This is an alley in Bethnal Green leading to a well known local pub, and was named after a rich philanthropist who left land around here to charity.

It’s a narrow space, with shops on one side, and a large house on the other, so it marks the boundary between developments, from residential to commercial.

The alley is likely named after Sebright Street, which is today Coate Street.

Sebright Street was named after William Seabright (1541–1620), Town Clark of London, who among his many properties, owned land in this part of Bethnal Green.

There is a story that his first purchase of a farm in Bethnal Green was because he did not like the milk that was sold in the City and as part of his property in Bethnal Green did adjoin what was then called Milkwives’ Bridge there may be some truth in this tale.

In his will of 1620, he established the charity “Sebright’s Endowed Schools”, still surviving today and very richly endowed as Sebright’s Educational Foundation, and it also inherited the land in Bethnal Green.

At some point, no one is entirely sure, the Seabright surname was misspelt, and hence it’s now Sebright.

His ancestors were granted a Baronetcy, although the current Sebright, Rufus is still trying to prove his right to the title.

At the rear of the alley is the pub.

The Sebright Arms is a turn of the century red brick public house with a clay tiled roof, originally called the House of Toby as a live music hall from 1865. It was known for heavy metal bands in the 1970s and then the punk scene.

The pub was nearly demolished a decade ago to be replaced with a block of flats, but it still here and now known for its real ales and live music scene. The cream tiles that line the ground floor are typical of Charrington’s pubs of the time, and help to reflect light into the alley.

On the other side of the alley from the pub is a former shoe factory that seems to have been converted into flats with a rather forbidding dark paint job over the front.

Tower Hamlets council describe the passage an interesting survival and “whilst in need of repair is an essential part of the historic character.”


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One comment
  1. Keith Clarke says:

    There’s more information about the Sebright Arms here –

    but though they mention music hall, they don’t mention the House of Toby.

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