The East End of London has featured as a location or setting for many films and TV shows over the years. Sometimes, these are filmed in odd locations recreated to look like the East End or on studio lots.
Other times, you can actually spot glimpses of the actual area in all its glory, or even spot some local famous people.
East London Film and TV Facts
Let’s take a look at some of the connections the East End of London has with the film and TV world.
A walk-on part for the Kray twins
Notorious East End gangster brothers, the Krays, have a “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it” walk on part in the 1960s film, Sparrows Can’t Sing. Starring Barbara Windsor, this film was set in the East End and used a lot of local locations in Limehouse and Stepney.
Stanley Kubrick blows up Beckton
Beckton Gas Works had closed down by the time Kubrick started filming Full Metal Jacket. It’s just as well really, as he then turned it into war-torn Vietnam and proceeded to blow most of it up with dynamite. The site at Beckton has also, bizarrely, seen an appearance from John Wayne in the film Brannigan. It was also used in the James Bond film, For Your Eyes Only, as part of the opening scene.
Alf Garnett’s front door
One of the most famous TV East Enders in the 1960s and 1970s was Alf Garnett, who became the man we loved to hate. Alf didn’t really leave the house, which was just as well, as most of the show was filmed in a studio. But, if you ever catch an early episode, watch the opening credits. They show a house in Garnet Street in Wapping, making Alf really a local boy.
Only Fools and Horses visits the Prospect of Whitby
One of the most famous old East End pubs, the Prospect of Whitby, features ever so briefly in an episode of Only Fools and Horses. Rodney is filmed leaving the pub on a search for Uncle Albert.
Turning The Royal Oak into Samoan Jo’s
Bits of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels were filmed in various East End locations. You may not want to dig out the grimy alley in Shoreditch where Eddie and Bacon did a runner, but a drink in Samoan Jo’s might be a better bet. This pub is actually the Royal Oak in Hackney.
Patrick McGoohan zips through the Rotherhithe Tunnel
If you’re a fan of the prisoner, you can spot a little bit of the East End in the opening credits. The tunnel that Patrick McGoohan speeds through is in Rotherhithe.
Nineteen Eighty Four comes to the East End
The George Orwell film, Nineteen Eighty Four, also used Beckton Gas Works as a location. It was also partly filmed in Cheshire Street in Brick Lane. Look out for the exterior of the pawn shop and the pub scene.
Walking the beat on Sun Hill
You may have to catch The Bill on repeat since it was cancelled, but you can still see where its popular bobbies walked the beat.
You just might have to go to South London to do so. Based in a fictional police station, Sun Hill, The Bill was allegedly set in the East End in Wapping, Whitechapel or Stepney, depending on whose opinion you agree with.
However, it was mostly filmed in South London, although the series did use some areas of the Docklands for some outdoor scenes.
Apprentices learn how to trade in Spitalfields Market
During the 2013 season, Alan Sugar’s apprentices had to take on a task selling on a market stall. They were sent to the relatively up-market Spitalfields market to run their stalls.
Whitechapel has bagels in Brick Lane.
The popular TV crime series, Whitechapel, is unsurprisingly set in Whitechapel, but some of the filming takes place in South London. You can, however, visit the bagel bakery in Brick Lane and Pellici’s Café in Bethnal Green that appeared in the show. Scenes with the main characters, Rupert Penry Jones, Steve Pemberton and Phil Davis were filmed here.
The Krays East End
The Martin and Gary Kemp film, The Krays, was set in the East End and did use some local locations, however not always the ones you’d think they use. For example, rather than using the real Blind Beggar pub in Whitechapel when recreating the scene where Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell, the producers opted to use a pub in nearby Hoxton instead. The Royal Oak in Hackney also has a role in the film.
East End or Hertfordshire?
If you avidly watch the goings on in Walford on Eastenders, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is an authentic part of the East End. It’s actually an Elstree studio lot in Borehamwood in Hertfordshire. Walford may have its own postcode, tube station and London Underground sign, but you’re really getting a slice of East End life Hertfordshire style. Exterior scenes are often filmed in areas around the studios, with St Albans and Watford proving popular locations.