In the heart of the historic East End of London. Malplaquet House is a rare surviving mansion dating from 1741 and preserves a wealth of historic details and features. Recently sympathetically restored, it is one of the most remarkable and atmospheric houses in London. The accommodation, on the raised ground, lower ground and two upper floors, is particularly spacious and flexible, while its north-south axis makes it exceptionally light and pleasant to live in.
One of the grandest and best-preserved of all the historic old houses in the area, Malplaquet House is one of London’s forgotten mansions. Set behind its stout iron railings and lofty brick piers surmounted by stone eagles, a substantial forecourt, filled with ivies, climbing roses, wisteria and jasmine isolates it from the bustle of the Mile End Road. It is only on entering this tranquil oasis that the size and scale of the five-bay house becomes apparent, with its mellow eighteenth-century brickwork and imposing doorcase, reached by a flight of steps. The house, and its pair next door, were rescued by the Spitalfields Trust in 1997, and painstakingly repaired by them and the present owners. Guided by historic documentation and surviving evidence, the forecourt shops were demolished, revealing the house surprisingly intact. Since then the owners have carefully restored the building and its garden setting, making Malplaquet House one of the most unforgettable secret houses of London.
The house was built between July 1741 and October 1742 by Thomas Andrews, ‘bricklayer’ or speculative builder of Mile End. It was one of three houses, two of which survive, and is four stories high and five bays wide, built of London stock brick with fine rubbed red brick above the windows and the projecting cornice. Between 1778-1827, the house was extensively altered and modernized by Mr Harry Charrington, a Director of the eponymous brewery. He extended the house to the rear, replacing the old windows with sashes with fine glazing bars, and installed a fashionable new front doorcase. Inside the house was opened up, creating two double reception rooms on either side of the Entrance Hall, fitted up with elegant joinery and marble chimneypieces. The Staircase was also replaced, its simple but elegant joinery taking up less space.
On Charrington’s death in 1833 the fortunes of the house declined and Malplaquet House was divided up into lodgings and two shops were built upon the old front garden in 1857. The last domestic residents of Malplaquet House are recorded in 1895. Thereafter, the upper floors were mainly used as storage.
The wrought iron railings and gate piers are exact copies of those shown in old photographs standing before No. 131 Mile End Road before its destruction in 1941. The wrought iron gate, was made by Andrew Renwick at Ridgeway Forge and the stone eagles on the gate piers are cast from a pair at Knightshayes Court, Devon. The garden is thickly planted with ivies, roses and creepers, as well as several palm trees. Historic features, such as the black and white marble path, stone steps and an iron balustrade, have recently been reinstated. A generous area gives light to the lower ground floor of the house, and access to the large vault under the path which contains electricity and gas meters. The house itself is built of London stock brick with fine rubbed red brick details above the windows and door whilst the distinctive doorcase is original.
The Raised Ground Floor
The Entrance Hall retains its original plaster cornice of c.1795. The Staircase, installed at the same time, has simple stick balusters and a mahogany handrail which snakes up to the top of the house. Two large reception rooms flank the Entrance Hall. The Dining Room to the east runs the full depth of the house, the two halves of the room being united by an elegant Regency arch with roll mouldings. The ‘arsenical’ green limewash is a copy of the original scheme for the room. Two early nineteenth-century white marble bull’s-eye chimneypieces, with contemporary cast-iron grates, have been installed on the east wall. The floorboards and joinery, including the windows and shutters, are mainly original.
The Drawing Room occupies the western half of the house. It was much altered during its time as a printer’s workshop, so the ceiling and floor, and window walls (with window joinery and shutters) are reconstructions to match surviving evidence. The pair of wooden columns that divide the two halves of the room were brought here from Nuffield Lodge, Oxfordshire, a building by Oswald Milne, Sir Edwin Lutyens’ favourite pupil. The grandiose Baroque Chimneypiece was installed by the present owners in 2002-3. Designed and made by Christopher Hobbs, an artist who is best known for his sets for films by Derek Jarman and Ken Russell, and for his mosaics in Westminster Cathedral..
The Lower Ground Floor
The lower ground floor has good natural light, a large Kitchen / Breakfast Room, Dining Room, Wine Cellar, range of domestic offices, small study in the Back Room, ample storage and doors to both front and back gardens. Most of the rooms on this floor have their original stone-flagged floors whilst a cast-iron range of c1810 in the Kitchen occupies the original hearth. The owners have fitted up the Kitchen with old dressers and glass fronted cupboards, with worktops of salvaged Swedish green and other marbles, and a Victorian stoneware sink. A Wine Cellar occupies the former coal cellar and the rooms to the rear include a Utility Room (with a venerable eighteenth century plank door) and a marble shelved Larder.
The Back Garden
The Back Garden is entered via a projecting open portico or ‘varanda’, with an outside WC off it. The garden is paved with stone flags and bricks, and is lushly planted with a large collection of tree ferns and climbing plants. A thirteen-foot high wall of London stock brick ensures utter peace and security. A useful back door, with an additional external wrought iron security grille, leads to a path giving on to Stayners Lane.
The Half Landing
Has a Shower Room with Lobby. The Shower is lined with coloured specimen marbles and nineteenth-century tiles.
The First Floor
The principal rooms on this floor are currently used as reception rooms, but could be used as bedrooms and dressing rooms. This floor retains much eighteenth-century panelling and a wealth of historic painted surfaces. The Green Room has panelling of c.1741 and shutters, as well as a wooden chimney surround, with early c19th cast-iron grate. Deep shelving – once cupboards – flank the chimneybreast. Large double doors open out to the Study, allowing the two rooms to become one. The wooden chimneypiece of c.1800 is from a farmhouse in Norfolk, as is its early nineteenth-century cast-iron grate.
Next door is the Drawing Room with ochre painted panelling of c.1741 and a simple wood and marble chimney surround. The windows retain the original shutters and joinery, and deep cupboards lie behind the west wall. The little Cabinet off this room has a painted stone chimneypiece and late nineteenth-century grate. Next door is a Lavatory, with WC and washbasin, and a Lobby with bookshelves behind sliding panelled doors.
The Second Floor
The Landing and upper part of the Staircase has mid-eighteenth century panelling, and is lit by a large full-height window. The second floor has three good sized bedrooms, a large bathroom and a small convenience kitchen, all with original floorboards and simple joinery. On the west and north walls are a ‘Dry Closet’ (an eighteenth-century lavatory) and other storage cupboards. The narrow room in the centre of the house was used as a Kitchen during its time as a tenement and retains its shelving and cupboards, as well as a stoneware sink and pump housing. Several rooms have distinctive nineteenth-century ventilation shutters above the doors. The Bathroom is equipped with a Bath, WC and washbasin. The north wall of the Bathroom is lined with storage cupboards, and it retains much old panelling and joinery. A cast-iron ladder leads to the roof access in the skylight, and access to the south attic. The north attic is accessed by a trapdoor in the Bathroom.
Another advantage of the house is its proximity to public transport. Stepney Green Underground Station, which is served by both the District line and Hammersmith and City line, lies a few hundred yards to the east. Only about a mile from the gates of the City, it is home to a vibrant mix of shops, restaurants and artists studios. The improvements made for the 2012 London Olympics and Crossrail are bringing further benefits to the area.