East London History. Discover East End Facts

A blog exploring the facts about the East End of London. Discover the places, the people, the stories. Professionally researched articles telling the real history of East London. We have many perceptions of the East End in Britain.

Coventry Road Ilford Essex
Coventry Road Ilford Essex

This has, historically, been one of the poorest areas of London but it is also the hub of much of the city’s profits and industry. Over the coming months we will be exploring online all there is to see heading East from the City of London. Please add East London History to your internet favourites.

The History of London’s East End

Despite a difficult past, East Enders are rightfully proud of their heritage and history, much of which still survives despite major changes over the years.

Traditionally the home of the true Londoner, the Cockney, this is an area of close communities that now reflects the melting-pot of nationalities and cultures that makes up our capital city.

The East End sits outside of the traditional Roman boundaries of the City of London.  Initially composed of small villages and hamlets around a Roman road leading from London to Colchester in Essex, this was an area of green and open space compared to the crowded streets of the city.

It was rich in royal hunting grounds, palaces and small port settlements at one point but, as London started to grow and become more industrialised, the East End became a hub of small manufacturers, the home of various trades and the docklands centre of the region.

East London Industry
East London Industry

Its early industries were, to be honest, a mix of the unpleasant, the smelly and the downright dangerous. In basic terms the area was used for products that were noxious and/or needed a lot of space to manufacture.

Its position outside of the city meant that fumes wouldn’t affect the richer people who lived in the centre and any issues with dangerous trades wouldn’t affect the city. So, early industry included tanning, rope making, lead making, slaughter houses, fish farms, breweries, bone processing, tallow works and gunpowder production.

These were all pivotal trades to the success of London but removing them to the outskirts meant that the great and the good didn’t have to smell the urine used in tanning or risk being blown up by a dodgy batch of gunpowder!

The East End has always attracted refugees and immigrants;

Brick Lane East End of London

Many of whom set foot in Britain for the first time in the local docks. In the 17th century it became the home of many Huguenot refugees who fled from persecution in France. Weavers by trade, they worked in Spitalfields, the home of London’s master weavers.

Over time, as their skills died out and were replaced by industrial processes, the elegant homes of the Huguenots became slum housing for the ever-growing local East End population.

Victorian industrialisation didn’t do much to improve the area which developed a reputation for extreme poverty, gang rule, violence and crime. There were pockets of richer housing but most residents were struggling to get by.

The growth in manufacture and trade during this period increased the number of job opportunities in the area but the large influx of workers was not matched by an increase in housing.

Conditions were cramped, unhygienic and often dangerous. Its reputation was not much helped by the murdering spree of Jack the Ripper, who terrorised the East End and who became probably the most notorious serial killer the country has ever known.  Not that we knew who he was — his identity has never been proved despite centuries of speculation. By the end of the 19th century, the area took on an influx of Eastern European Jews and radicals.

People who could move out of the area did so, leaving only the poorest behind. Visitors of note included Stalin, Trotsky and Lenin and the East End became the hub of many philanthropists looking to improve living and working conditions.

Bow, in the heart of the area, became the headquarters of the Suffragette movement and the Labour party can trace many of its early roots back to this part of London.  The area was also home to the first Barnardo Ragged Schools and Homes for Boys.

Post War East London;

DLR and Canary Wharf, East London

It took until the end of the Second World War to completely eradicate the slum housing and improve living conditions.  Much of the area was destroyed by German bombing raids.

The East End’s concentration of key manufacturing industries and its docks made this one of London’s biggest targets in the war. Post-war conditions may have been better but the area gained new notoriety in crime terms during the rule of the Kray twins.

These gangsters ruled the East End in the 1960s with a mixture of brutality and glamour that saw them feted as celebrities in the media and feared by many locals. Many of the traditional industries of the East End died out over time but the area re-invented itself once again as a hub of London life in the 1980s.

Although the area still retains its roots, it is now also the financial centre of London.

Canary Wharf is home to Britain’s banking and finance industry and now contains some of the largest and most impressive buildings in the capital.

Buy East London Books, Photos, Prints

East London Facts – History of The East End

Malcolm Oakley - East London History
Malcolm Oakley – East London History

I grew up on the fringes of London’s true East End and have been fascinated by the ever-changing history and landscape of the area.

Visitors and tourists to London may only ever explore the City centre but for those that care to travel further east, a rich and rewarding travel adventure awaits.

So much of London’s history owes a debt to the East End. Colourful characters, famous architecture, hidden treasures of changing life over the years. Author by Malcolm Oakley


Recent Comments

  • David Timcke 18th March 2019 at 11:21 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonHi Billy. I have just seen the posting you made in 2017 - better late than never!! My late Gran, Liz Porter (nee Adams) was the sister of Walter Adams,
  • Stanley Marshall 18th March 2019 at 9:19 pm on Britannia Theatre Shoreditch | WW2 PhotosWow! Small world. I commented earlier about my GGG mother.Court dress maker. I have recently found her birth certificate,, and other info. Her name was Sarah Debouss, or Debuse, hard
  • Nora 18th March 2019 at 3:50 pm on Hughes Mansions Stepney | WW2 PhotosMy mother lived there and during war lost one of her sisters after last bomb dropped. My mother was a war bride and came to America and would go back
  • Toni hills 17th March 2019 at 12:20 pm on London East End Street NamesHi all I lived at number 27 Murray square my name then was mason I had two sisters Tina and Debbie my mum and dads name was Jim and pat
  • Toni hills 16th March 2019 at 4:24 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonI lived in murrary square number 27 until 1969
  • Toni hills 16th March 2019 at 4:05 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonI lived in murray square aswell we moved to kent in 1969
  • Toni hills 16th March 2019 at 3:59 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonHi hun i went to star lane secondary i also lived in custom house when ronan point fell we watched it fall
  • Anthony Spencer 16th March 2019 at 1:35 pm on London East End Street NamesI am trying to find details of "Rosher Row Stratford" I have found "Rosher Close" but cannot find any references to Rosher Row. I am 99.9% certain it was Rosher
  • James Toone 16th March 2019 at 7:35 am on London East End Street NamesI've only just found this website; hence my late response. Yes, 'The Balloon' was the name of an inn: a member of my family, Hugh Hopley, apparently was, in the
  • Lisa Davies 14th March 2019 at 2:31 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonYes cribbs was across the road, I lived opposite The White House for 25 years on Shirley Street til 2005, I never see coffins in the windows... Still give me
  • Tom Garnell 14th March 2019 at 11:23 am on History of Canning Town East LondonThe White House was really The Hallsville Tavern. It was a triangular pub facing up Raffy. I hated passing Cribbs with all the coffins, empty I suppose, standing in the
  • Tom Garnell 14th March 2019 at 11:21 am on History of Canning Town East LondonI was born in Plaistow, Beatrice Street backing on to Chargeable Lane, moved at the outbreak of war to Dale Road, bombed out in March 1941. My father worked for
  • Valerie Connelly 14th March 2019 at 7:15 am on The Silvertown Explosion of 1917 – WW1 HistoryMy grandmother Nell Greenwood had a ship's laundry in Constance Street, Silvertown where she serviced the ships in the docks. My mother was a small baby at the time of
  • Mackenzie Smith 13th March 2019 at 9:45 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonI remember ian the son who went to a private school when he came home on a school holidays he would call round my house to play I'm not Jewish
  • Mackenzie Smith 13th March 2019 at 9:18 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonYes the white house opposite was cribbs the undertaker
  • Ann Terry 13th March 2019 at 6:00 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonHi Elaine Apparently my father (now deceased) named Lewis (Louis) Terry was fostered to an Aunt in Clarence Road, Canning Town in the 1920s, her name was Fanny Wells and
  • stanley Marshall 12th March 2019 at 9:37 pm on Britannia Theatre Shoreditch | WW2 PhotosHello all, I find these memories amazing. I was born in Bethnal Green 81 years ago. I found out recently that my GGG G D, had a daughter who was
  • Jane 12th March 2019 at 5:46 pm on Britannia Theatre Shoreditch | WW2 PhotosLoving these East London posts, Malcolm! Would be interested in 19th century silk weaving stories. An ancestor who lived on London Street, Bethnal Green (where the rail line goes through
  • Pauline Williams 12th March 2019 at 4:18 pm on White Horse Hotel East Ham | WW2 PhotosMy fathers first wife and son aged 4 were killed in an air raid in Gyledune Gardens in 1944 they were the only casualties in that area that night. The
  • Stan Marshall 12th March 2019 at 3:20 pm on Hughes Mansions Stepney | WW2 PhotosVallence Rd., had some very interesting tenants, especially at 178. Iremmber the address as I also lived at 178 But not Vallence RD. I did go to school with the
  • Tim 12th March 2019 at 3:06 pm on White Horse Hotel East Ham | WW2 PhotosPub was rebuilt (am not sure when), but has now been demolished and new flats being built as we speak.
  • Mackenzie Smith 12th March 2019 at 2:25 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonYes the pub opposite caters supermarket ,before the supermarket I lived in the round top Nisson huts ,I was Born in Howard's road plaistow 1948 I lived in Lawrence street
  • Bry Carling 12th March 2019 at 12:16 pm on History of The East London CockneyMy dad’s people were from Mile End... they came there from Yorkshire in 1820. The family had 22 children quite a number of which survived. 14 to be exact. I
  • Frank Oakley 12th March 2019 at 11:44 am on Hackney a Brief HistoryI also worked in Hackney on and off till 1995,and still ave family living there,if only I could drive in there and park.
  • Malcolm Oakley 12th March 2019 at 10:46 am on Hackney a Brief HistoryWe share a great surname ;)
  • Gerry O'Neill 10th March 2019 at 11:06 pm on The Silvertown Explosion of 1917 – WW1 HistoryMy great, great uncle worked at the plant. He was, as they said at the time, a "bit simple" and he was only employed to sweep floors. On the day
  • Frank Oakley 10th March 2019 at 10:08 pm on Hackney a Brief HistoryI lived in Homerton from 1940 and moved out 1964 to Plaistow when I married.Hackney was a great place too live then.
  • Malcolm Oakley 10th March 2019 at 4:12 pm on Hackney a Brief HistoryThank you for this great story! We really enjoy hearing from people across the globe with East London connections. I only got as far as Ilford to Devon!
  • Joe Clarke 10th March 2019 at 2:20 pm on History of Canning Town East Londonsay 7.30pm? I will be wearing a coat with Saracens on it so you know who I am. Joe
  • Charles sage 10th March 2019 at 2:11 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonHi joe , The Bell pub , what time, Charlie.
  • canadiangal2015 9th March 2019 at 8:01 pm on Hackney a Brief HistoryI was born in the Women's Hospital in Hackney, my parents lived in Leyton until we three immigrated to Vancouver, Canada in 1953 travelling by boat across the Atlantic and
  • Joe Clarke 9th March 2019 at 6:42 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonCharlie - yes that is perfect. Looking forward to it. Joe
  • June Nash 9th March 2019 at 11:24 am on History of Canning Town East LondonHi there I was born and raised in Desford Road, Canning Town, until my family moved to Australia in 1971. Reading the comments here has made so many memories come
  • Charles Sage 9th March 2019 at 10:12 am on History of Canning Town East LondonHi Joe , I can make it on the 26 March how’s that with you , Charlie
  • Vicki Coppell 8th March 2019 at 9:39 pm on History of Canning Town East LondonNo, Lisa, don't remember any Jacksons ( not to say there weren't any) but I do remember a Davies family. They had a german shepherd called Kim that terrified the

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