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The DSQ history

East India Company

In 1768, the East India Company bought land on New Street for warehousing. Its first building stored raw silk, piece goods and textiles from Bengal — hence the name Bengal Warehouse. Further parcels of land were acquired and more warehouses constructed right up until 1820. By then, the famous old trading company owned most of the area and property that the Devonshire Square Estate occupies today.

When the East India Company’s trade monopoly to China ended in the 1830s, the complex of warehouses was sold to the St Katharine Dock Company. In 1909, they were bought by the Port of London Authority, then the greatest warehouse keeper in the world.

The most valuable goods were stashed in the Cutler Street warehouses, where the forbidding fortress-like walls and the fire-proof construction afforded excellent protection. Ostrich feathers, chinaware, oriental carpets, cigars, tortoiseshell, silks, mother of pearl, clocks, watches, cameras, drugs, spices, musical instruments, perfumes, tea and other prized artefacts were stored here.

At one time, Cutler Street was the premier tea warehouse for the Port of London Authority. But by the 1950s, most of of the tea business had been moved to the London Dock, and the space was given over to casks of wine, port and sherry.

By the 1970s, shipping had fully embraced containerisation, and the only ‘uptown’ warehouses still used by the Port of London Authority were those on Cutler Street. The site was acquired by Standard Life Assurance together with Greycoat Estates Ltd in 1978.

Developing the Cutlers Gardens Estate

The idea behind R Seifert and Partners’ architectural scheme for the estate was to create courtyards and buildings sympathetic to the original eighteenth-century warehouses.

Four of the seven East India Company warehouses were rebuilt on the inside. Internal floors and columns were replaced, but the original brickwork was laboriously stitched, cleaned, refaced. Original features such as stone stairs and iron and wood columns were restored to highlight the period charm.

The main entrance, guarded by rusticated gateposts and flanked by Georgian town houses, is dominated by the new facade bearing the original East India Company clock case. The five-acre estate, then named Cutlers Gardens, was completed in 1982. Apart from the addition of East India House on the Middlesex Street boundary, this remained largely unchanged until 2008.

In late 2006, Rockpoint Europe bought the estate. Its vision was to create a multi-use campus environment, incorporating offices, shops and homes. Remodeling of retail areas and courtyards included installing a high-level roof over the Western Courtyard. Contemporary landscaping and imaginative lighting design complemented the existing brick facades, creating an all-year-round Piazza style environment. More ground-floor shops were added facing into the Western Courtyard towards Cutlers Street, and towards the Avenue and Central Courtyard.

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Walking down the pedestrianised New Street takes you through an archway into the campus environment. You then come through the covered, York-stone paved Western Courtyard, which cleverly brings the outside inside, before arriving at the Central Courtyard. The original East India warehouses along New Street (now known as Bengal Wing and the Tapestry Building) feature ground-floor shops, while the Tapestry Building offers modern residential apartments from the first floor upwards.

Further renovation included design of the individual reception areas. These were inspired by images of the treasured goods once stored in the warehouses. Silk, precious textiles, exotic spices and exquisite porcelain work comes to life in expansive, expressive murals. The rich, bountiful influence of the East India Company is visually celebrated in these vibrant lobby areas.