Limehouse. The name was notorious for generations as a slum and a locus of crime. On the East End of London and the north side of the river Thames, the district was for many years a busy dock, especially after the 1770 opening of Limehouse Cut, a canal that connected the Thames to northern river arteries, helping to distribute goods. Sailors from Africa and China settled here, and by the 1890s, the area was infamous for vice, theft, and opium dens. Its notoriously lawless citizens were mentioned in Charles Dickens’s “The Mystery of Edwin Drood” and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, as well as many other books.
And yet today, the East End of London has been revitalized. The docks began to close in the 1960s; by the ’80s, building development had begun. Artists began living in the disused warehouses and factories, and now living in one is extremely trendy — and expensive. Case in point, a unique penthouse in one of the area’s first factory conversions that has come onto the market via The Modern House at £950,000, or about US$1.3 million.
The utilitarian red-brick edifice once housed the factory operations of Spratt’s, the first company in the world to make dog biscuits. Enormously successful for many years, Spratt’s also supplied bird seed and cat food, the latter of which was marketed with a famously cheeky sign that is popular among sign collectors today (below). The former pet food factory was converted into approximately 150 live-work units beginning in 1985, and among the many artists who have lived here are Roger Law, the creator of the iconic British satirical show “Spitting Image,” sculptor Michael Green, and studio potter Elizabeth Fritsch.