This is one of those industrial alleys that Shoreditch is cleaning up into decorative residential areas, but still has plenty of character left to it.

The area was fields until the 1750s, when Charlotte Road was laid out with two blocks of houses and Mills Court between them.

R Horwood Map 1799

Although pure speculation, it was possibly named after a mill in the area when it was fields.

Although the houses with back gardens have long since been replaced with larger industrial properties, the T-shaped layout of the alley has remained largely unchanged.

By the 1920s, as with most of the area, it had long ceased to be residential and was largely given over to furniture manufacturing. All the buildings surrounding the alley were factories, save the eastern corner, which was the Marquis of Cornwallis pub. Bashing the wood is thirsty work.

The eastern side was badly damaged during WW2, and while most of it was rebuilt, the pub never was, and remained a vacant site used as a car park right up to just a couple of years ago. Now it’s a block of flats.

The alleyway is still lined with stone sett paving, and while mainly a back of building access, there are plans to revamp it a bit to make it more appealing as a pedestrian route. My visit involved dealing with several badly parked cars in the pedestrian walkway end of the alley, so not sure how evicting the motorist will work.

What really gives the alley some character though is the western half, which is dominated by the Victorian era furniture factory building and warehouse. Walking along the alley you cannot help but notice the blue goods doors on each floor above the passageway.

The building was constructed as a factory by John King Farlow in 1877-81 after he bought up the row of tenement houses in the area.

Although the factory had a number of occupants over the years, it was most notably occupied by W.A.Hudson, a supplier of cornice poles and curtain fittings set up in 1890 by William Hudson. Over the next century, the company moved around and changed its products in line with the times, and Hudson’s descendants are still trading today as a plastics packaging company under the name Gratnells.

You can easily see this being a bit of olde-London used by film crews in need of some Dickensian atmosphere.


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One comment
  1. Julia says:

    Thanks for this. It’s an amazing little alley to walk down as you don’t see the William Hudson doors until after you turn round to head back out!
    One of my ancestors lived in this Court from 1815-1822 before moving into the new houses built for the Regent’s Canal in what is now the post-war estate of Branch Place in Hoxton.
    He was a labourer in an oil mill – which might give a clue to it’s name, though I have yet to locate an oil milling factory nearby on any maps.

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