Open House London: our Tower Hamlets highlights

Open House London returns this weekend and here are our highlights for Tower Hamlets. The festival celebrates the urban landscape of London, allowing people to venture through the doors of iconic buildings around the city.

From impressive churches and quaint schools to historic graveyards, Tower Hamlets has an abundance of architectural wonder. With more time being spent at home, there has been a surge of interest in our surrounding area.  Perhaps you’ve peered into these buildings on a lockdown walk, or maybe you’ve always been curious about certain spots. Either way this is the perfect opportunity to get a sneak peak.

St Paul’s Bow Common

Corner of Burdett Road, St Paul’s Way, E3 4AR

St Paul's Bow Common, part of Open House Weekend

Described as ‘the most significant church built after WWII in Britain’, this spot is definitely worth checking out. The original ‘grand and lofty’ Victorian Gothic version of St Paul’s was destroyed in the Blitz. Built in the 1950s, the design expresses the radical ideas that were emerging from architectural discussions of the time. Before heading out here, you may enjoy these cool old photos of a wedding held in this church back in the 1970s.

Lansbury School

Cordelia Street, Poplar, E14 6DZ

Lansbury School in Poplar, part of Open House Weekend London

Lansbury Lawrence (formally Susan Lawrence and Elizabeth Lansbury) opened in the 1951 Festival of Britain as a showpiece of the Live Architecture exhibition in the Lansbury Estate. Walk through the school gates to explore this interesting mid-century design with original features. While you’re there, why not have a stroll down Aberfeldy street and marvel at the colourful stretch of London’s largest piece of facade painting – it’s pretty cool. 

St Dunstan and All Saints Church

Stepney High Street, E1 0NR 

St Dunstan and All Saints Church in Stepney Green, part of Open House London

Fancy a bit of early-medieval construction? This local Grade I listed parish church was around since before heads were being chopped off at The Tower of London. With the majestic interior of Anglo-Saxon Rood, Norman font, medieval ‘squint’, memorials, stained glass and brasses, there are so many wonderful intricacies to gawp at in this one. It’s said that many founders of Trinity House are buried here. 

St Anne’s Church, Limehouse

Three Colt Street, E14 7HA

St Anne's Church in Limehouse, part of Open House London

St Anne’s Limehouse is an imposing Grade I listed Nicholas Hawksmoor building in brick and portland stone. It is home to an active church congregation and is one of the 310 designated Major Churches in the Church of England. The building is even a star of the screen, having been used as a filming location in 28 Days Later, Legend, and Call the Midwife. Rumour has it that the church may be named for Queen Anne as she raised money for it by taxing coal passing along the River Thames.

The School of Sufi Teaching’s Zawiya Bethnal Green

253 Globe Road, Bethnal Green, E2 0JD

New Zawiya in Globe Town, part of Open House Weekend

The School of Sufi Teaching’s new zawiya has input from an international group of architects, artists and craftspersons who have woven beautiful Islamic design principles into the context of the Globe Town Conservation Area. From geometry and calligraphy to the interplay of light and shadow, this building intends to merge the physical into the spiritual. 

St Margaret’s House

21 Old Ford Road, E2 9PL

St Margaret's House, part of Open House London

This sprawling house has been an East End community hub since opening in 1903. From children’s play groups to unemployment schemes, St. Margaret’s House has been a rock for the poor and downtrodden. To this day it houses all manner of charitable groups and puts on all manner of great events. The building is perfect for exploration, and there’s even a vegan cafe out front if you get a little peckish.

Oxford House 

Derbyshire Street, Bethnal Green, E2 6HG

Oxford House in Bethnal Green, part of Open House Weekend

Established in 1884, Oxford House in Bethnal Green was one of the first settlements by Oxford University. It was designed by Arthur William Blomfield, who was also the architect of the Royal College of Music and the rebuilding of Southwark Cathedral. Today it is a multipurpose art centre and affordable work space, with volunteering opportunities still going strong. A beautiful space in every sense of the word, and well worth a nosey.

Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park

Soanes Centre. (On the right the main gates on Southern Grove), Mile End, E3 4PX

Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park at the Open House London

The Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park is a magical pocket of East London. Its 33 acres of mature broadleaved woodland and meadow are perfect for escaping the drones and moans of city life. It also serves as an educational resource to 7000+ school children every year, who use the Park as an outdoor classroom. It is open year-round, but pop by during Open House London for a guided tour.

House Mill

Three Mill Lane, Bromley by Bow, E3 3DU

Three Mills in Bow, part of Open House London

Built in 1776, the House Mill has weathered a good few storms in its time. Sat proudly on the River Lea, it is a stunning time capsule of East End industry in its heyday. The sights, sounds, and smells of the interior are truly breathtaking. Don’t believe us? Take a look at contributing photographer Claire Watt’s photo essay capturing House Mill in all its splendor. Trust us, it’s even better in person.

If this has piqued your interest, you can view the full list along with all the opening times at the Open House London website. Happy wandering.

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