Passengers of the number 58 and 158 buses may well have spotted the curious three-storey turreted building at 180 Church Road, Leyton as they trundle past. This rather whimsical edifice is Etloe House which was converted into apartments in the 1980s, after more than 200 years of a rather eclectic ownership and occupancy.

It was originally built as a square brick house in 1760 by esteemed Oxford scholar, antiquarian, and historian of printing Edward Rowe Mores, on his family’s Leyton estate which he inherited in 1756; the house’s plans were apparently conceived by Mores himself, based upon the plan of a house he had seen in France.

Mores was an interestingly eccentric character with many peculiarities in both professional and personal life. He excelled academically at Merchant Taylors' School, London and Queen’s College, Oxford, where he produced several significant works, and was instrumental in establishing what became the Equitable Society, although his quarrelsome nature later led to his departure.

In 1753 he married his stepsister Susannah Bridgman, who died several years after moving into Etloe House. They had a son, and a daughter, Sarah; Mores spoke mainly in Latin to Sarah when she was young, and his later anger when she converted to Catholicism at a Rouen convent was apparently pretence. In his latter years Mores ‘fell into negligent and dissipated habits’ and died at Etloe House in November 1778, of ‘a mortification in his leg.’ He was buried at St Mary’s Church, Walthamstow.

Etloe House was then the family home of a succession of households, including the Gores in the 1820s, and the Rossers in the 1840s.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Edward Rowe Mores

Significant changes to the house’s appearance were made in the mid-19th century with the addition of two flanking wings, and the insertion of Tudoresque features to the front, notably mullioned windows and a Gothic-arched porch. These works may have coincided with the leasing of the house in 1858 as a country retreat for Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, the first Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, who lived there until 1864 after moving from Shern Hall in Walthamstow.

Wiseman was a renowned advocate for the Roman Catholic religion: in 1836 he established the Dublin Review, which fostered aspirations and ideals of Catholicism for English Catholics, and in 1847 he returned from Rome as an informal diplomatic papal envoy, working for the reclamation of Roman Catholic criminals and strongly supporting the formation of religious communities for women and men.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, by Herbert Watkins, London c1855-1865

Following Wiseman’s departure in 1864, Etloe House remained a private residence for a few decades more. The Simonds family were resident from the 1870s for two decades or so, Newham-born Caroline and her Suffolk-born husband John, and their children and some of their grandchildren became well known within the local community during their time at Etloe House. Caroline was known for her philanthropic endeavours, and John who was an army and navy contractor by profession (although had owned a butcher business when the family lived in Stepney before they relocated to Leyton) was a member of the County Council representing Leyton Division, amongst other local roles. Occasionally the house’s grounds were opened for private events, including temperance gatherings.

In around 1907 the house was converted for use as a convent for the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, who had been seeking suitable premises, having outgrown their cramped and increasingly inadequate Limehouse quarters. With the help of charitable donations, they acquired Etloe House for 100 destitute women and girls, and constructed a working laundry in the grounds. By 1916 the home was used as an Institution under the Mental Deficiency Act 1913 for Roman Catholic women, some of whom worked in the laundry. The home continued to be used into the 1970s, and closed when the Sisters moved to Chigwell Convent.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series:

Etloe House in the early 1960s. Reproduced with kind permission of Lawrence Skuse

In 1983 Etloe House was extensively renovated and divided into maisonettes and flats for a retirement housing complex. It was granted Grade II Listed Building Status in 1954, and remains a significant part of Leyton’s built heritage.

Karen Averby is a seaside-loving historian and research consultant specialising in researching histories and stories of buildings, people and places. She researches house histories for private clients and collaborates in community heritage projects ( She is also director of Archangel Heritage Ltd, an historical research consultancy providing research services for the commercial heritage sector ( Also found on Twitter @karenaverby and @archaheritage.