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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,

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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,

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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

  • Mike Olive on V1 and V2 Rocket Attacks in East LondonI grew up in Hanworth, Mddx. I saw several V1's and on one occasion, when I was standing outside, talking to my neighbours, a V1 came towards us, the engine
  • Jane on History of Canning Town East LondonHave you read the book “The Sugar Girls about Tate sugar factory? Wonderful book and lots of mentions of Cannong Town, Plaistow. All where my family are from
  • Roger London on History of Canning Town East LondonMy Dad Eddie London worked in Johnson Bros butchers in the Old Rathbone market, and I used work there every Saturday. outside was a stall that sold all types of
  • Jac on V1 and V2 Rocket Attacks in East LondonI know of The Peacock, my grandma worked there. My grandma lived in Burrard Road, it's where my Mum was mainly brought up. They lived in Burrard Road before the
  • Peter R Budd on V1 and V2 Rocket Attacks in East LondonThis now feels like a confessional. The only other plain memory of those times was occasionally being with the big boys after raids. They would quickly enter the bombed out
  • Peter R Budd on V1 and V2 Rocket Attacks in East LondonBurrard Rd Custom House London E16. I was born May 1941 I have a strong memory of standing next to my mother at the back yard door. Lots of ladies
  • Alison on Limehouse a Brief History of LondonIn my genealogical research I have discovered several generations of the Burford family who ran a distillery at Limehouse Hole in the 17th and 18th centuries. The earliest, John, is
  • Melanie Chappel on The London Burkers, BodysnatchingHi Malcolm, My 5x Great Grandfather was born and raised in Shoreditch (1809). He would have been considered part of the 'Swell Mob' and was nicked for stealing fabric from
  • Jeff on The East End in the 1950sYes, I think it is more 1930s. I was born 1945 and raised in Aldgate. Went to Fairclough St Primary (changed name to Harry Gosling), then Coopers' in Bow. Much
  • Brian Coaker on The East End in the 1950sWell I have watched a couple of episodes of Midwife,and it is in my opinion mostly fiction,born in Whitehorse Road Stepney we lived in a ancient house but had gas

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