Home » Human Life » Lawn House and the Many Faces of Glen Terrace

Lawn House and the Many Faces of Glen Terrace


Manchester Road (Glen Terrace)

Housing from the 19th century is relatively rare around the West India Dock area due to the docks themselves and the effect of bombing in the Second World War. One notable survivor is the row of terraced houses located near the Blue Bridge that was known as Glen Terrace which occupies a small piece of ground which has quite an interesting history.

dock row

Map shows Pilcher’s yard (Canal Dockyard) on the left 1870 and Glen Terrace on the right 1967)

After the City Canal in the early 1800s was built, small pieces of surplus land were sold, one of the buyers was Thomas Pilcher a shipbuilder who lay out a new dockyard,with two dry docks, and on the opposite side of the road, he built some small houses for his employees (Canal Row) and a large detached house for himself (Lawn House).

Lawn House built in 1812 was a spacious detached house with quite large gardens with fruit trees. The Pilcher family lived at Lawn House until the 1840s until it was sold with the rest of Pilcher’s Dockyard. However the new owners had little use for the house and presented the house rent free to the Sailors Home institution who provided moderately priced accommodation for seaman.

lawn house

Lawn House (The Sailors Home) 1854

Lawn House was refurbished and extended with 50 beds, a dining room, reading room and refreshment room. The Sailors Home opened in 1853, but for some unknown reason it was not a success and the house became a private residence again in 1858, then the East and West India Company bought it and used it for its employees from 1870 until 1941 when it was demolished due to bomb damage.

Lawn House may be gone but it is not forgotten because the area around Jack Dash House where the gardens used to be is now known as Lawn House Close.

lawn3Lawn House Close and back of Glen Terrace

Following the demolition of Canal Row and the widening of the roadway in 1877,the land was left unused except for one house built in 1881 and leased to a William Jabez Davis who opened a coffee house called the South Dock Coffee House.
The Dock was keen to let the other plots but could not attract any buyers till a William Warren offered £1550 for the freehold of the land. This was accepted and Warren and a builder served notice that they intended to build 20 houses on the site.

Affordable housing is often in the news especially in Docklands, however this is not only a modern phenomenon as is illustrated by the terrace of houses on Manchester Road which was previously known as Glen Terrace.


The new houses (with the earlier coffee house) were called Glen Terrace, after the Glen Shipping Line which temporarily had occupied the site in the early 1880s.

Part of the finance for the development was supplied by the Orient Permanent Building Society, of which William Warren was a director. The Society was keen to promote the virtues and advantages of owner-occupancy in East London.

Eventually they built a terrace of 17 two storey houses, two two-storey houses with shops and one three-storey house with a shop. The houses were begun in 1888 and completed in 1890 and were built to a higher standard than usual to appeal to owner occupiers.

Warren and the builder Larman sold the houses as freeholds, the average price the houses being about £350. But rather than being owner occupiers most of the buyers were ‘Buy to Let.’ In the 1891 census at least nine houses had multi occupation and the evidence was this increased to many of the other houses.

Although not a particularly unusual terrace, the builders did customise some the houses with a number of stone portraits around the porches and bay windows, many of the heads have strange headwear including  Top hats and bowlers. One or two seem to be putting their tongues out and others sport handlebar moustaches.

The reason why they decided to add these the faces to the otherwise ornate mouldings is unknown but it is likely that the builders were leaving their own particular mark on the properties, which over 120 years later are still there.





  1. Tim WAugh says:

    Fascinating insight into the History of this terrace. Many thanks.

    Sent from my iPad


  2. In any other part of London these houses would hardly be worth a mention. But the rarity of this type of housing in the Isle of Dogs tells a great deal of how the area differs from the rest of the city.

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