East End of London

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Image:Ch ch spitalfields.400px.jpg
Christ Church, Spitalfields

The East End of London, known locally as the East End, is an area without formal boundaries in London, England. Use of the term began in the late 19th Century. <ref>Mills, A., Oxford Dictionary of London Place Names, (2000)</ref>


[edit] Origin and scope

The term East End was first applied to the districts immediately to the east of, and entirely outside, the mediaeval walled City of London and north of the River Thames; these included Whitechapel and Stepney. By the late 19th century the East End roughly corresponded to the Tower division of Middlesex which from 1900 formed the metropolitan boroughs of Stepney, Bethnal Green, Poplar and Shoreditch in the County of London and today corresponds to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets and the southern part of Hackney<ref name=palmer>Alan Palmer - "The East End", John Murray, London (1989)</ref>.

[The] invention about 1880 of the term East End was rapidly taken up by the new halfpenny press, and in the pulpit and the music hall ... A shabby man from Paddington, St Marylebone or Battersea might pass muster as one of the respectable poor. But the same man coming from Bethnal Green, Shadwell or Wapping was an East Ender, the box of Keating's bug powder must be reached for, and the spoons locked up. In the long run this cruel stigma came to do good. It was a final incentive to the poorest to get out of the East End at all costs, and it became a concentrated reminder to the public conscience that nothing to be found in the East End should be tolerated in a Christian country.<ref><cite>The Nineteenth Century XXIV (1888) p.292; in William Fishman, East End 1888 (1998) p.1</ref>

Parts of the London boroughs of Newham and Waltham Forest, formerly in an area of Essex known as London over the border, are sometimes considered to be in the East End. However, the River Lee is often considered to be the eastern boundary of the East End and this definition would exclude the boroughs but place them in East London. The common extension of the term further east is probably due to the diaspora of East Enders who moved to suburban east London, in particular the new estates at Becontree and Harold Hill, or otherwise left London entirely.

[edit] History

Image:1745 Roque Map.jpg
1745 Roque Map of the East End. London is expanding, but there are still large areas of fields to the East of the City.

The East End came into being as the separate villages east of London spread and the fields between them were built upon, a process which occurred in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. From the beginning, the East End has always contained some of the poorest areas of London. The main reasons for this include

  • the medieval system of copyhold, that prevailed throughout the East End, into the 19th century. Essentially, there was little point in developing land that was held on short leases<ref name=palmer/>.
  • the siting of noxious industries, such as tanning and fulling outside the boundaries of the City, and thence beyond complaints and official controls
  • the low paid employment in the docks and related industries; made worse by the trade practices of outwork, piecework and casual labour
  • and the relocation of the ruling court and national political epicentre to Westminster, on the opposite western side of the City of London.

[edit] Politics and social reform

Image:1882 Reynolds Map.jpg
1882 Reynolds Map of the East End. Development has now completely eliminated the open fields.

At the end of the 17th century large numbers of Huguenot weavers arrived in the East End, settling to service an industry that grew up around the new estate at Spitalfields, where master weavers were based. They brought with them a tradition of reading clubs, where books were read, often in public houses. The authorities were suspicious of immigrants meeting, and in some ways they were right, as these grew into workers' associations and political organisations. When, towards the middle of the 17th century the silk industry fell into a decline - partly due to the introduction of printed calico cloth, riots ensued. These Spitalfield Riots of 1769 were actually centred to the east, and were put down with considerable force, culminating in two men being hanged in front of the Salmon and Ball public house at Bethnal Green; one was John Doyle (an Irish weaver), the other John Valline (of Huguenot descent)<ref><cite>The Spitalfields Riots 1769 at London Metropolitan Archives accessed on 10 November 2006</ref>.

In 1884 the Settlement movement was founded, with settlements such as Toynbee Hall and Oxford House encouraging university students to live and work in the slums to experience life and try to alleviate some of the poverty and misery in the East End. In 1888 the matchgirls of Bryant and May, in Bow struck for better working conditions. This combined with the many dock strikes in the same era, made the East End a key element in the foundation of modern socialist and trade union organisations; and the Suffragette movement<ref name=fishman><cite>William Fishman, East End 1888 (1998)</ref>.

Towards the end of the 19th century, a new wave of radicalism came to the East End, arriving both with Jewish emigrees fleeing from Eastern European persecution, and Russian and German radicals avoiding arrest. A German emigree, Rudolf Rocker began writing in Yiddish for Arbayter Fraynd (Workers' Friend), by 1912 he had organised a London garment workers strike for better conditions and an end to sweating<ref><cite>East End Jewish Radicals 1875-1914 - William J Fishman (2004)</ref>. Amongst the Russians, were such luminaries as Peter Kropotkin, an anarchist. Leon Trotsky, Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin all attended meetings of Iskra in 1903 and bizarrely met, a few years later, to plot the October Revolution in a warehouse in Whitechapel. Georgi Gapon (Assembly of Russian Workers), fled the failure of the Russian Revolution of 1905 to seek sanctuary in Stepney Green<ref><cite>The Battleship Potemkin and Stepney Green - EastLondonHistory accessed on 10 November 2006</ref>.

The philanphropist Angela Burdett-Coutts was active in the East End, founding markets, schools and institutions such as the East End Dwelling Company, this led to the foundation of organisations like the 3% Dwelling Company, where investors would actually receive a financial return on their philanthropy<ref><cite>Social Policy: From the Victorians to the Present Day - Susan Morris (LSE seminars) accessed 10 Nov 2006</ref>. Between the 1890's and 1903, when the work was published, the social campaigner Charles Booth instigated an investigation into the life of London poor, much of this was centred on the poverty and conditions in the East End<ref><cite>Life and Labour of the People in London (London: Macmillan, 1902-1903) at The Charles Booth on-line archive accessed 10 Nov 2006</ref>.

Image:Sylvia Pankhurst 1909.jpeg
Sylvia Pankhurst 1882-1960

Sylvia Pankhurst became increasingly disillusioned with the suffragette movement's inability to engage with the needs of working class women, and in 1912 she formed her own breakaway movement, the East London Federation of Suffragettes and based it at a baker's shop at Bow, emblazoned with "Votes for Women". in large gold letters. The local MP, George Lansbury, resigned his seat in parliament to stand for election on a platform of women's enfranchisement. Sylvia supported him in this and Bow Road became the campaign office, culminating in a huge rally in nearby Victoria Park, but Lansbury was narrowly defeated in the election and support for the project in the East End was withdrawn. Sylvia refocused her efforts, and with the outbreak of World War I, began a nursery, clinic and cost price canteen for the poor, at the bakery. A paper, the Women's Dreadnought was published to bring her campaign to a wider audience. Pankhurst spent twelve years in Bow, fighting for women's rights. During this time, she risked constant arrest and spent many months in Holloway Prison, often on hunger strike. She finally achieved her aim in 1928, but along the way had alleviated some of the poverty and misery, and improved social conditions for all in the East End.

The alleviation of widespread unemployment and hunger in Poplar had to be funded from money raised by the borough itself under the Poor Law. The poverty of the borough made this patently unfair and lead to the 1921 conflict between government and the local councillors known as the Poplar Rates Rebellion. Council meetings were for a time held in Brixton prison, and the councillors received wide support<ref><cite>"Poplarism, 1919-25: George Lansbury and the Councillors' Revolt" - Noreen Branson (1980)</ref>. Ultimately, this lead to the abolition of the Poor Laws through the Local Government Act 1929.

[edit] Industry and built environment

Building on an adhoc basis could never keep up with the needs of the expanding population, and already in 1890 'slum clearance' programmes; such as the creation of the worlds first council housing, the LCC Boundary Estate which replaced the neglected and crowded streets of Friars Mount, better known as The Old Nichol Street Rookery<ref>Taylor, R., Walks Through History: Exploring the East End, (2001)</ref> .

The River Lee was a smaller boundary than the Thames, but it was a significant one. The building of the Royal Docks between 1880 and 1921 on the downriver marshes, extended continuous development of London, across the Lee for the first time. Railways were driven through the East End slums, at the same time, and these provided access to new suburbs created in West Ham, and East Ham; the later of which was set up to serve the new Gas Light and Coke Company and Bazalgette's grand sewage works at Beckton.

Traditionally the home of London's docks and a large part of its industry, especially industries based on processing foodstuffs and other imported raw materials, the area was a continuous target during the blitz of World War II. Post war, specifically 1950's and 1960's, architecture dominates the housing estates of the area, such as the vast Lansbury Estate. This estate was built as a showpiece of the 1951 Festival of Britain.

From the mid 20th century, the docks declined in use and were finally closed in 1980. London's main port is now at Tilbury further down the Thames estuary, outside the boundary of Greater London.

[edit] Population

Image:Brick Lane 2005.jpg
Brick Lane has always been a centre for new immigration, welcoming Huguenots, Jews, and Bangladeshi communities in successive centuries (Sep 2005)

Throughout history the area has absorbed waves of immigrants who have each added a new dimension to the culture and history of the area, most notably the French protestant Huguenots, the Irish, the Jews and the Bangladeshi communities.

Community tensions have been raised by racist events such as an anti-semitic Fascist march in 1936 (blocked by residents at the Battle of Cable Street), anti-Asian violence, more recently anti-white violence, a council seat win for the British National Party in 1993 (since lost) and the 1999 bombing in Brick Lane.

During the interwar period there was a decline in population in the East End caused by migration to the suburbs and to areas outside London. This accelerated after World War II and has only recently started to reverse. These population figures are for the area that now forms the London Borough of Tower Hamlets only:

Borough 1901 <ref name=pop>Vision of Britain - Population: Bethnal Green, Poplar, Stepney</ref> 1931 <ref name=pop/> 1961 <ref name=pop/> 1971 <ref>Vision of Britain - Tower Hamlets LB Population</ref> 1991 2001<ref>Neighbourhood Statistics - Tower Hamlets</ref>
Bethnal Green 129,680 108,194 47,078 n/a n/a n/a
Poplar 168,882 155,089 66,604
Stepney 298,600 225,238 92,000
Total 597,102 488,611 205,682 165,791 161,064 196,106

[edit] Criminality

Due to the rampant poverty in the East End, crime has always been a potential career option. From earliest times, crime depended, as did labour, on the importing of goods to London, and their interception in transit. Theft occurred in the river, on the quayside and in transit to the City warehouses. This was why, in the 17th century, the East India Company built high walled and guarded docks, at Blackwall to minimise the vulnerability of their cargoes. Armed convoys would then take the goods to the company's high walled compound in the City. The practise lead to the creation of ever larger docks throughout the area, and for large roads to be driven through the crowded 19th century slums to carry goods from the docks<ref name=palmer/>.

In 1888, the area became notorious as the site of the crimes of Jack the Ripper<ref name=fishman/>. In 1911 was the site of the Sidney Street Siege. In the 1960s it was the area most associated with gangster activity, most notably that of the Krays<ref><cite>"Inside the Firm: The Untold Story of the Krays' Reign of Terror" - Tony Lambrianou (2002)</ref>.

[edit] Today

Image:Canary Wharf complex.jpg
Redevelopment of Isle of Dogs

Some parts of the East End have been subject to a number of urban regeneration projects, most notably Canary Wharf, a huge commercial and housing development on the Isle of Dogs. Many of the 1960s tower blocks have been demolished or have been renovated. The area around Old Spitalfields market and Brick Lane has been extensively regenerated and is famous, amongst other things, as London's curry capital, as well as being the home of a number of London's art galleries, including the famous Whitechapel Gallery.

Much of the area remains, however, one of the poorest in Britain and contains some of the capital's worst deprivation. This is in spite of rising property prices, and the extensive building of luxury apartments, centred largely around the dock areas and alongside the Thames. With rising costs elsewhere in the capital, the East End has become a desirable place for business.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

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[edit] External links

Informal divisions of London

North West | North | North East

West | West End | Central | East End | East

South West | South | South East

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East End of London

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