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Latitude: 51.5127 / 51°30'45"N
Longitude: -0.0304 / 0°1'49"W
OS Eastings: 536769
OS Northings: 181145
OS Grid: TQ367811
Mapcode National: GBR K4.H02
Mapcode Global: VHGR1.F78Q
Entry Name: 777-783, Commercial Road
Listing Date: 27 April 2004
Source: Historic England
Source ID: 1390821
English Heritage Legacy ID: 492229
Location: Tower Hamlets, London, E14
District: Tower Hamlets
Electoral Ward/Division: Mile End
Built-Up Area: Tower Hamlets
Traditional County: Middlesex
Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London
Church of England Parish: St Anne Limehouse
Church of England Diocese: London
788/0/10185 COMMERCIAL ROAD
Former engineering workshop with office ranges. 779-783 built 1896-7 with minor C20 alterations; office range to 777 built 1893-4. Designed by Marshall & Bradley and built by J.H. Johnson for Caird and Rayner. Brick exterior shell, with a rolled steel internal glazed frame to the workshop which carries extensively glazed steel-framed lantern roofs over central and side aisles.
PLAN: Long galleried workshop with gable end to Limehouse Cut and an office cross-wing to Commercial Road that links with the slightly earlier office range fronting the adjacent former sail-makers' loft (q.v.)
EXTERIOR: To Limehouse Cut, double doors at ground floor, flanked by pairs of windows under segmental heads. First floor has small-pane metal-framed windows under rounded arches, 3 in the central hall flanked by pairs to each aisle. To Commercial Road, 3-storeys and incorporating 777 to left 3 bays and 779-783 to right 3 bays. Continuous brick banding between storeys. 777 has single window bay to left, then equally spaced bay with pair of windows, then wider bay flanked by full-height pilasters, this bay having wider tripartite windows to first and second floor under gable rebuilt after war damage. 779-783 has wide central bay framed by octagonal pilasters with stone copings, vehicle entrance at ground floor and tripartite arched windows at second floor under gable similarly rebuilt after war damage, flanked by bays with pair of windows to each floor.
INTERIOR: Workshop comprises central full-height assembly hall of 6-bays with galleried side aisles carried on internal exposed rolled-steel frame with integral overhead travelling crane gantry. The outer ends of the beams set in piers in the load-bearing brick walls. H-section stanchions with Dorman, Long & Co. rolling marks and I-section beams and joists support the roofs and timber-floored side galleries, gallery to north and bridge to south. 2 full-length rolled-steel gantry beams. Office range has 'Fawcett floors', a patented fire-resisting type of construction with terra cotta blocks on steel joists, and simple joinery and cornices. Both ranges communicate with the working spaces behind; 777 links to the former sail-makers' loft (q.v.).
HISTORY: Caird and Rayner, designers and manufacturers of steam pumps, moved to this Commercial Road site in 1889, adapting the 1869 sail-makers' loft (q.v.), and building the adjacent engineering workshops along Limehouse Cut. These were unified with office ranges (with drawing office, dispatch office and pattern shop) of 1893-4 to 777, and 1896-7 to 779-783, by architects Marshall & Bradley. The galleried engineering workshop at 779-783 was Caird and Rayner's main workshop from 1897 to 1972. This, along with the offices, was used mainly for the design and production of their patented sea water distillation plant that provided a constant supply of pure water for marine boilers and fresh drinking water on steamships. Thomas James Rayner's 'Automatic Evaporator' was patented in 1888 and an example is in the Science Museum. The firm's equipment was widely used by the Royal Navy and the Cunard Line until the 1980s, and was also adapted as desalination units in desert areas.
Listed as a rare surviving and little altered late-C19 engineering workshop and office complex, with internal steel frame, integral gantry and galleried aisles, that represents an early use of rolled structural steel, and an innovative engineering workshop design in a national context. The contemporary office range, designed by London architects Marshall and Bradley, linked the firm's design and manufacturing functions. This complex is believed to be London's only surviving C19 steel-framed engineering workshop, and has historic importance in the context of London's marine engineering industry, as well as strong group value with the adjacent former sail-makers' and ship-chandlers' warehouse of 1869 (q.v.)
This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.
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