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

  • Dave Dunsdon on Second World War Bombing Raid South Hallsville SchoolJames dunsdon was my grandad survived by my nan mary and her boys jim len and my dad ron they lost my grandad james when my dad was six bombed in the school
  • Tony Dailde on East End Gangsters, The KraysPlease don’t glorify murderous violent criminals . How can you love or be a fan of people who murder?
  • Tony Dailde on East End Gangsters, The KraysPlease don’t glorify murderous violent criminals
  • Derek Bailey on Visit Wapping in Historic East LondonMy brothers and I lived in Jackman House which is off of Wapping High Street at Watts Street in the the late 1950's. Jackman was part of what was known as the Wapping housing estate began by the LCC in 1926. Anyone out there who lived on that estate back
  • Sandie on History of Canning Town East LondonMy Mum & Dad lived in Malmsbury Rd with my brother Jimmy I was born Hospt 1947 Surname Crabb
  • sue willis on History of The Isle of Dogs LondonHi as the children of an Islander my brother & I are regular readers of Isle of Dogs Lives & we were especially pleased to see an article on Alpha Grove. Does anyone remember the Bircham family firstly of Mellish Street & then no 67 Alpha Grove? They were George
  • John Dallman on Brick Lane History, East LondonI grew up in Flower & Dean street off of Brick Lane 1559 - 1970. I lived in a late Victorian tenement block called Ruth house (Demolished) I remember Brick Lane when most of the shops were Jewish and what is now a mosque was a synagogue. I remember going
  • Vicki M Kay on The Sinking of The Princess AliceMy 3rd great grandfather Filmer Kidston was abourd with his second wife Elizabeth, their two sons and two girls and a boy from his wife’s previous marriage. Filmer spent about 45 minutes in the water with one of his sons before they were rescued. His wife was found drowned almost
  • Dave Bamber on V1 and V2 Rocket Attacks in East LondonJuly 3rd 1944 30 Twickenham Road, Isleworth. Does anyone have any information about the bomb that destroyed my Aunt`s house. Her name was Evelyn May Bamber and she was killed. Many thanks, Dave Bamber.
  • Bill Nicholson on Poplar Upper North Street School DisasterHello Stanley I'm disappointed to have missed the centenary of this dreadful act - I visited the area during 2012 and hoped to be able to visit again. Anyway I decided to look it up following the centenary of the end of WW1 this weekend. My mum (Olive Clayson) was
  • Janice Brown Josch on Coventry Road Ilford EssexI come from Canning Town, but about 30 years ago my now husband, Ulf, came from Germany to work at Mattessons in West Ham. He rented a room in a house in Coventry Road.
  • Janice Brown Josch on History of Canning Town East LondonHello everyone .. did anyone know my now late father, Charles Brown? Lived in RavensCroft Road, his mother (remarried) Eileen Thorp
  • Shirley Runnalls (Wallis) on History of the Royal London HospitalJust read the history, brought back memories as I was SET 326 at Tredegar' Sad to hear the uniform is no longer used. We have a film in Cornwall re Edith Cavell Tomorrow so I have old LH newspapers re her plus photo of Edith Cavell Home also LH badge
  • Kellie Fennell on History of Canning Town East LondonHi Robert I come from canning town and there are a few really good Facebook sites...canning town memories...start with this one and they will advise you on another one where they help you trace people from the area...I'm sure someone will be able to help you on there. ..good luck
  • Lola on Brick Lane History, East LondonThis article is so off base. I've lived around brick lane for years and never heard anyone call it Banglatown. And the curry restaurants are appalling. They rip you off. They ran on a few years of reputation but started scamming on quality or watering down wine thinking people wouldn't

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