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The House Mill

What’s in a name?

The Sugar House

The site is named after The Sugar House, a large brick warehouse building which has stood on the site since the nineteenth century. The Sugar House, and the road called Sugar House Lane are both connections with a sugar refinery which once stood where Sugar House Lane meets the High Street. 

The refinery is first recorded on site in 1843 and our research into the site's history uncovered a book which has a photograph of The Sugar House on its front cover.  

The Sugar House will be retained and extended as office and workshop spaces as part of Sugar House Island’s rich industrial heritage. It is five storeys high, finished in red brick with strong vertical accents through buttresses which emphasise its industrial function. Its main architectural feature are its circular windows, some with art deco embellishment in the surrounding brickwork.

Defined by water

Sugar House Island’s rich industrial heritage has been defined and shaped by the many watercourses which surround the site for nearly a thousand years.

The Domesday Book (1086) records eight tidal mills in the Stratford area, making The River Lea’s mills among the earliest tidal mills ever recorded in England.

Water power was the main source of energy for the mills, which in themselves fuelled much of the area’s wider industrial development. The fact that the rivers were navigable into Hertfordshire, into the centre of London, as well as out to the sea, supported water-borne commerce.

The river also provided water for textile production and laying out grounds for calico, which supported the development of ancillary uses such as printing and dye works, as seen at Dane’s Yard.

Today, the rivers make a spectacular addition to the development, with open views and wildlife in a setting shielded from the noise and bustle of central London life.


During the Middle Ages, Stratford Langthorne Abbey acquired the land at Three Mills. The Cistercian monks were skilled engineers who constructed artificial river-edge walls with wooden piles, compacting mud behind with their bare feet. Recent renovation works at The House Mill revealed thousands of piles still embedded into the river edge. It was this which turned three mills into an island, controlling and managing the tidal flow at this crucial point in the river.

The mills are unusual for taking advantage of the tidal flow up the Thames Estuary and Bow Creek. A sluice was able to trap water at high tide and then release it at a controlled rate to drive the mill wheel on the ebb. At Three Mills, the outflowing water turned four large wheels driving twelve pairs of millstones.

By the time Henry VIII dissolved the Stratford Langthorne Abbey in the 1530s, the mills were grinding flour for the bakers of Stratford, celebrated for the quality of their bread and supplied the London market.

The mills are also recorded as producing gunpowder for a short period in the 1580s.

During the sixteenth century, the three mills were reduced to two; and in the seventeenth century the mills began using the grain to distil alcohol. Three Mills became a major supplier of gin as the gin craze hit London.


The mills became part of an efficient supply chain supporting numerous local companies. The mills generated direct work for the mill operators, as well as carpenters and coopers. The mills also supplied a large piggery with the mash from the gin. In turn the piggery supplied meat to the Royal Navy Victualling Office (no doubt additionally requiring barrels from the cooperage) and it also supplied bones to the china factories which began to thrive at Bow, as well as fat to the local soap makers.

The current House Mill was built in 1776 on the site of an earlier mill between two houses occupied by the miller and his family, hence its name. The Clock Mill which sits opposite was rebuilt in 1817. Ownership of Three Mills changed relatively frequently during the seventeenth to late nineteenth centuries, until 1872 when the Nicholson family, already a well-established gin producer, bought the site.


J & W Nicholson & Co was founded in 1736s and was one of the earliest London distillers. The company produced Lamplighter Gin at Three Mills with a logo reminiscent of the lamps which still hang at the former distillery.

A third mill, powered by wind, survived until about 1840. The House Mill continued to operate until 1941 when the mills were damaged in the Blitz. Although distilling stopped from that date, the site continued to be used for bottling and warehousing until the 1990s.

In 1864, the chairman (and keen cricketer) of J & W Nicholson & Co, William Nicholson, lent money for the purchase of the freehold of Lord's Cricket Ground with a further loan in 1889 for the Lord's Pavilion. This led to the MCC’s change of corporate colours from sky-blue to the red and yellow (egg and bacon) of Nicholson.

Nicholson Original London Dry Gin was revived in 2017.


Two Historians holding red book at a book about The Sugar House and sugar refining
Malcolm Barrès-Baker and Rosamund King

Freelance historians Malcolm Barrès-Baker and Rosamund King are helping us research Sugar House Island's heritage.

They found a fascinating out-of-print book called "Essex and Sugar", written in 1976 by the late Frank Lewis, a former employee of Tate & Lyle. The book even has a picture of The Sugar House on the front cover! Lewis proves that the sugar factory at Sugar House Lane is named after the first sugar refinery in Essex, but his claim that the Sugar House building was part of that refinery has been proven incorrect. Now that the surrounding buildings are gone, we have found that the building bears the date 1882, which is at least 21 years after the refinery closed.

Ros and Malcolm found out a lot about the people who worked at the refinery, which is first mentioned in 1843. In this first recorded mention, the site was owned by a woman called Elizabeth Reynolds. However, as with earlier sugar refineries around Whitechapel, many of the workers were German. In 1851 the boss was a 38-year old Hanoverian called Cord Campe (possibly an odd spelling of Kurt Kempe), whose wife and five children lived with him on site, as did many of his 15 workers. 

Conditions were so hot in Victorian sugar refineries, due to the heated copper pans containing tons of boiling liquid sugar, that workers were often given an unlimited supply of free beer to staunch their thirst!


After the 1860s, the northern part of Sugar House Island became an important hub for ink, varnish, and colour-dye innovation, supporting the growing printing industries in nearby Plaistow. Significant dye manufacturers in the area included Dane & Co (established in 1853), Harry Hodson & Co (established in 1862), Blackwell & Co (established in 1871) and B. Winstone and Sons (established in 1875). These companies are referenced in Kelly’s ‘Directory of Stratford’ 1899-1900.

Dane & Co (later The Dane Group of Companies) was established in 1853 and left Sugar House Lane in 2005. This innovative print and ink manufacturer produced a wide range of inks for lithography, press and silk screen, as well as colour paints. The company was instrumental in the development of heavy-duty inks called ‘Bronze Blues’ and fluorescent pigments called ‘Swada’.

The Dane Group was the largest producer of Day-Glo pigments in the world with its products used in highlighter pens, high-visibility jackets and other safety products, paints, printing inks and plastics. Dane’s inks were sold all over England and exported across Europe.

This important heritage is remembered in the naming of the northern district ‘Dane’s Yard’ as well as the retention and refurbishment of warehouse buildings, and the reinstatement of old alleyways and yards reconnecting to Sugar House Island’s distinctive nineteenth century sense of place.

The Dane’s dog will be reinstated on the High Street as part of the new façade of 1 Dane’s Yard.


A house next to the lock at the northern edge of Sugar House Island was home to Luke Howard (1772-1864), the man who devised the classification system for clouds.

Howard was a British manufacturing chemist and an amateur meteorologist. He was very interested in evaporation and its effect on clouds, maintaining that no cloud could ever be permanent but that they are ever changing. He asserted that water evaporates from the earth and disappears until it is once again visible in the form of a cloud.

Howard introduced three basic cloud types using Latin names (as Linneaus had done) and based on three simple categories (cirrus, cumulus and stratus), which we still use today. This paper was presented to the Askesian society, under the title "On the Modifications of Clouds." In his later work "The Climate of London" he also introduced the term nimbus and terms for intermediate or altered clouds, such as cumulo-stratus (stratocumulus) or cirrocumulus. 

Howard was the first person to recognise the effect that urban areas have on local climate, called “The Urban Heat Island Phenomenon.” His discovery led to an award being named after him given in the field  of urban climatology.

Become a cloud expert

Cirrus (meaning a curl of hair), Howard described as "parallel, flexuous, or diverging fibres, extensible in any or all directions"

Cumulus (meaning heap), is "convex or conical heaps, increasing upward from a horizontal base"

Stratus (meaning something spread), is "a widely extended, continuous, horizontal sheet, increasing from below".

Howard combined these names to form four more cloud types:

Cirro-cumulus, a "small, well-defined roundish masses, in close horizontal arrangement"

Cirro-stratus, a "horizontal or slightly inclined masses, attenuated towards a part or the whole of their circumference, bent downward, or undulated, separate, or in groups consisting of small clouds having these characters";

Cumulostratus, "the cirrostratus blended with the cumulus, and either appearing intermixed with the heaps of the latter, or super-adding a widespread structure to its base"

Cumulo-cirro-stratus or Nimbus, the rain cloud, "a cloud or system of clouds from which rain is falling".

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    • AThe View Tube
      The Greenway, Marshgate Ln, E15 2PJ
      07957 346279 | Visit website
      BThe Pie Crust
      273 High St, E15 2TF
      020 8534 2873
      CCarmelite Café
      181 Bow Rd, E3 2SJ
      020 8980 7774
      DStratford Cafè Espresso
      Ground Floor, The Lock Building, 72 High St, Stratford, E15 2QF
      EChinese Overseas Restaurant
      & Take Away
      411 High St, E15 4QZ
      FThe Last Drop
      Arcelor Mittal Orbit Restaurant
      Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
      5 Thornton St, E20 2AD
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      GStour Space
      7 Roach Rd, E3 2PA
      020 8985 7827 | Visit website
      HCrate Brewery & Pizzeria
      Crate Brewery & Pizzeria 7 The White Building, Queen's Yard, E9 5EN
      020 8533 3331 | Visit website
      IWhite Post Café and Bar
      Schwartz Wharf (Building 4), 92 White Post Ln, E9 5EN
      07779 142388 | Visit website
      JWestfield’s 65 restaurants
      Olympic Park, Montfichet Rd, E20 1EJ
      020 8221 7300 | Visit website
    • AThe Bow Bells
      116 Bow Rd, E3 3AA
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      BCoborn Arms
      8 Coborn Rd, Bow, E3 2DA
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      CThe Morgan Arms
      43 Morgan St, E3 5AA
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      DThe Lord Tredegar
      50 Lichfield Rd, E3 5AL
      020 8983 0130 | Visit website
      EThe Green Goose
      112 Anglo Rd, E3 5HD
      020 3058 3728 | Visit website
      FGalvanisers Union
      2 Devas St, E3 3LL
      020 7537 1158 | Visit website
      GRusty Bike Pub Mile End
      588 Mile End Rd, E3 4PH
      020 8981 4100 | Visit website
      HWestfield’s 10 bars
      Olympic Park, Montfichet Rd, E20 1EJ
      020 8221 7300 | Visit website
      IHowling Hops Brewery and Tank Bar
      Unit 9A Queen's Yard, White Post Ln, E9 5EN
      020 3583 8262 | Visit website
    • ATesco Superstore
      Hancock Rd, Bow, E3 3DA
      0345 677 9085 | Visit website
      BThe Co-operative
      127-131 Bow Rd, E3 2AN
      020 8981 4314 | Visit website
      CTesco Express
      150 High St, E15 2NE
      0345 671 9595 | Visit website
      DTesco Express
      1-5 Bow Rd, E3 4LU
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      EFine Food Store
      61 Bow Rd, E3 2AD
    • AWestfield Stratford
      Over 250 stores
      Olympic Park
      Montfichet Rd, E20 1EJ
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      BRoman Road Market
      Tuesdays, Thursdays 10am-4pm,
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      568 Roman Rd, E3 5ES
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    • ABromley-by-Bow Health Centre
      St Leonard's St, E3 3BT
      020 3728 0980 | Visit website
      BSt Andrew’s Health Centre
      2 Hannaford Walk, E3 3FF
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      CRuston Street Clinic
      Ruston St, E3 2LR
      020 8980 1652 | Visit website
      DThe Tredegar Practice
      35 St Stephen's Rd, E3 5JD
      020 8980 1822 | Visit website
      EHarley Grove Medical Centre
      15 Harley Grove, E3 2AT
      020 8983 7479 | Visit website
      FStroudley Walk Health Centre
      38 Stroudley Walk, E3 3EW
      020 8981 4742 | Visit website
      GLantern Health CIC – Carpenters Practice
      236-252 High St, E15 2JA
      020 8534 8057 | Visit website
      HSt Stephen’s Health Centre
      Bow Community Hall, William Pl, E3 5ED
      020 8980 1760
      IMerchant Street Surgery
      5 Merchant St, E3 4LJ
      020 8980 3676 | Visit website
    • ABow Pharmacy
      38 Stroudley Walk, E3 3EW
      020 8980 2178 | Visit website
      BTesco Superstore Pharmacy
      Hancock Rd, Bow, E3 3DA
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      CGreen Light Pharmacy
      Hannaford Walk, Devons Rd, E3 3FF
      020 3069 7858 | Visit website
      DBoots, Westfield Stratford
      Olympic Park, Montfichet Rd, E20 1EJ
      020 8221 7300 | Visit website
    • ANisa Local Post Office
      161A Bow Rd, E3 2SG
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      BStratford Post Office
      26-28 The Broadway, E15 4QS
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      CAmazon Delivery Locker
      The Mall Stratford, E15 1NG
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    • ABarclays Bank
      92 Bow Rd, E3 3AA
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      BNatwest ATM
      161 Bow Rd, E3 2SG
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      CThe Co-operative ATM
      131 Bow Rd, E3 2AN
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      DTesco Superstore ATM
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    • AStratford Dry Cleaners, Laundry, Key Cutting
      269 High St, E15 2TF
      07808 703978 | Visit website
      BSmart Dry Cleaners
      Unit 4 Auzura point, 44 Warton Rd, Stratford, E15 2JD
      020 7485 3839
      CBow Dry Cleaner
      22 Bromley High St, E3 3EP
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    • ALondon Stadium
      Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, E20 2ST
      020 8522 6000 | Visit website
      BLondon Aquatics Centre
      Swimming and Diving Pools
      Olympic Park, E20 2ZQ
      020 8536 3150 | Visit website
      CLondon Aquatics Centre Gym
      Olympic Park, E20 2ZQ
      020 8536 3150 | Visit website
      DAnytime Fitness Gym
      188 High St, Stratford, E15 2FF
      020 3475 1347 | Visit website
      6 Chestnut Pl, Stratford, E20 1GL
      020 3819 8548 | Visit website
      FCopper Box Arena
      Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, E20 3HB
      020 8221 4900 | Visit website
    • ACinema Westfield Stratford
      3,000 seats across 17 screens in this Vue Cinema with all the latest movies, food and drinks available.
      Olympic Park, Montfichet Rd, E20 1EJ
      020 8221 7300 | Visit website
      BBowling Westfield Stratford
      All Star Lanes provides a fun party environment with 14 lanes and available for parties and private events.
      Olympic Park, Montfichet Rd, E20 1EJ
      020 8221 7300 | Visit website
      CTheatre Royal Stratford East
      A culturally diverse area in Stratford well-known for the talented productions and lively bars and cafés.
      Gerry Raffles Square, E15 1BN
      020 8534 0310 | Visit website
      DNunnery Gallery
      Showcase for works by East London artists within a former religious building, with a café.
      Open Tuesday – Friday 10am – 5pm
      181 Bow Rd, E3 2SJ
      020 8980 7774 | Visit website
      EArcelorMittal Orbit
      Fun for all the family and a great view from the top on a sunny day. Café next door with a wide range of tasty treats.
      Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, 5 Thornton St, E20 2AD
      0333 800 8099 | Visit website
    • APudding Mill Lane DLR Station
      0.2 miles | DLR Service
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      BStratford High Street DLR Station
      0.4 miles | DLR Service
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      CBromley-By-Bow Tube Station
      0.5 miles | District & Hammersmith & City Services
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      DAbbey Road DLR Station
      0.6 miles | DLR Services
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      EBow Church DLR
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      0.7 miles | TFL Rail, Central, Jubilee, DLR, Overground Services
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      GWest Ham Station
      0.7 miles | District, Hammersmith & City, DLR and Jubilee Services
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      HBow Road Tube Station
      0.8 miles | District, Hammersmith & City Services
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      IStratford International Station
      1.2 miles | DLR & National Rail Services
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      JMaryland Station
      1.3 miles | TFL Rail Service
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      KMile End Station
      1.5 miles | Central, District, Hammersmith & City Services
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      LHackney Wick
      1.6 miles | Overground Service
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    • ASantander bikes
      Bow Church Station
      118 Bow Rd, London E3 3AH
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      BSantander bikes
      Bromley High St, Bow, E3 33B
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      Devon’s Rd, Bow, E3 3QX
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      DSantander bikes
      Bow Rd Station, Bow, E3 3AH
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      ESantander bikes
      Podium, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, E20 2ST
      0343 222 6666 | Visit website
      FSantander bikes
      Aquatics Centre, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, E20 2ST
      0343 222 6666 | Visit website
      GSantander bikes
      Stratford Station, Stratford, E15 1AZ
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      HSantander bikes
      Monier Rd, Hackney Wick, E3 2PR
      0343 222 6666 | Visit website
      IView Tube Cycle Hire - Nigel’s bikes
      The Greenway, Marshgate Ln, E15 2PJ
      07957 346279 | Visit website
  • AThree Mills Green and Three Mills Island
    World’s oldest tidal mill, with café and Wild Kingdom play space with fallen trees, nets and ropes.
    E3 3DU
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    BCanal and riverside walk
    Connecting into the Lee Valley Walk’s 26 miles of walks.
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    CQueen Elizabeth Olympic Park
    Bridges, wild land and play parks weave a latticework around London's 2012 Olympic venues.
    E20 2ST
    0800 072 2110 | Visit website
    DAbbey Lane Open Space
    Small area of green space ideal for playing sports, working out and spending time with family and friends.
    14 Abbey Ln, E15 2SD
    0844 414 2728 | Visit website
    ETower Hamlets Cemetery Park
    Restored Victorian cemetery and local nature reserve with urban woodland, bats and butterflies.
    Southern Grove, E3 4PX
    020 8983 1277 | Visit website
    FVictoria Park
    Grove Rd, E3 5TB
    020 8985 5699 | Visit website
    • AHouse Mill
      The Miller’s House.
      Three Mill Ln, Bromley By Bow, E3 3DU
      Visit website
      BAbbey Mills Pumping Station
      140 Abbey Ln, E15 2RW
      020 8311 3711
      CDrapers Almshouses
      1 Almshouses Way, Rainhill, E3 3ES
      DSt Mary’s Bow Church
      230 Bow Rd, E3 3AH
      020 8981 7916 | Visit website