Drapers (Bancroft's) Almshouses

327 Mile End Road, Mile End, E1 4NS


In his will, the draper Francis Bancroft (1667-1727) bequeathed to the Drapers Company his landed estates values at £28,000 for the erection and endowment of a school and almshouses. It was said that he had acquired his fortune in his capacity as an officer of the Lord Mayor's Court by hard acts of justice, by arbitrary summonses and unnecessary informations. By these and other mercenary practices, he so incurred the wrath of all the citizens - poor and rich - that those attending his funeral were only just able to save his corpse from being thrown off the shoulders of the bearers by the enraged populace, who then seized the church bells and rang them for joy at his unlamented death.

The Drapers Company acquired a 5-acre site on the north side of Mile End Road and building work began. Bancroft's Hospital and Almshouses opened in 1737.

The buildings were neat and elegant, consisting of a central block containing the school with two detached wings either side of it (the almshouses).

The central block faced a large quadrangle. It contained a school for 100 poor boys aged between 7 and 15, and dwellings for two schoolmasters. The chapel was in the middle of the building. It was accessed by a flight of steps to the portico, which had a pediment supported by Ionic columns coupled with pilasters at the corners. At the top of the chapel was a handsome turret.

On each side of the portico were the dwellings for the schoolmasters, built in the same style as the almshouse wings. These last were uniformly constructed, with 12 doors in each, regularly spaced, and with moderately sized windows.

The almshouses provided dwellings for 24 poor elderly men of the Drapers Company. From Bancroft's endowment, each received an annual income of £8, and a half chaldron of coal. Every three years they were given a gown of baize.

The quadrangle was surrounded by gravel walks, with the central space made into a lawn. A wall along Mile End Road was adorned with iron railings and entrance gates.

By 1862 the almsmen received £26 a year and a chaldron and a half of coals.

In 1884 Bancroft's School moved to Tottenham (and later to Woodford Green), as London was considered too unhealthy for the children. The almshouses also closed and the site was sold to the Beaumont Trust.


Current status

The buildings were demolished and the Trust, together with the Drapers Company, built the People's Palace in their place. Following a disastrous fire in 1931, the Palace was rebuilt nearby. It is now part of the Queen Mary University of London campus.

N.B. Photographs obtained in September 2020

Queen Mary College

The Queen's Building (above and below) of Queen Mary University of London, once the original People's Palace, now occupies the site of the almshouses.

Queen Mary College

References (Accessed 16th February 2022)

(Author unstated) 1844 The Metropolitan Charities. London, Sampson Low, p. 119.
Gorton J 1833 A Topographical Dictionary of Great Britain and Ireland, Voi. II. London, Chapman and Hall, p.821.
Harrison W 1776 A New and Universal History. London, J. Cooke, pp. 547-548.
Timbs J 1855 Curiosities of London. London, David Bogue, p. 6.

Last updated 18th February 2022

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