This wide and ancient alley is today a haven of heritage next to the bustling and crowded Commercial Street.

It shows up originally on John Rocque’s map of 1746 as Red Lyon Court, and modern Commercial Street was a much shorter stretch of road known as Red Lyon Street.

Today it’s a mix of modern buildings at the edges, with Georgian houses in the middle.

One of the most notable buildings in the alley is the Norton Folgate almshouses, a block of houses that are not in the former liberty of Norton Folgate (which is over towards Liverpool Street), but were built here as replacement housing for almshouses demolished in the old liberty when a road was widened.

The buildings cost £1,400 when built. I think you’d need to add quite few zeros to that price today.

The almshouses occupy a space in the northern side of the alley which shows up on Horwood’s Plan of 1792 as Lamb Court. Built in 1860, and renovated in 2012, they offer 11 flats for rent through Tower Hamlets council.

The old charity that funded the almshouses still operates to this day, funding social housing for the area.

It’s a small enclave in an area of high commerce.

Facing the almshouses is a row of four houses built around 1740 when the alley was laid out, and while modified over the centuries still retain many of their early features. They are now a rare survival of small-scale 18th century urban dwellings, and unique as the last surviving alley of small weavers’ houses in Spitalfields.


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