Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

This is one of the scenes photographed by my father in 1947 that is to me, a fascinating photo being 70 years old, however I am not sure if there was a specific reason, point of interest etc. to take this particular photo. The scene is Clerkenwell Close with the steps leading up to Robert’s Place at the end of the close, adjacent to the Pear Tree Court and Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate.

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

The same scene in 2017:

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

A view that has hardly changed apart from the two trees, cars and the buildings at the far end around and behind the steps.

To find this location, head north from Clerkenwell Road to Clerkenwell Green, then follow Clerkenwell Close around the edge of the church of St. James where you will find the site of the above photos. I have marked this with an orange circle in the 1940 map below (the streets here have hardly changed):

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

Going up from the orange circle, there is a road to the left, this is Pear Tree Court. Just above this junction are the steps at the far end of the photos which lead up to Robert’s Place and then into Bowling Green Lane.

This is one of the photos were I can work out exactly where the original was taken, leaning up against the wall underneath the Clerkenwell Close sign.

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

The buildings seen in the photo are part of the Clerkenwell Estate built by the Peabody Trust. The estate runs along Clerkenwell Close and Pear Tree Court, and consists of a number of Victorian five storey blocks clustered around a central courtyard. Each block given a letter rather than a number which, along with their appearance, does give the impression of blocks of barracks. The entrance to block C from Clerkenwell Close:

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

The view along Pear Tree Court:

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

The Clerkenwell Estate was one of six estates built by the Peabody Trust in the late 19th century. The Peabody Trust emerged from the The Peabody Donation Fund which was set up by the American, George Peabody in 1862. He was born in Massachusetts in 1795 but moved to London in 1837 where he remained for the rest of his life.

Peabody wanted to do something to help alleviate the poverty that he saw across London. It was suggested to him that people needed better living conditions with an affordable rent so he set up the Peabody Donation Fund with the first housing being built in 1864 at Commercial Street, Spitalfields.

The Clerkenwell Estate came about through the clearance of a number of slum sites under the Artisans and Labourers Dwellings Improvement Act of 1875 which allowed the Metropolitan Board of Works to buy up and clear six sites across London. The area around Pear Tree Court had already been condemned as unfit for human habitation.

The architect of the new estate was Henry Darbishire. The model used for each of the blocks consisted of units of five flats around a central staircase. In the late 19th century it was still standard practice for many facilities to be shared so each unit of five flats had shared lavatories and sculleries.

Entrance to Block C:

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

Block E – I do like the brick construction, however they do present a rather institutionalised appearance.

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

Block D:

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

On the side of the estate towards Farringdon Lane, there is an obvious change in construction where to the left a short terrace of two storey buildings run to the left. This terrace is the site of Block G which was badly damaged (along with Block H) by bombing in December 1940 with 12 people being killed in the attack.

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

Entrance to Block A – flowers and sunlight and I am startng to really appreciate these buildings.

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

The site is built on a considerable slope as can be seen in the photo below. The site slopes down towards Farringdon Road and the old route of the River Fleet.

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

Looking across the courtyard towards Blocks E and F. An air-raid shelter could still be found in the courtyard until 1985. The area is now occupied by a children’s playground.

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

The steps at the end of Clerkenwell Close were not that old in 1947 having been built as part of the Peabody development. Clerkenwell Close was extended towards the current position of the steps and a wall that blocked the route onward towards Bowling Green Lane was demolished to allow a route through via Robert’s Place.

There is much to discover in both Clerkenwell Close and the surrounding area which I hope to write about in more detail in the future. For example, the street was originally known as St. Mary’s Close after the old Benedictine Nunnery of St. Mary, part of which was latter incorporated into the church of St. James on the corner of the close. Clerkenwell Close has also had a number of well known inhabitants including Oliver Cromwell and there is a story that the death warrant of Charles I was signed in his house on Clerkenwell Close.

Oliver Cromwell’s house:

Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

I am still no wiser as to why my father took the original photo, what interested him in the scene, although I am pleased he did as it is ordinary street scenes that I find so fascinating and they always lead me into looking at an area in a bit more detail.

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38 thoughts on “Pear Tree Court And Clerkenwell Close Peabody Estate

  1. Joe studman

    Before betting offices were legalised the local bookie used to operate from the top of the stairs in Bowling Green Lane presumably because it gave him options for a quick escape if the police arrived. My father claimed he was a lookout and if he got arrested the fine was paid by the bookie.
    Look forward to further Clerkenwell posts.

    Reply
    1. Dennis Eastop

      I was born in Barts Hospital in July 1943 and lived in F Block until i joined the Royal Navy in 1959.Although I returned home for leaves when I was in Britain I spent a lot of time abroad.In 1962 I met Valerie from Loughton,who was to become my wife in February 1965,when I was 21 and Valerie was 20.We bought a houise in Sittingbourne and we are still together 53 years later.
      Unfortunately my time in Peabody wouldn’t be classed as I appeared to be permanently in trouble,getting the blame for almost everything because I was so tall and stood out.I admit I wasn’t an angel but it wasn’t always my fault.
      I had some good friends growing up,like Michael Edwards,Alan Burgess and Eddie Sayers,together with some older boys such as Douglas Tanner,John Till,Alan Edwards (Michael’s elder brother,) and Alan Las.t

      Reply
      1. Scott

        I lived the first 24 years of my life in peabody estate and my nan still lives there to this day as are the sayers. I remember going down into the air raid shelter under the square just before they gilled it in in the 80’s and there was mention of the sayers there too on the walls. The place i remember as a kid everybody knew everybody but today its a very different place. A few old faces and families still there but most people come and go

        Reply
  2. Margaret Lawrenson

    The Peabody Estates were so much a part of the landscape in my London childhood. My school was surrounded by several, such as Old Pye Street and Horseferry Road among others. As a child, I found them rather institutional in appearance, and forbidding too. Now, recognising the housing they replaced, and their robust and thoughtful design, I’m rather more forgiving. They’ll be around a while longer yet, those blocks of flats!

    Reply
    1. Bob Kibble

      Hey Margaret, I went to St Vincent’s primary in Victoria, 1958-1964 and lived in Castle Lane. There was a Peabody Estate at the end of Strutton Ground as i recall as well as some off Rochester Row. My pals lived in these buildings. Such memories.

      Reply
  3. Ray Backler

    This is fascinating with magnificent research and photos, as usual. One of my aunts lives in a similar estate in Upper Street, Islington, called The Sutton Estate, which is part of a number of developments by The Sutton Dwellings Trust, so there were other philanthropists operating in London. It would be interesting to know fi there are others too.

    Also, I have noted from your posting that Mr. Peabody was an American and I wonder whether he was anything to do with the Peabody Hotel chain family?

    Reply
  4. Mike@Bitaboutbritain

    I agree they look faintly institutional, but there’s an elegance about the buildings which was missing from some of the horrors put up more recently. Good research. Intriguing that so little has changed in a place where change is the only constant; I wonder how long they’ve got?

    Reply
  5. Barry Hepburn

    “A view that has hardly changed ……” You omitted the cars which indicate a degree of affluence that the original inhabitants could only dream of. Plus the double yellow lines that go with it!!

    Reply
  6. Jerry

    Firstly, thanks for what has been a past, present and hopefully long future series of fascinating photographic and descriptive insights to a city ( and country) I know and love and I’m sure many of the above contributors would join me in applauding your efforts to pay tribute to your fathers lifetime’s work, what a wonderful record it is and what a fantastic legacy you’re creating in updating that record. Indeed I know those long steps in Clerkenwell Close up to Bowling Green lane very well, having walked, run or crawled up them (non inebriated) countless times to the offices of the now sadly deceased Futurist Architect, Zaha Hadid at the Old School and also to the nearby City of London, London Metropolitan Archives, an extensive photographic Library, who if not already facilitated, would be a useful source for you and they I’m sure would be fascinated in your most illustrious project.

    Reply
    1. Brenda Gower

      My mother lived in Block B of Peabody Buildings Clerkenwell Close in the 1930’s. She told me about the shared facilities with other families and the wash and drying rooms at the top of the building. She attended Hugh Middleton School and married at St James Church Clerkenwell in 1934. Her name was Elizabeth Price

      Reply
  7. Andrea Neve

    I have found my Grandmother’s baptism record from 1905 and she was living in 13, E Block, Peabody Buildings, Clerkenwell, so these photo’s and the write up have made my day! Many thanks.

    Reply
  8. karen torrance

    Wow, what memories, I was born in this estate, 24D back in 1959. along with my sister and one brother. the eldest Kevin was born in hospital. we used to have just 2 rooms the bedroom had a double bed and bunk beds and a cot. the main room was a sitting room come kitchen. the washing facilities was shared with the other tenants on the landing. once C block was modernised we moved down to C block and my sister Lynn was born in 1966. what a great place to live and I ended up marrying a boy who lived in block D !!!!

    Reply
    1. Andrea Neve

      Wow, I’m surprised to hear that you still had shared washing facilities as late as 1959.
      It looks a lovely estate and has a nice children’s play area in the middle today.

      Reply
    2. Scott

      You could well know memebrs of my family the lovells (my nan still lives there to this day) my dad is john lovell his brother larry and two sisters kate and sheree

      Reply
  9. jeff braddick

    jeff braddick I was born in barts hospital in 1952 we lived in k e and b block in 85 I moved down to faversham in kent in 2016 I took my wife back to see where I lived it has certainly changed perhaps don eastop remembers frank and jim braddick jim was my father

    Reply
  10. scott lovell

    I was born in barts and lived in this estate until i was 24 (my nan still lives there to this day) i loved the place everybody knew everybody but its not like that today. There are still a few families that live there. My nan is joyce lovell. The sayers still live there along with some others but most people that live there now keep themselves to themselves

    Reply
  11. Carole Stacey

    It was wonderful looking at these photo’s – my Mum Vera Griffiths (nee Sheate) lived in Peabody Buildings (various Blocks) with her Mum Alice Sheate and her Dad Arthur Sheate (he was a milkman) from around 1932 until around the late 1950’s (she married Jim Griffiths in 1951 and they had two rooms in B Block, a bedroom and a lounge/kitchen). Mum passed away only a month ago aged 90 and I’ve been looking through these photo’s with my Dad, bringing back many memories. He remembers the Sayer family (possibly Ronnie?) and says that him and Mum used to live next door to the Lovell family!!! Mum used to be a Book Binder in Farringdon Road, and she and Dad had got married in St James Church and had their wedding reception at The Horse Shoe Pub at the bottom of the buildings – Mum found the receipt for her wedding breakfast recently, I think it was £34 including drinks! He also remembers the Holland family (Sonny Holland) living in the first Block through the gates leading to the square. My Nan Alice lived there until the early 1980’s, when she moved into sheltered accommodation and passed away in 1991 aged 95. Does anyone remember either my parents or Grandparents?

    Reply
    1. Scott

      You are correct Ronnie sayer lived in B block with his wife Joan (sadly passed away some years ago) my nan still lives there today at 91

      Reply
  12. S Turner

    My family lived at Peabody estate during the sixties, first in H Block, where my younger brother was born; A block, and finally F block before moving out to the country in Hampshire as part of the London overspill scheme.
    Both my parents worked briefly at The Horseshoe pub, my dad Reg worked behind the bar when not driving the London buses and my Mum Jean did the morning cleaning and was also a Dressmaker. My younger brothers were christened at St James Church, my sister and I went to Brownies there and five of us attended Hugh Myddleton schools, Infant’s, primary and secondary until 1968.
    Photographs bring back lots of memories, good and bad.

    Reply
  13. Jonathan Weightman

    I worked at spa fields hut just off exmouth market in the early 70s. Does anyone know if the Lovell family are still in Peabody. Lenny and Joyce and their kids Larry and others. They were very active in the community at the time and were all the loveliest and most generous people. I think the daughter worked in a shoe shop and Larry coached a football team. Joyce made amazing sandwiches.

    Reply
    1. Micky

      Mickyevan01@gmail.com I think I remember you from the hut, did you work with Hillary and sometime after Debbie savage joined and went to the youth club in bowling green lane when the hut got pulled down. My name is micky. I hope life has been kind to you, all the best Jonathan

      Reply
      1. Jonathan Weightman

        Oh that’s amazing.
        Were you the Micky that gave us so much grief but that we kind of loved because of his rebellious spirit.
        Yes, I can say that life has been kind to me and I really hope it has for you too.
        Jonathan

        Reply
        1. Micky evans

          Nice one Jonathan, glad you’re well, as you could’ve probably predicted, the way my teenage actions was going, it was inevitable that I was destined for jails and institutions and a lifetime of crime, some of it not that all that bad. I found narcotics anonymous in the 90s and after a lot of relapses i have 8yrs under my belt and hopefully that’s me done with class As. Thank you for putting my teenage year’s as rebellious, i must’ve been a right handful. You take care Jonathan from a clean and sober 60yr old micky Evans.

          Reply
          1. hilary rimington

            Hi Micky – This is Hilary who used to work at Spafields Playcentre with Jonathan. Good to hear you have sorted things out in your life after a bumpy start. Keep it up!
            Hilary x

  14. Scott

    Hi my nan is Joyce Lovell and she still lives there today at 91 sadly my grandad Lenny passed away a few years ago ( my idol and my hero) I am Johnny Lovells son. Kareen and sheree (my aunties) are doing well but sadly Larry also passed away a few years ago.

    My grandad is probably best known for running the football club and he actually played football every Wednesday night up until he was around 70 even against us youngsters.

    Reply
    1. Rory Mulholland

      Hello Scott, My name is Rory Mulholland and back in the early to mid seventies I was very friendly with your Nan Joyce and Grandad Lenny and happen to have a lovely photograph of the three of us which would have been taken in or around Christmas of 1972/3. I was ever so sorry to hear that Lenny as well as Larry had both passed away. So you are Johnny’s Son eh. He should remember me as well as your Aunts Karen, Sheree and Nan of course as I used to spend more time at “2E PB” than I did at my parents in Pimlico. I absolutely adored the whole Lovell family and from time to time fondly remember the great times we spent in The Horseshoe and at the odd party etc. If you would like a copy of the aforementioned photograph please let me know and I will get one to you. In the interim please give my very best wishes to your Dad as well as your Aunts and not forgetting Nan.

      Reply
    2. hilary rimington

      Hi Scott – I used to work at Spafields playcentre in the park with Jonathan in the early 70’s and have very fond memories of Lenny & Joyce and family. Please give Joyce, Karen and Sheree my love and happy memories.
      Regards
      Hilary

      Reply
      1. Scott

        Hi Hilary

        I spoke to my nan tonight and her words was blimey I can remember hillary I haven’t spoken to her for years apparently you worked alongsude John? An American guy and she has great memory’s of you. She said she will tell Kate ams sheree tonight when she speaks to them and asked me to send on her best wishes x

        Regards
        Scott

        Reply
  15. Scott

    Great to hear from you Rory that Christmas would have been a Couple of years before I was born lol. I have been passing on all the comments to my nan etc and has loved hearing them. She is still at the exact same place as she was all those years ago. I spent a fair amount of time in the horse shoe too but that was playing with Richard and Carols son Jamie. I will be sure to pass on your regards to my dad sheree Karen and of course my nan.

    Best wished
    Scott

    Reply
    1. Rory Mulholland

      Hello Scott, Thank you very much indeed for responding so quickly. I cannot believe that your Nan is still there after all these years “it must be a world record”. As you are well aware she is an absolutely lovely lady so I hope you and the rest of the gang are keeping a very close eye on her which I’m sure you are. Don’t forget if you would like a copy of the photograph I mentioned previously please let me know.

      Best wishes for now,

      Rory

      Reply
      1. Scott

        Hi Rory

        So I’ve spoke to my nan and passed on your regards she remembers you well and was happy to know your well she said she would love a copy of the picture as that’s one she doesn’t have. You can either send directly to her or by all means send to me at 111 Pound Lane Basildon Ss13 2bh. She told me a funny story about the time my grandad had to drop you off at the airport. Watched you walk across and left only to get home and find you back there lol. She remembers your sister was a singer in a group called coffee and cream? And also remembers you dated KK Morgan. (I don’t even know who that is lol)

        It’s great talking to her about people from peabody as she remembers them so well. Not sure if you are on Facebook but she is on there (no the greatest at using it though lol)

        Regards
        Scott

        Reply
  16. Rory Mulholland

    Hello Scott,

    Sorry for the late reply. I am so pleased to know that your Nan actually remembers me after all this time. I will do my best to get a nice copy of the photo for her and send it either direct to “”2E PB” or yourself. I did intend to have it framed but was concerned that it might not go through her letterbox and would not want to inconvenience your Nan with her having to get up in order to answer the door. So please let me know what you think might be for the best. I do seem to faintly remember about the Airport scenario with your Grandad which does appear completely bonkers but there must have been some kind of reason for it. Imagine your Nan remembering that my Sister was a singer although it wasn’t in the group Coffee and Cream. She has been in the Music industry virtually all her life. The last Group she started was called “Toto Coelo” who in late 1982 were at Number 8 in the charts with a song titled “I Eat Cannibals” which you can view on “You Tube”. She is the one with flaming red hair. Her name is Sheen Doran and there is loads of stuff on Google about her. She currently resides in Romford which as you know is not a million miles from yourself. KK Morgan was I believe Karen Morgan who lived in the block opposite which I think might have been “A” but am not really sure. I was quite sweet on her at the time but there was a bit of an age gap so it obviously didn’t amount to anything. I think her Dad was called Jack and he was a great Jazz fan. We got on very well and I remember that they eventually moved away to Fairweather Close Tottenham where I visited on a number of occasions. Another thing I remember about being at your Nan and Grandad’s was that the kettle never seemed to get cold and the door was always open and everyone was welcome. I think even if a Burglar had crept in and been caught he would have initially been offered a cup of tea but no doubt would have received a punch on the nose afterwards from your Grandad. I do have other bits and pieces to tell you including a funny story about your Dad but will save it for next time.

    Best wishes for now,

    Rory

    Reply
    1. Scott

      Hi Rory,

      Sorry for such a late reply, I will have to show my nan the video with your sister in it next time I see here, im not sure if you know but there is another video on You tube for a song called A E I O U, which was filmed in the flats if you watch it the white Ford Granada in the background was my grandads lol, you are quiet correct in saying the kettle never got cold at my nans I can remember back and there always people there drinking tea weather they be family friends or just somebody that had dropped by for a chat lol.

      regards
      scott

      Reply
  17. Rory Mulholland

    Hello Scott,

    Please don’t worry re the late reply as I appreciate you are probably working and therefore quite busy. You may have to turn the volume down if you show your Nan any You Tube videos with my Sister in. I will have a look at the A E I O U one shortly especially as you say it has your Grandad’s White Ford Granada in. Talking about the kettle and it never getting cold I seem to recall that it always seemed to be Tea as opposed to Coffee that everyone drank back then. The funny story I remembered about your Dad was that virtually every time I stayed over he would sit bolt upright in bed and mumble a few incoherent words and then just drop back down again. As this was normally during the early hours of the morning it would frighten the life out of you. I’m sure he would always deny it. My late Mum was the same with her snoring until I recorded her one time and she also denied it. You just can’t win sometimes. I regret that I haven’t sorted out the photo yet but will now make a concerted effort to do so. Scott please only reply when you have the time or just to confirm that you received the photo safely.

    Best wishes for now,

    Rory

    Reply

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