A House of Minoresses (from where the street name Minories
derives) was established in Aldgate
in 1293, by Edward I’s brother Edmund, Duke of Lancaster and his French wife Blanche of Navarre. The King granted them freedom from taxation and tithes. After Edmund died in 1296, many significant medieval figures, particularly women, were buried within the convent walls, including in 1360 Elizabeth de Burgh, Countess of Clare and founder of Clare College Cambridge in 1360, and Anne Mowbray, Duchess of York and wife of the younger prince murdered in the Tower in 1481. The House continued to attract the widows and daughters of the wealthy, and gradually increased its holdings of land, rents and tenements.
After the Dissolution, the nunnery was surrendered to Henry VIII by the last abbess, Dame Elizabeth Salvage, in 1539, who was subsequently granted a pension of £40, and the nunnery became the residence of John Clark, Bishop of Bath and Wells, Henry VIII’s ambassador to the Duke of Cleve.
The convent ran a farm in the area, the first recorded tenant being one Trolop or Trollope, who sold it to Roland Goodman, giving the area its name - Goodman’s Fields
From the 16th century, the open ground was divided into garden plots. It was bought by Sir John Leman, Lord Mayor of London, whose great-nephew William Leman laid out four streets, named after relatives - Mansell Street
, Prescot Street
, Ayliffe Street (now Alie Street
) and Leman Street
. John Strype in 1717 described them as fair streets of good brick houses, but by the end of the century most were replaced by Richard Leman and his builder Edward Hawkins: the area remained fashionable, until sugar blowing, and then warehouses, encroached.
By the 18th century the area had acquired a reputation for wild behaviour. John Walsh’s collection of dance tunes, published in the 1730s, includes a ’Goodman’s Fields
In 1737 there was a shoot-out in Goodman’s Fields
involving the highwaymen Dick Turpin and ’Captain’ Tom King.
The first Goodman’s Fields
Theatre - and the first theatre outside the West End, and beyond the jurisdiction of the Lord Mayor and Aldermen of London - was opened by Thomas Odell under Letters Patent, in a converted shop in Alie Street
By the mid-19th century houses had been built around the edge of the tenter ground (an area used for drying manufactured cloth) of Goodman’s Fields
, as North Tenter Street
, South Tenter Street
, East Tenter Street and West Tenter Street
and it was bisected by what became Scarborough Street
and St Mark Street. It became a poor and populous district, and the decision was made to create a new parish - St Mark’s.
The 1851 census lists the population of the parish as 15,790, in 1,757 ’households’ - an average of 9.09% per household, the highest in East London, and with the highest percentage of Irish and foreign-born residents (primarily from Germany, Holland, Poland and Prussia). Those who were not in ’seasonal employment’ worked in tailoring and dressmaking - especially women and Jewish men who were increasingly settling in the area. They worked from home, on a piecework basis, so needed to live near their suppliers. In 1858 the parish was described, at a committee of the House of Lords, as ‘utterly unmanageable’.
For a few years In the 1850s the Working Tailors’ Association had a small co-operative factory in Tenter Street, one of a dozen such experiments copying the French self-governing workshops (les associations ouveriers) launched by Christian Socialists under the leadership of J.M. Ludlow and largely financed by Edward Vansittart Neale.
By the end of the 19th century, there were various hostels and clubs in the parish.