This probably shouldn’t be in the list, as it’s a bit too wide for an alley, but it has a former alley at the end, and a very nice bit of heritage in the road.

There seems to have been some sort of road or courtyard here since the area was originally laid out, and some older maps show a gap in the street in roughly the right location.

By 1870, the area was known as Hudson’s Court, with builders and timber yards on either side. By 1889 though it changed its name to the current Cotton’s Gardens.

At the far end, the former Cotton’s Gardens alley has been sealed off with a newish looking metal fence.

That alleyway is now a dead end, but it used to pass all the way through to Hackney Road. There used to be just a couple of bollards to stop road traffic using it as a short cut, but for some reason, they were deemed insufficient, so now there’s a big fence in the way instead.

Today the road is mostly offices and expensive looking warehouse conversion homes. A newish food market opened on the side in 2014, opposite the corner pub.

However, what is worth making a visit to see is something in the road – a manhole cover.

This is in fact a rare survivor of a time that is largely forgotten, when London’s streets were largely paved not with stone, but with wood.

This manhole cover isn’t the best survivor of its type, but there’s hardly any of them left now, and no one really seems that interested in preserving them, so pay a visit one day as soon they could all be gone.


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  1. Nice piece. Thank you. Most of the spaces in the complex – which was redeveloped as Perseverance Works in the late 1980s ( – are workshops and studios, with some offices. I don’t believe there is much residential use, and certainly wasn’t when I had a studio there in the 90s, though the subsequent development on Waterson Street is more residential. The gate at the end was there at least from the early 90s.

  2. Lorna Farrell says:

    I lived at 14 Cottons Gardens from 1952 to 1968 when the 2 bollards were still there and I could walk through to Hackney Road to go to School in Columbia Road. My Nan and Grandad lived at number 12…we were the only 2 houses down there, the warehouses were glass factories. Loved cycling down the cobble street.

  3. Jackie Cotton says:

    I am researching my husbands family,Cotton, many of whom lived in the Shoreditch area. Do you know why the area was called Cotton’s Gardens?

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