This is a passage that winds its way around the backs of Shoreditch with a mix of 1950s factory buildings and modern flats.
The passage also has a complicated naming history.
The western two-thirds was originally called Norfolk Gardens, and the eastern part was called New Norfolk Street. Then in the 19th-century, both passages were renamed as Norfolk Place and again renamed later as Dereham Place, with a line of bollards where the two roads met. The names were split again in the 20th-century, to create Dereham Street and Dereham Place respectfully.
The area initially developed as housing but was slowly consumed by industry, and by the 19th century the whole area was mainly timber yards and workshops, but Norfolk Place still managed to cling onto some housing for workers, although being surrounded by industry would have made these very cheap homes to rent.
One exception was Norfolk Buildings, a couple of blocks of “model dwellings”, which were properties specially constructed for the accommodation of the working classes, and while better than living in old houses, the model dwellings were still cramped places to live.
Most of the buildings lining Dereham Place and Dereham Street were destroyed or badly damaged during WW2, leaving just a single block, known as Norfolk Buildings standing after the war.
What went up after the war were largely office/warehouse buildings, many of which still survive to the western end, but the eastern end has in recent years been part of the Shoreditch effect and been redeveloped into packed rows of flats.
It’s a very Shoreditch area, cobbles lead to roads under railways with changing street art on the railway wall and what looks like a bar squashed into the arches is actually a series of photography studios and events spaces.
On the right (photo below) is a newish block of buildings that are sold as live-work properties, in a way harking back to many of the original inhabitants of the area who would have lived and worked in the same building. Opposite is the Foundry, a residential building with a name nicked from a list of locally appealing names, as there’s never been a foundry on this site.
As you head towards the end of the passage, it looks as if it’s going to be a dead-end as the road has double yellow lines that run around the end of the road, but in fact, it continues around the corner. A narrow passage leads to a wider back-street which is mainly used for parking cars and covering walls with graffiti.
The north side of the passage is dominated by Sheraton House, a post-war “flatted factory”, a building that was designed to provide space for a number of smaller factories so that they could continue to operate in the area. Many of the occupants have long since moved away, and there’s finally a growing awareness of the unique architectural heritage of this form of building.
Developers have recently been given permission to redevelop the former factory building into offices and plonk a very out-of-character glass box extension on top.
The plans have been approved — so while the 1950s architecture won’t appeal to everyone, if you want to see an increasingly rare survivor of a 1950s era flatted factory before it’s desecrated, pop along soon.