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Learn more about East London’s infamous and famous people. From Jack The Ripper to Alf Garnett.

History of The Stratford Martyrs

If you visit the churchyard of the Church of St John the Evangelist in Stratford, you can see a memorial to the Stratford Martyrs. According to some, this marks the approximate location where 13 people were burned at the stake by Queen Mary I because of their religious beliefs.

The Stratford Martyrs – The Marian Persecutions

By the time Mary inherited the throne from her brother, Edward VI, England was long used to religious turmoil and conflict between Protestants and Catholics.

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Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man.

Although not born in the East End, Joseph Merrick spent much of his life in the area and died in the Royal London Hospital on Whitechapel Road. Known for much of his life, and in popular culture ever since, as the “Elephant Man”, Merrick suffered from an unknown condition that left him severely deformed.

Famous East End Characters the “Elephant Man”

Exhibited as a freak for much of his adult life, his time in the East End may well have been the happiest and safest of his adult life.

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Ikey Solomon, Famous East London Characters

The East End of London has had its fair share of characters over the years. Some are famous in good ways; others are more infamous. Ikey Solomon, a well-known figure in the Houndsditch area in Victorian times, certainly qualifies on the infamous scale.

Infamous Ikey Solomon

Some people even think that Dickens modelled the character of Fagin in Oliver Twist on this well-known criminal.

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Clement Attlee Prime Minister from 1945 to 1951

Clement Attlee was Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1945 to 1951. Although born in Putney, Attlee had a lot of connections with the East End, particularly in Limehouse and Stepney. He lived in the area from the early part of the century until 1922.

Clement Attlee’s Life in the East End of London

He began his political career in these areas,

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Isambard Kingdom Brunel and East London

The famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel has a couple of close connections with the East End of London. He worked on the world’s first underwater tunnel, the Thames Tunnel, with his father Marc Isambard Brunel.


This tunnel crossed under the Thames from Wapping to Rotherhithe. In his later career, he also built and launched one of the world’s greatest ships,

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Bryant and May Strike Bow East London

During the 19th century the match manufacturer, Bryant and May, was one of the main employers in Bow in the East End of London. Although playing with matches is, as we all know, dangerous; at that time just making matches could be deadly. Most of the people working in the factory were women, known as match girls.

The Bryant and May Match Girls Strike

During its most busy period,

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The London Burkers, Bodysnatching

Shoreditch may be most well known for its mention in the Oranges and Lemons nursery rhyme, but the area has also had some grisly moments over the years, like most of the East End of London. In the 1830s, it gained some infamy as the home of the London Burkers, a group of body snatchers who tried to make a less than honest living by creating corpses to sell.

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Daniel Mendoza and Bethnal Green

One of the most famous residents of Bethnal Green was the boxer, Daniel Mendoza, who was also known as “Mendoza the Jew”. Mendoza was born in Aldgate but settled in Bethnal Green, where he lived for over thirty years, boxed at the height of his fame and where he raised his family.


He also helped put the area on the map as a centre of boxing excellence.

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William Booth Founder of The Salvation Army

William Booth is best known as the founder of the Salvation Army. Although he wasn’t born in London, he did many good works in the East End, helping improve the living conditions of many people living in Whitechapel.

William Booth, the Salvation Army and Whitechapel

He also founded the Salvation Army on Whitechapel Road.

Booth was born in Nottingham in 1829.

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Sylvia Pankhurst and The Suffragette Movement

Although she was born in Manchester, Sylvia Pankhurst had strong connections to the East End of London, particularly in Bow. A leading member of the women’s suffrage movement in the early 1900s, she, her mother Emmeline and her sister Christabel, fought tirelessly for women’s rights and equality.


Sylvia’s work in Bow and the East End in general, however, did more than simply help women;

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Recent Comments

  • Wendy Linge on The History of Beckton Gas WorksThe History of the Gas Light & Coke Company, 1812 to 1949 By Stirling Everard gives an excellent insight into the Gas Works. My father was an apprentice fitter and
  • Paul Short on History of Canning Town East LondonGood morning Charlie, Just a stab in the dark, but was your mum edie who lived at number 36 next to us in 38. I was only young but I
  • Richard Doxford on London’s East End and The BlitzThere was a pub called The Last One Standing near limehouse and I saw a picture in I believe the Grapes late eighties and want to return there but can't
  • Paul Cannon on The History of Beckton Gas WorksHas anyone got any photos of Beckton gasworks and the marshes nearby? I would love to see them as I have a fascination with Beckton.
  • Irene on History of Canning Town East LondonMy name was Irene Bull , lived in Mary Street and then Silveryown Way, loved going to Rathbone market for the sarspirella and Murkoffs icecream. Love looking back to those
  • Charles W M Parker. on London Police Officers – Old Photos.Hello Chris, I come from a long line of London Met. Policemen my paternal great grandfather William Micheal Parker born in York in 1829. He served in “V” division from
  • Charlie Sage on History of Canning Town East LondonHi Alfie I will ring Ivy and get your number and give you a ring.
  • alfred brown on History of Canning Town East LondonBy the way Pat we lived the brown family next door to you at 441 Beckton Rd
  • alfred brown on History of Canning Town East LondonHello pat leach. I remember your family very well Pat Sylvia mick and mum dad, Do you remember who lived above you in Beckton road. Mr rattenberry. my sister dolly
  • Sue on London East End Street NamesMy grandmother lives at 52 park street in the page 1900's and went to gill street school
  • alfred brown on History of Canning Town East Londonreading about charley sage brought back lots of memmories his sister Doreen who sadly passed away as well as her mother edie and there was . Pauline.we were all related
  • Debbie westwood on The East End in the 1950sRemember them both well ... also in Hainault surgery
  • Debbie on The East End in the 1950sHe was also my doctor.and Dr ,depla. Also down in Hainaut where we moved from Burdett rd and they were there too.
  • Charlie Sage on History of Canning Town East LondonHi Pat I’m Charlie Doreen’s brother , sadly Doreen died some years ago. I remember you well and your sister Sylvia , we lived at 451 beckton road and my
  • Alison on Christ Church at Spitalfields HistoryDid you ever see the BBC TV programme about the clearing of the crypt? It would have been made at the time of the work being done. Fascinating!

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