions.

Only one objection was received, from No. 13 Mornington Grove, that was summarised as follows:

That the proposed scheme would be out of keeping with the nature of the adjacent Victorian terraces and would needlessly destroy the existing architectural rhythm and homogeneity; that the density is too high with the developer proposing to build across virtually the entire site, and would rise significantly higher than the adjoining terrace. As a result the established continuity of frontages and roofline will be destroyed; and that out of work hours parking in the street is already generally oversubscribed.

The Planning authority’s view in response was that the issues raised by the objector have been considered, however given the shape of the site it would not have been feasible to construct a pastiche extension to the existing terrace. The guidance notes with DEV25 [planning policy] states that in areas which include a wide variety of building types, innovative design, which nevertheless reflects the character of the conservation area, may be more appropriate. In the case of Mornington Grove and the subject site, the character of the terrace on the east side of the street is totally different to that on the west side of the street. Looking south beyond the end of the street is a modern 2-3 storey development, north on Mornington Grove is a modern 3 and a half storey development  [Nos 7 & 8] adjacent to the Listed Terrace, and north-east on Mornington Grove is the Magistrates Court. The design of the proposed scheme is modern but reflects the character of the surrounding area with its bay windows, vertical subdivision, and boundary treatment. With the use of high quality, appropriate materials the proposed scheme is considered to an improvement to the conservation area. The height and scale of the proposed building is consistent with the form of the surrounding residential development. The most southern block of the new development, which adjoins the existing terrace, is three storeys in height to approximately match the height of the existing terrace. The next two blocks then rise half a storey in the form of a roof gallery. This is only slightly higher than the adjacent terrace and is consistent with the three and a half storey terrace opposite. The proposed building will provide a positive and attractive focal point to this prominent corner location. Given the unusual shape of this corner site, the proposed development is required to be stepped forward from the existing building line to fit the site. The bull nose bay feature of the northern most block is considered to provide an acceptable visual solution to development on this prominent corner site.

Looking at the building that actually arose on this site, it’s hard to locate much sensitivity to the ‘existing symmetry rhythm’ of the terrace upon whose unfortunately truncated end it has been appended, nor any sympathetic reflection of the grand three and a half storey buildings opposite.

MG5 ed

Sources: www.bifm.org.uk/bifm/filegrab/Crispin.doc?type=documents&ref=515 http://democracy.towerhamlets.gov.uk/Data/Development%20Committee/20020419/Minutes/$Mornington%20Grove.doc.pdf