The comprehensive gazetteer and bibliography of the medieval castles, fortifications and palaces of England, Wales, the Islands.
The listings
Other Info
Print Page 
Next Record 
Previous Record 
Back to list 

Whitechapel Mount

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Mile End

In the civil parish of Tower Hamlets.
In the historic county of London and Middlesex.
Modern Authority of London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
1974 county of Greater London.
Medieval County of Middlesex.

OS Map Grid Reference: TQ346817
Latitude 51.51826° Longitude -0.06136°

Whitechapel Mount has been described as a Timber Castle but is rejected as such.

There are no visible remains.


Upon first inspection little would appear to be known about the Mount. One of the few available works on the hospital claims that "The Mount was a saxon earthwork, built to defend London" (Daunton 1990), although the lack of supporting evidence would suggest that this claim is erroneous. However, there is some evidence to suggest that the Mount may have been, in part at least, a natural mound which was known as the Mount at least as far back as Cade's Rebellion of the mid-Fifteenth century, as mentioned in Stow's Annals "an encampment of the Commons near the Mount at Mile End".
The Mount is not mentioned again until some two hundred years after Cade (Stow made no mention of the Mount in his Survey of 1598) when, during the mid-seventeenth century, Britain was plunged into Civil War. (Flintham 1999)

Whitechapel Mount.
The fortress, which was intended to defend the approach to the city from the eastern road, is situated within the parish of Whitechapel, and is now known by the name of Whitechapel Mount. Its dimensions are 329 feet in length at the base, and 182 in breadth. The height above the level of the ground is about 25 feet. The east end remains very perfect. On the west side some houses have been built. The surface on the top, except where it has been dug away, is perfectly level. This Mount is described in Sir Christopher Wren's plan of the new buildings at Mile-end, and is there called the Fort. It seems probable that a fortress was erected to defend each of the principal roads leading to the metropolis. That at Mile-end was called a Mount (A mistaken idea has prevailed, that this Mount was made of the rubbish occasioned by the great fire of London in 1666.) in the diurnals of the last century. We have traces of several Mounts in the suburbs of London, all of which were near the great roads. Holywell Mount, now levelled, was near the Hertfordshire roads. There are the remains of another as you go to Islington, near the great north road. (Lyson 1795)

In the period when Pepys was complaining about the substances in his cellar, the privy was being used in most households for kitchen and domestic as well as human refuse. The streets, despite all the prohibitions and regulations, were still offensive “with dust and unwholesome stenches in summer and in wet weather with dirt.” This passage occurs in a report of 1654, and eight years later the city made one of its periodic efforts to cleanse itself with injunctions that householders on Wednesdays and Saturdays should put their refuse in “basket tubs or other vessels ready for the Raker or Scavenger”; the approach of his cart or carriage was meant to be heralded by “a bell, horn, clapper or otherwise,” thus alerting the inhabitants to bring out their rubbish. Excrement itself was removed from the cesspits by “night-soil men,” whose carts were notoriously leaky; they dropped “near a quarter of their dirt” and the great eighteenth-century philanthropist Jonas Hanway remarked that they subjected “every coach and every passenger, of what quality whatsoever, to be overwhelmed with whole cakes of dirt at every accidental jolt of the cart, of which many have had a most filthy experience.” It might be thought the Great Fire would bring a speedy and fiery end to the city’s problems of waste, but the habits of the citizen were not to be easily changed. The novels of the eighteenth century pay horrified, if somewhat oblique, attention to the malodorous and generally offensive conditions of the capital.
Yet if the Great Fire did not cleanse London, it is appropriate that commerce should do so instead. Improved methods of agriculture meant that, by 1760, manure had become a valuable commodity. Since household ash and cinders also began to be employed in brick-making, a whole new market for refuse emerged. Now there came new dealers, competing upon the exchange of the streets. In 1772 a city scavenger of St. James, Piccadilly, reported that he was “greatly injured by a set of Persons called Running Dustmen who go about the streets and places of this Parish and collect the Coal Ashes.” He begged the parishioners only “to deliver their Coal Ashes but to the Persons employed by him the said John Horobin who are distinguished by ringing a Bell.” One eighteenth-century advertisement parades the benefits of Joseph Waller, residing by the Turnpike at Islington, who “keeps Carts and Horses for emptying Bog-Houses.” When rubbish became part of commerce, the conditions of the city were improved more speedily than by any Paving Acts or Cleansing Committees.
In the nineteenth century, the history of city refuse became part of the history of city finance. The dust-heap in Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend, modelled upon a real and ever more offensive pile off the King’s Cross Road, was believed to contain buried treasure and had already made a fortune for its owner. “I’m a pretty fair scholar in dust,” Mr. Boffin explains, “I can price the Mounds to a fraction, and I know how they can be best disposed of.” There were “Mounds” or “Mounts” of refuse in various parts of London. One immediately to the west of the London Hospital was known as “Whitechapel Mount,” (Ackroyd)

An archaeological watching brief by Museum of London Archaeology Service between 28th June - 1st July 2004 at the The Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel Road. The watching brief monitored the excavation of two trial pits and three boreholes for non-archaeological purposes. Post-medieval deposits, ashy fill deposits were recorded below the cellars of former terrace houses facing Whitechapel Road. Extensive fill deposits may indicate quarrying, which took place after a successful petition to flatten the Mount fort by the hospital authorities at the end of the 18th century. There is no trace of a former burial ground on the site prior to that date and no disturbed graves or disarticulated human bone was recovered. A rise in the ground level to a metre above that of the surrounding Whitechapel and New Roads indicates a topographic replacement of the Mount as an elevated feature and the same rise is reflected along the 19th century Mount Terrace. No significant archaeological deposits were observed. The natural terrace gravel was observed at between 8.4m OD and 8.7m OD and the truncated brickearth at between 8.7m OD and 9m OD (Greater London Archaeology Advisory Service)

Was a mound said to be 30-40 feet high. Often suggested as a C17 English Civil War defence, although unlike known C17 earthworks. The MOLA team doing a watching brief in 2004 appear to have accepted that identification although their finds of ashy fill deposits should be noted. Alternatively suggested as a motte, a Saxon defence or a natural mound. However, considering its position just far enough outside the walls of London to not be a nuisance, it and the other similar 'mounts' may represent midden mounds of the size one might expect from a large city occupied for many centuries and reliant on wood and coal for heating (coal imports from Newcastle were considerable even in the C13).
Certainly can be rejected as a motte castle on the grounds of apparent morphology, location and tenurial history.
Links to archaeological and architectural databases, mapping and other online resources

Data >
Maps >
Streetmap   NLS maps   Where's the path   Old-Maps      
Data/Maps > 
Magic   V. O. B.   Geology   LiDAR   Open Domesday  
Air Photos > 
Bing Maps   Google Maps   Getmapping   ZoomEarth      
Photos >
CastleFacts   Geograph   Flickr   Panoramio      

Sources of information, references and further reading
Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.
It is an offence to disturb a Scheduled Monument without consent. It is a destruction of everyone's heritage to remove archaeological evidence from ANY site without proper recording and reporting.
Don't use metal detectors on historic sites without authorisation.
The information on this web page may be derived from information compiled by and/or copyright of Historic England, County Historic Environment Records and other individuals and organisations. It may also contain information licensed under the Open Government Licence. All the sources given should be consulted to identify the original copyright holder and permission obtained from them before use of the information on this site for commercial purposes.
The author and compiler of Gatehouse does not receive any income from the site and funds it himself. The information within this site is provided freely for educational purposes only.
The bibliography owes much to various bibliographies produced by John Kenyon for the Council for British Archaeology, the Castle Studies Group and others.
Suggestions for finding online and/or hard copies of bibliographical sources can be seen at this link.
Minor archaeological investigations, such as watching brief reports, and some other 'grey' literature is most likely to be held by H.E.R.s but is often poorly referenced and is unlikely to be recorded here, or elsewhere, but some suggestions can be found here.
The possible site or monument is represented on maps as a point location. This is a guide only. It should be noted that OS grid references defines an area, not a point location. In practice this means the actual center of the site or monument may often, but not always, be to the North East of the point shown. Locations derived from OS grid references and from latitude longitiude may differ by a small distance.
Further information on mapping and location can be seen at this link.
Please help to make this as useful a resource as possible by contacting Gatehouse if you see errors, can add information or have suggestions for improvements in functality and design.
Help is acknowledged.
This record last updated 27/08/2017 07:00:37

Home | Books | Links | Fortifications and Castles | Other Information | Help | Downloads | Author Information | Contact