Trinity Green Almshouses

This mural on a wall near the almshouses on Mile End Road was painted in 2011 by Mychael Barratt, James Glover and Nicholas Middleton. It depicts monuments and people who frequented the area and I love working out who they all are. Answers at the bottom of this blog if you want to try it yourself.

This was the Roman road heading eastwards from London and it is dead straight. If you come from the east as I often do, you can see the Gherkin looming in the distance. The tall white column is a clock tower at Queen Mary University and the minaret behind it is on the East London Mosque.

Trinity Green Almshouses were built in 1695 on land donated by Captain Henry Mudd, Master of Trinity House. The almshouses were for “decayed” master mariners and their wives or widows. Trinity House was founded in 1514 to regulate pilotage through the dangerous currents of the river Thames and to provide for aged mariners. It still looks after the lighthouses and buoys around the coast and in the navigable rivers of England and Wales.

The gated green has a row of cottages either side and opposite the gate at the far end is a chapel. The gable ends of each row of houses were topped with a carved marble ship. As well as free accommodation residents were given a ration of coal and a little money to buy food. The almshouses were threatened with demolition at the end of the 1800’s but people like the Arts & Crafts designer, CR Ashbee campaigned to save them. In 1941 they were badly damaged by bombing, some beyond repair. After the war the local council bought them to repair and modernise all those that could be saved.  Marble carvings of ships that had been on the gables were taken to the Museum of London and replaced by fibreglass copies.

Eastwards along Mile End Road is another marble ship lying on the kerbside. It puzzled me but thanks to Debbie at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives the mystery is solved, it’s a modern sculpture. Debbie sent me a photo of another bit of “old modern” art which is a little further east, a broken column. I don’t know more about them so if you are reading this blog and you do, I’d love to hear from you.

Almost directly opposite the almshouses, on the south side of Mile End Road is a bronze plaque to Captain Cook (1728-79). He moved here with his family in 1764 and they were living on the site when he landed at Botany Bay. 

Close to the almshouses is a statue and a bust of William Booth. He founded the East End Mission (now the Salvation Army) here. Maybe you can pick out William Booth and James Cook in the mural. What about the others?

Characters include : George Bernard Shaw, Queen Elizabeth, the Kray twins, the Elephant Man, Lenin, Gilbert & George, Prince Monolulu (he’s got a horse), David Hockney, Gandhi.

About the author: Gail Jones

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