Learn more about Whitechapel
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|OS grid reference:||TQ335815|
|London borough:||Tower Hamlets|
|County level:||Greater London|
|Sovereign state:||United Kingdom|
|Ceremonial county:||Greater London|
|Police force:||Metropolitan Police|
|Fire brigade:||London Fire Brigade|
|Ambulance service:||London Ambulance|
|Post office and telephone|
|London Assembly:||City and East|
|London | List of places in London|
Whitechapel is a place in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, England. It is a built-up inner city district located 3.4 miles (5.5 km) east of Charing Cross and roughly bounded by the Bishopsgate thoroughfare on the west, Hanbury Street on the north, Brady Street and Cavell Street on the east and Commercial Road on the south.
By the late 16th century Whitechapel and the surrounding area had started becoming 'the other half' of London. Located downwind of the genteel sections of west London which were to see the expansion of Westminster Abbey and construction of Buckingham Palace, it naturally attracted the more fragrant activities of the city, particularly tanneries, breweries, foundries (including the Whitechapel Bell Foundry which later cast Philadelphia's Liberty Bell and London's Big Ben), slaughterhouses and, close by to the south, the gigantic Billingsgate fish market, famous in its day for the ornately foul language of the extremely Cockney fishwomen who worked there.
In 1680 the Rector of Whitechapel, the Rev. Ralph Davenant, of the parish of St. Mary Matfellon bequeathed a legacy for the education of forty boys and thirty girls of the parish - the Davenant Centre is still in existence although the Davenant Foundation School moved from Whitechapel to Loughton in 1966.
Population shifts from rural areas to London from the 17th century to the mid 19th century resulted in great numbers of more or less destitute people taking up residence amidst the industries and mercantile interests that had attracted them. By the 1840s Whitechapel, along with the enclaves of Wapping, Aldgate, Bethnal Green, Mile End, Limehouse and Stepney (collectively known today as "the East End"), had evolved, or devolved, into classic "dickensian" London, rivalled in the western world for grinding poverty only by the Manhattan slum of Five Points and, later, Manhattan's Lower East Side. Whitechapel Rd. itself was not particularly squalid through most of this period—it was the warren of small dark streets branching from it that contained the greatest suffering, filth and danger, especially Dorset St. (now a private alley), Thrawl St., Berners St. (renamed Henriques St.), Wentworth St. and others.
In the Victorian era the basal population of poor English country stock was swelled by immigrants from all over, particularly Irish and Jewish. 1888 saw the depredations of the Whitechapel Murderer, later known as Jack the Ripper. In 1902, American author Jack London, looking to write a counterpart to Jacob Riis's seminal book How the Other Half Lives, donned ragged clothes and boarded in Whitechapel, detailing his experiences in The People of the Abyss. Riis had recently documented the astoundingly bad conditions in the leading city of the United States. Jack London, a socialist, thought it worthwhile to explore conditions in the leading city of the nation that had created modern capitalism. He concluded that English poverty was far rougher than the American variety. The juxtaposition of the poverty, homelessness, exploitive work conditions, prostitution, and infant mortality of Whitechapel and other East End locales with some of the greatest personal wealth the world has ever seen made it a focal point for leftist reformers and revolutionaries of all kinds, from George Bernard Shaw, whose Fabian Society met regularly in Whitechapel, to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, who boarded and led rallies in Whitechapel during his exile from Russia. The area is still home to Freedom Press, the anarchist publishing house founded by Charlotte Wilson.
The "Elephant Man", Joseph Carey Merrick (1862-1890) became well-known in Whitechapel - he was exhibited in a shop on the Whitechapel Road before being helped by Dr Frederick Treves (1853-1923) at the Royal London Hospital, opposite the actual shop. There is a museum in the hospital about his life.
Whitechapel remained poor (and colourful) through the first half of the 20th century, though somewhat less desperately so. It suffered great damage in the V2 German rocket attacks and the Blitz of World War II. Since then, Whitechapel has lost most of its notoriety, though it is still thoroughly working class. The Bangladeshis are the most visible migrant group there today and it is home to many aspiring artists and shoestring entrepreneurs.
Since at least the 1970s, Whitechapel and other nearby parts of East London have figured prominently in London's art scene. Probably the area's most prominent art venue is the Whitechapel Art Gallery, founded in 1901 and long an outpost of high culture in a poor neighbourhood. As the neighbourhood has gentrified, it has gained citywide, and even international, visibility and support. As of 2005, the gallery is undergoing a major expansion, with the support of £3.26 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The expanded facility is due to open in 2007/8.
Whitechapel in the early 21st century has figured prominently in London's punk rock/skuzz rock scene, with the main focal point for this scene being Whitechapel Factory and Rhythm Factory bar/restaurant/nightclub. This scene includes the likes of The Libertines, Zap!, The Others, Razorlight and The Rakes, all of whom have had some commercial success in the music charts.
- Whitechapel Road is one of the cheaper locations on the London version of the Monopoly boardgame.
- The roof of the Royal London Hospital is the base for the London Air Ambulance.
 Nearest places
 Nearest Underground stations
- Aldgate East tube station
- Aldgate tube station
- Bank tube station also a DLR terminus
- Bethnal Green tube station
- Liverpool Street station
- Shadwell station
- Stepney Green tube station
- Tower Gateway DLR station
- Tower Hill tube station
- Whitechapel tube station
 Nearest railway stations
 External links
- Official web site for the ward of Whitechapel
- Primary source articles
- Tower Hamlets History Online
- Jack London - The People of the Abyss - account of his 1902 stay amongst the East End poor (Text)
- Nighttime photos of Whitechapel and environs. Commentary is in German, but it is mostly photos.
- The Whitechapel Gallery
- Whitechapel High Street & High Road - a timeline over 200 years