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Painting Town House, Fournier Street, E1

Town House is a charming gallery and antiques shop located at number 5 Fournier Street in the Spitalfields area of London, it is an early 18th century building situated opposite Hawksmoor’s Christ Church. Before the dreaded coronavirus struck I was a regular visitor, popping in to see the art on display in the gallery (a small building at the back of the shop) or to have a cup of coffee whilst sitting in the pretty courtyard. Town House has a homely feel and the shop’s owner, Fiona and her team make everyone feel welcome.

I have always been an art lover but was relatively new to painting when I painted Town House in 2016. It was the first building I ever painted and I enjoyed doing it so much I was hooked! I love London architecture, especially older buildings and have been painting them ever since. In 2017 I painted the building again and the two canvases are completely different. I find Town House very attractive and am fond of the people who work there which is part of the reason I am drawn to painting it.

The building is full of character and there is always something interesting to look at. Fiona’s window displays are marvelous, they are changed regularly and have different themes, one that springs to mind is the 'Save the Bethnal Green Mulberry', it was lovely. Whilst on the subject of the window, I had fine art Christmas cards printed using my original Town House painting and I am proud to say that an enlarged copy of this image was used as part of the Town House Christmas window in 2018 (see below).

The building has a varied and interesting history and retains many original features, I always feel like I’ve time travelled when I visit Town House! Number 5 is a single fronted house that is two rooms deep, it has three stories and contains a cellar basement and roof garrets. One thing I love about the building is the original shop sign board above the front window, it has faded with time but if you look hard enough you will see it says, ‘The Market Café’, which was started by brother and sister Phyllis and Clyde Armstrong’s father during World War II, they carried it on until they were in their eighties and Fiona bought it from them in 2000. Gilbert and George used to have breakfast at the Market Café every morning.

Number 5 Fournier Street was originally called 30 Church Street and the shell was probably built in the 1670s (timber framed on west facing top storey), it was updated in 1720.

People known to have lived at Town House, 5 Fournier Street (originally 30 Church Street):

Shell probably built 1670s, updated 1720. First occupants unknown until...

• Possibly Etienne Sorel, Huguenot weaver of Church St now Fournier St, and a partner of Robert Ball below c1760

• Robert Ball, weaver, and family 1790

• William Cotes (Cootes) weaver from Suffolk 1817

• George Jackson, doctor, and family 1823 – 1877

• John Jackson, son of the above 1823 – 1877

• Edward Ries, translator 1881

• Abraham Miller, furrier, grandfather of Jonathan 1890 – 1895

• Isaac Katz and son, shirt makers 1905

• Barnett Markowitch, tailor 1910

Building re-fronted after 1912 (surviving photo from then of original frontage, no shop three windows across the front)

• Perhaps why no entries in the street directories for 1913 - 1918

• Marks Portnoi tailor 1922

• Joseph Wenchowsky, hosier 1925

• Max Pugh, fruit merchant 1933

• Walter Linger, coffee rooms 1935

• Market Café (Phyllis & Clyde Armstrong) 1942 – 2000

• Town House opened 2002 after restoration of the 2000 building including a new shop front based on a c1800 design by William Pain. Early 20th century shop front was wood and disintegrating!

Town House hopes to reopen on 15th April if permitted at that time. The coffee and cake are superb and I highly recommend a visit.

Town House - note the Save the Bethnal Green Mulberry Tree window
If you look hard you can just make out 'The Market Cafe' on the board above the shop window
The courtyard where you can have a cup of coffee
The gallery
The basement kitchen where the coffee and cakes are made

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