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Stories From Spitalfields:
Artillery Lane

Home to London’s oldest Georgian shopfront and site of King Henry VIII's weapons practice ground – Artillery Lane offers an enchanting glimpse into 17th Century London.

Photograph by C.A. Matthew, 1912
Photograph by C.A. Matthew, 1912
Image courtesy of Raven Row
Image courtesy of Raven Row

If you look down Artillery Passage from Sandy’s Row, and then down Artillery Lane through to Widegate Street – you’ll be treated to an enchanting glimpse into 17th Century London. Despite modern urban changes, this small conservation area offers a view into historic street patterns of narrow lanes, passages and courtyards – a rare snapshot of the historic inner city.

Narrow-fronted Georgian 2, 3 and 4 storey houses with mansard roofs and retail uses on the ground floor dominate the area’s architectural style. The houses sit forward, surrounding the streets and lanes to form continuous building lines. The street names themselves recall a time when Spitalfields was known as ‘The Old Artillery Ground’ – appointed by King Henry VIII the area was used for weaponry practice. When it was sold for development some years later, the developers used street names like Gun Street, Artillery Passage and Artillery Lane to honour the land’s former usage.

Image courtesy of Raven Row
Image courtesy of Raven Row
Image courtesy of Raven Row
Image courtesy of Raven Row

This small conservation area offers a glimpse into historic street patterns of narrow lanes, passages and courtyards – a rare snapshot of the historic inner city.

Today, number 56 Artillery Lane is a Grade I listed building and remains one of the most important surviving Georgian shopfronts in London. Built in 1690 on ‘The Old Artillery Ground’ and in the Middle Ages, the site of St. Mary Spital, Europe’s largest hospital of the time. In the 1750’s silk merchants from France transformed the buildings into luxury stores in the Rococo style and in 1827, number 58 was modernised with a plain Regency front. In the early twentieth century 56 and 58 Artillery Lane housed numerous families who worked in the local food markets. Today, it is Raven Row – a non-profit contemporary art exhibition centre that stands on the part of Artillery Lane that was known as ‘Raven Row’ until 1895.

Raven Row
56 Artillery Lane
London E1 7LS

The gallery is open free to the public from Fridays to Sundays.

 

Image courtesy of Raven Row
Image courtesy of Raven Row
Image courtesy of Raven Row
Image courtesy of Raven Row