Collingwood Street was at the heart of the Old Nicol rookery.
In 1680, John Nichol of Gray’s Inn leased just over four acres of gardens for 180 years to a London mason, Jon Richardson, with permission to dig for bricks. The land became built up piecemeal with houses. Many of the local streets were named after Nichol.
At least 22 houses were built in Old Nichol Street
in 1801-2, probably on the sites of 17th-century ones.
An area of this was named Friar’s Mount probably after James Fryer who farmed it in the 1720s. Friar’s Mount was sold to Sanderson Turner Sturtevant, a tallow chandler who was leasing out ground on the west side of Turk Street by 1804. A John Gadenne was building on the west side of Mount Street in 1807. Mount Street, from Rose Street to Virginia Row, existed by 1806. Nelson Street and Collingwood Streets ran west from Mount Street by 1807.
A garden - Kemp’s Garden - was taken for building at about the same time. Mead built nine houses in Mead Street in 1806 and others were under construction in Charlotte and Half Nichol streets in 1807 and 1808. By 1810 ’Kemps Land’ included Trafalgar Street and Christopher Street
. On Vincent Street, houses were going up in 1807.
By 1827 there were 237 houses on the 5 acre Nichol estate. Between 1812 and 1826 Nelson Street and Collingwood Street extended westward across the remaining land and by 1836 the entire area was built up.
The vicar of St. Philip’s, the church serving the ’Old Nichol’ stated in 1844 "conditions were far worse than in a northern industrial parish, that population density was 8.6 people to a (small) house, and that there were 1400 houses in an area less than 400 yards square".
Henry Mayhew visited Bethnal Green in 1850, and noted that "Roads were unmade, often mere alleys, houses small and without foundations, subdivided and often around unpaved courts. An almost total lack of drainage and sewerage was made worse by the ponds formed by the excavation of brickearth. Pigs and cows in back yards, noxious trades like boiling tripe, melting tallow, or preparing cat’s meat, and slaughter houses, dustheaps, and ’lakes of putrefying night soil’ added to the filth."
In 1861 John Hollingshead, of The Morning Post, in his ’Ragged London’ noted that the Nichol had grown even more squalid in the last 20 years as old houses decayed and traditional trades became masks for thieves and prostitutes.
The clearance of the slum houses of the Old Nichol Street
rookery was the result of an energetic campaign by the local incumbent, Reverend Osborne Jay of Holy Trinity, who arrived in the parish in December 1886. Nearly 6000 individuals were crammed into the packed streets. The death rate was twice that of the rest of Bethnal Green, and four times that of London. One child in four died before his or her first birthday.
London County Council was created by the Local Government (England and Wales) Act 1888 and took responsibility for the housing of the working classes from the Metropolitan Board of Works.The LCC chose the Boundary Street
area as their flagship scheme.
Collingwood Street thus disappeared during the 1890s.