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.

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. Follow East London on Google+ Page

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 Follow Me on Google+

 

Recent Comments

  • diana on Brick Lane History, East Londonhello! my great grandad owned a chocolate store called Friedman’s on Brick Lane in London. does anyone know anything? photos? anything at all would be so helpful. thank you so much!
  • Paul Savin on Second World War Bombing Raid South Hallsville SchoolMy mother in law died on the 2nd Jan - She survived the bombing; was pulled out after three days and thought it was angels taking her to heaven. Both her parents died, her farther's death certificate recorded the date of death as September, presumably part of a cover-up. Her
  • John on Brick Lane History, East LondonHi Lola. Maybe you move in different circles but I can assure you many people now know Brick Lane as Bangla Town. I have lived in the East End all my life (60 years) I still refer to it as Brick Lane or Osborn Street, depending on which part I
  • John on Brick Lane History, East LondonHello Malcom. Happy New Year. I had moved to Bow by 1971. Lefevre walk was brand new then. I remember fighting with my brother when we first moved there, for who would have the first bath, as we never had a bathroom in Flower and Dean street, only a tin
  • John on Brick Lane History, East LondonHi Barbara, Thanks for you nice reply. Happy New year. Growing up in East London for me was a very positive experience. Dare I say character building. I knew all the local vagrants by name and they knew mine although mum would scold me for talking to them. I remember
  • Kevin Bell on History of Poplar East LondonMy Grandad and family drank in the 'Abbey' the Aberfeldy Tavern for many years - some might say he had shares in it lol.... I remember being taken to the pub and occasionally the chip shop you mention as a child.... although more often we would go to 'Wally reardons
  • MARIE HOLMES on History of Canning Town East LondonMy fatherinlaws harry holmes lived with his parents and three brother s three sisters doris rose maud during the bombing they lived agate street
  • Albert Smith on History of Canning Town East LondonPerhaps I should add that I was born in Chard Street which was located in what we used to call Old Canning Town, an area that was destroyed by incendiary bombing early in the war and,as far as I am aware, has remained an industrial site till this day. But
  • Albert Smith on History of Canning Town East LondonI was born in 1932 Charles, and I went to the Queens many times as a schoolboy. I used to help a local greengrocer with his Saturday morning horse and cart round and my payment was a trip to the Queens in the evening. And I loved it.
  • Brian Miles on History of The East London CockneyThe actual address is 1, Bow Lane which is on Cheapside St Mary-le-Bow Historic Church St Mary-le-Bow St Mary-le-Bow is a historic church rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666 by Sir Christopher Wren in the City of London on the main east–west thoroughfare, Cheapside. According to tradition a true
  • Maxine on Brick Lane History, East LondonTrying to find out some information about a fishmongers on 8-10 Brick Lane in the 1880's owned by a Jewish man named George Rush.
  • Cathie on History of Poplar East LondonI just recently became interested of Poplar because of the television show Call the Midwife and an upcoming visit to London. What a small world to hear about Poplar Street in Chicago. I live in Chicago and was excited to hear about the connection to the street and the town
  • Martha Holmes on History of The Prospect of Whitby in WappingHello I believe my great x 4 grandfather arrived on The Prospect sometime between 1761 and 1776 from his birthplace of Bridlington. I have records to show that he was married in London in 1776 and lived for the rest of his life in Clerkenwell. He was born in 1750
  • DAVID NIGHTINGALE on History of Tower Hamlets Cemetery ParkVery interesting, a good friend of mine is researching the history of this cemetery I would welcome any emails regarding the research that you have done so far. Thank You, Dr David Nightingale
  • Michelle Holgarth on History of Poplar East LondonMy great grandad ran a fish and chip shop at 90 Aberfeldy Street, his name was George Tucker.

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