E3: Not those bells…

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E3 is Bow but it is not the location of the “Great Bell of Bow” in the Nursery Rhyme “Oranges and Lemons”. Nor does being born in Bow E3 mean you are a true Cockney. You have to live within the sound of the bells of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside in the City to qualify and that is where the Great Bell of Bow is. But some people from Bow like to call themselves true Cockneys, as indeed did my father who grew up in Bow.

We start our walk at the Post Office at 603 Roman Road. This is actually just a little way along from where you finished the E2 walk. Turn left out of the Post Office and walk along Roman Road which here is a part time market. Our first stop is at the junction with Parnell Road.

Stop 1: Iceni Court

Just by this junction across the road on the left is a non descript block of flats called Iceni Court.

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No this is not the site of an old cinema but I had to stop to because of the sign here.

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Not sure how accurate this is. The Romans certainly came to Britain in AD43 and they did built a road from London to Colchester. But surely the road to Colchester leaves the City at Aldgate and goes through Whitechapel and Mile End. The alignment of the modern day street called Roman Road is further north and would mean leaving the City at Bishopsgate and then turning right.

However looking at the map you can see that if you carry straight on from Roman Road and cross the River Lea you are in Stratford in direct line with the road to Colchester. So maybe it was just an alternative route. But which one came first?

At this end of the northern route we have the district known as Old Ford perhaps indicating that this was the older crossing of the Lea but at the east end of the southern route we have Aldgate, which means Old Gate. It just seems more logical that the road went directly out of a gate. Who knows? So even if they built the road from London to Colchester and beyond as soon as they got here in AD43, it is not clear whether the early road was on the alignment of the street we now call Roman Road.

The other curious thing about this block of flats is that the name that the powers that be have chosen to use.

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Iceni was the local tribe in Roman times (at one point headed by warrior queen, Boudica). So they are celebrating the Romans by naming the building after a tribe that revolted against the Romans.

Turn right into Parnell Road and at the end turn left into Tredegar Road and then almost immediately right into Fairfield Road. Our next stop is on the left before the railway, set back behind some railings.

Stop 2: Bow Quarter (Former Bryant and May Match Factory)

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This is the former factory of the Bryant and May match company. Once when almost everyone smoked and before the days of electric light, matches were a key item in every household.

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This site was acquired by two Quaker businessmen William Bryant and Francis May in 1861 to produce what were known as “safety matches”. These are matches which only work when struck against a specifically prepared surface as opposed to any old rough surface. This makes them safer to handle.

The concept was developed in Sweden in the 1840s by Gustaf Erik Pasch. Pasch patented the use of red phosphorus in the striking surface. Then two brothers by the name of Lundström started making safety matches on a commercial scale and Bryant and May bought the British patent so they could produce safety matches here.

Match production ceased in 1979 and the building is now private apartments known as the Bow Quarter.

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In the 19th century, match making was a hazardous business for the workers because of the exposure to dangerous chemicals in particular Phosphorus. In 1888, there was a strike of workers which arose out of the dismissal of a worker and led to the whole factory stopping work. They are always described as “match girls”, so I guess they were all or almost all women employed in this work. Some of the strikers went to see a local social activist Annie Besant and to ask for her assistance.

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It was at this point she became involved as she was concerned by their precipitate action and by the number of women who were now out of work with no means of support. She did not start or lead the strike, in fact she never worked at the factory.

Annie Besant sounds quite a character. She became interested in Theosophy, which seeks to understand the mysteries of the universe and the bonds that unite the universe, humanity, and the divine. Theosophy had a particular interest in eastern mysticism and Besant travelled to India and later became involved in the movement for Indian independence.

The factory was rebuilt in 1911 and the brick entrance includes a depiction of Noah’s Ark and the word ‘Security’. This featured in their trademark which was used on the matchboxes.

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Go under the railway bridge and our next stop is soon on the left.

Stop 3: Bow Bus garage

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This bus garage has the look of a tram depot and indeed it was. Originally this was a tram depot for the North Metropolitan Tramways Company. Their first route had been a horse tram service from Whitechapel to Bow which started in 1870. The building we see today was built in 1908 by which time the trams were electric. It was used to house trolley buses from 1939 and became a bus depot in 1959. Today it houses lots of the Boris buses (which are used on Route 8).

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Continue walking along Fairfield Road and just before the end, there is a plaque on the right.

Stop 4: Site of the Fair Field

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So this is the origin of the name Fairfield. Obvious really and in fact the Fairfield Halls in Croydon is similarly named after an old fair site. Interesting that “rowdiness and vice” at public events is not such a new thing.

Actually the building on which this plaque is placed is our next stop but to get a better view go to the junction with the main road (Bow Road).

Stop 5: Former Town Hall

This was built as the Town Hall for Poplar Borough Council, which confusingly they chose to build in Bow. The building dates from 1937/38 and the architect is Clifford Culpin who went on to design the better known Greenwich Town Hall.

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There are five relief panels with depictions of the type of workers involved in creating the building: welder, carpenter, architect, labourer and stone mason. Here are three of them.

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Turn left and you will see the road divides around a statue. This is of William Ewart Gladstone, 19th century prime minister.

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Cross the road near the statue. Once across you will see a little garden and a church at the end. Go in the garden.

Stop 6: Bow Church

Ahead is St Mary’s Church.

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This started as a Chapel of Ease for Stepney in 1311, and only became a parish in its own right in 1719. Architectural guru Pevsner says the tower is 15th Century and the north aisle wall is the oldest part dating from the 14th Century. The mishmash of old bits survived because there was no money to rebuilt completely. When rebuilding was required following the collapse of the Chancel in 1896, the approach was to conserve and retain rather than replace wholesale. The building was damaged in the Second World War but repaired.

And if you look back, you get this view.

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It is hard to believe we are on a traffic island in the middle of one of London’s main roads.

Now head back out of the garden and turn left. Cross the road and turn right heading back towards the Town Hall. Our next stop is on the left and is bright orange.

Stop 7: Bow Bells pub, 116 Bow Road

This pub perpetuates the myth that Bow is somehow connected with the nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons” and with being a cockney.

Exhibit One is the pub sign.

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And Exhibit Two is this board on the pub’s frontage with the words of Oranges and Lemons.

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This is of course complete nonsense, because the bells referred to are those of St Mary-le-Bow in Cheapside in the City. But why let the facts get in the way of a good story.

By the way the Bow we are in derives its name from the bridge over the nearby River Lea.

In 1110 Queen Matilda, wife of King Henry I, was crossing the ford over the river Lea hereabouts on her way to Barking Abbey and is said to have taken a tumble. As a result she ordered a bridge to be built.

The bridge had a distinctive bow shape and so the area on the west side of the river became Stratford-atte-Bow (Stratford at the Bow) which over time was shortened to Bow. This distinguished it from the Stratford on the east side of the Lea which was known as Stratford Langthorne after the name of the Abbey there. But of course today, that is just plain old Stratford.

Head back towards the church but turn right at the crossing next to the statue of Gladstone. Follow that road round as it bends to the left. This is Bromley High Street, which may once have been a humming centre but which today is almost completely devoid of any commercial activity. At the end you will see a gateway across the road to your right.

Stop 8: St Leonard’s Churchyard

At the end of Bromley High Street where St Leonard’s Street comes in from the right, you will see an old gateway. This was the entrance to St Leonard’s churchyard.

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This gateway dates from 1894 and was built as a memorial to the Rev How, the vicar at St Leonards who had died the year before.

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Go though the gateway.

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It is a depressing site. It obviously at one time had been sorted out but today it is a complete mess. And it is hardly a tranquil spot as the northern approach to the Blackwall Tunnel is on the far side and you can see the road from a hole in the fence. The traffic noise is very evident.

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This in fact was the site of St Leonard’s Priory, a Benedictine nunnery founded in 11th Century. Geoffrey Chaucer has a little reference in the prologue to The Canterbury Tales where he introduces the Prioress.

“Ther was also a nonne, a prioresse,
That of hir smylyng was ful symple and coy;
Hire gretteste ooth was but by seinte loy;
And she was cleped madame eglentyne.
Ful weel she soong the service dyvyne,
Entuned in hir nose ful semely,
And frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly,
After the scole of stratford atte bowe,
For frenssh of parys was to hire unknowe.”

Basically the Prioress had learned French from the Benedictine nuns here. As a result she had a distinct Anglo-Norman dialect, which was regarded by sub-standard French, compared to that spoken in Paris.

Like other religious houses, the Abbey was destroyed in the 1530s. The property was mostly acquired by Sir Ralph Sadleir, who lived at Sutton House in Homerton (which is now owned by the National Trust).  But the church became the parish church of St Leonards. There is no church here today as it was destroyed by bombing in World War II and by the building of the Blackwall Tunnel approach road. All that remains is this rundown garden and the Victorian archway.

Go back out of the Churchyard and go down St Leonard’s Street which is immediately to your left.

Note the school on your right.

Stop 9: Old Palace School

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Pevsner describes the school as “Light curtain walled buildings in the Festival style, fresh and cheerful”. The building dates from 1952, the year after the Festival of Britain.

It is called Old Palace School because it is on the site on a palace was built for James I in 1606. Well actually it was more a hunting lodge than a Palace. Some of the stonework was recycled from the remains of the priory just over the road.

It remained in Royal use in the reigns of Kings Charles II and James II. But by the 18th century the Palace was converted into two houses for merchants, and then it had other uses including becoming a boarding school. The house was demolished at the end of the 19th century by the London School Board so they could build a local school.

But we are stopping here not because of the school itself but because of the little plaque on the main building facing the road. This commemorates firefighters who were killed here in April 1941. This is said to be the largest single loss of fire personnel life in English history.

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Now just here on the left is Franklin Street.

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I only mention this because this is the street my father lived in as a child and young adult. However the street he knew was completely destroyed in the blitz, maybe it was the same raid as hit the school. So today there are houses that look like they were built in the 1950s or early 1960s.

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Continue walking along St Leonard’s Street and ahead on the right is our next stop.

Stop 10: Bromley by Bow Centre

The Bromley by Bow Centre is a community organisation which encompasses an array of integrated social enterprises based around art, health, education and practical skills. And one of the entrances is though this old archway.

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This gateway is 18th century (possibly late 1740s) and was originally at a riverside entrance to Northumberland House in the Strand near modern day Charing Cross Station.

So how did it get to Bow? The answer is that when Northumberland House was being demolished in 1874, the arch was bought by a man called Rutty who owned a house here in Bow called Tudor House. He wanted it to embellish his garden. That garden was bought by Poplar Borough Council in 1900 to form a public open space.

The park was first called Bromley Recreation Ground and was also known as Grace Street Park. It was later Bob’s Park renamed by local people after the park keeper, Robert Grenfell.

The archway was moved to its present location with money from Tescos who had built a large supermarket nearby.

The entrance to the park from St Leonard’s Street is just past the archway.

Go into the park and as you enter you will see an obelisk on your right.

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This is actually a First World War memorial but it has been positioned so that the writing faces away from the pathway – almost as if the authorities wanted to hide what its original purpose was.

As you go into the park you will see a building looming over it on the far side. I think it must have been around here that my father and his twin brother got into trouble for playing cricket on the wall and disturbing the Indian gentleman who was staying in the building. More of which anon.

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Now head through the park and out the other side turning right (This is Powis Road). Our next stop is the large building on the right.

Stop 10: Kingsley Hall

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This is Kingsley Hall, named after Kingsley Lester who died aged 26 in 1914, leaving money for work in this area for “educational, social and recreational” purposes. His sisters Doris and Muriel bought and converted a disused chapel. It outgrew its original building and a new Hall was designed by well known architect Charles Voysey.

There was a stone-laying ceremony which took place on 14 July 1927. The Kingsley Hall website lists 18 stones representing different aspects of life and they seem to have had an appropriate person laying each stone. So Voysey laid the brick of “Architecture”, sculptor Gilbert Bayes laid “Art”, writer, John Galsworthy “Literature” and actor Sybil Thorndike “Drama”, but oddly local Labour politician George Lansbury laid the brick “Sunday Evening Service”.

Well as you can see there is a blue plaque on the front of the Hall which indicates a certain indian man called Mahatma Ghandi (1869 – 1948) stayed here in 1931.

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He had been invited to England but refused to stay in a hotel so was put up here in the East End for some 12 weeks from September to December 1931. So it was him who my father and uncle (aged 8) must have been disturbing.

More about this building is on the Hall’s website: http://www.kingsley-hall.co.uk/kingsleyhall.htm It has quite a history.

Now head along Bruce Road and turn left into Devons Road. Follow this, as it does a right hand turn and carry along the road which is still Devons Road. Go past the DLR station for our final stop which is on the left.

Stop 12: The Widow’s Son pub

Pubs in this area are becoming a rare sight, what with the change in demographics, drinking habits and property values. But this unpromising looking pub just by Devons Road DLR station has a rather unqiue story.

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The story goes that there was an old widow whose only son left to go to sea. He wrote to her saying that he would be returning home at Easter and to have a nice hot cross bun waiting for him. He never returned, but his mother continued to put by a fresh hot cross bun every Good Friday for the rest of her life. After her death a hoard of hot cross buns was discovered.

A pub was built on the site of her cottage in 1848 and so began a tradition of a sailor placing a new bun in net over the bar each Good Friday.

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You can’t help thinking “Widow’s Son” ought to be “Hot Cross Bun” in cockney rhyming slang – but it is not, so far as I can tell.

This pub was sold by Punch Taverns in 2012 to a developer who has been seeking planning permission to convert the building to flats, so far unsuccessfully. The pub is still trading but one wonders how much longer this quirky little slice of London will survive.

So that brings us to the end of our E3 walk though Bow and Bromley. Whilst this area suffered badly during the Blitz, it still retain some older buildings with reminders of a world before industrialisation and also of a quite radical past.

You are close by Devons Road DLR station for onward travel.

 

E2: All behind Ewan and ‘is London Fog

E2 is Bethnal Green and what is surprising is that there is quite a lot of green in Bethnal Green.

We start our walk at Bethnal Green Post Office at 223 – 227 Bethnal Green Road. (NB there are two Post Offices in Bethnal Green Road and this is the one which is closest to the City – ie the west end of the road.)

Turn left out of the post office and our first stop is on the left.

Stop 1: Former Essoldo Cinema, Number 283 Bethnal Green Road

A quick glance at this building does suggest cinema and indeed it was.

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It started life as Smart’s Picture House in April 1913. It was remodeled in 1938 by well known cinema architect George Coles. A new streamlined Art Deco facade was added and the auditorium was given an Art Deco makeover.

It reopened as the Rex Cinema and in December 1949 it was taken over by the Essoldo chain of cinemas and re-named Essoldo. The cinema closed in 1964 and it became a bingo club until around 1990.

The building became a storeroom and trade only retail outlet but today it seems to be unused.

Continue along Bethnal Green Road. Our next stop is just after the junction with Valance Road  – on the right before you get to Hague Street.

Stop 2: E Pellicci, Number 332 Bethnal Green Road

Well this is an unexpected survival.

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This italian cafe was established in 1900 and it is still owned by the founding family. But it is the makeover it had in 1946 that makes it special.

It is now Grade II listed. English Heritage inspectors describe it as having a ‘stylish shop front of custard Vitrolite panels, steel frame and lettering as well as a rich Deco-style marquetry panelled interior, altogether representing an architecturally strong and increasingly rare example of the intact and stylish Italian caf that flourished in London in the inter-war years.”

Return to Valance Road and turn left. Go past the park on your left and stop just before you get to the railway.

Stop 3: Numbers 170 – 184 Valance Road

Here is a little redevelopment by self builders which was “inaugurated” by Prince Charles on 15 September 1988. (Not sure what that means in the context of a building)

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If the current street numbers equate to the old ones then this was about where the notorious Kray family lived. According to Wikipedia, the family moved to 178 Valance Road from Stean Street in Hoxton in 1938.

Return along Valance Road and turn right into the park which is our next stop.

Stop 4: Weavers Fields

According to the architectural reference book, Pevsner, this open space was created in the 1970s by the complete destruction of a densely packed area of early 19th century two storey weavers’ cottages.

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If you keep walking along the path you will get to a kind of a roundabout. In the middle is an interesting sculpture, called Weaving Identities. It was a commission by Tower Hamlets Council and completed in December 2003.

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Here is a link to some more information of the work.

http://www.arte-ofchange.com/content/weaving-identities

At the artwork do a left turn and head out of the park. There is a big red brick building ahead of you. This is Oxford House and dates from the 1890s.

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Oxford House was established in 1884 as a “university settlement house”. Students and graduates from Keble College, Oxford undertook a period of residential volunteering to learn at first hand about the realities of urban poverty. These volunteers lived upstairs in Oxford House which was like a mini Oxford college in the heart of Bethnal Green.

Today Oxford House carries on with providing affordable office space for local groups, an arts centre and volunteering opportunities.

More info at: http://www.oxfordhouse.org.uk/

This includes information about their plans to develop the building, including renovating the chapel.

Go along the street (Derbyshire Street) ahead of you – with Oxford House on your right. Then when you get back to Bethnal Green Road, turn right and keep going. Pass under the railway bridge and turn left into a little street facing a garden.

Stop 5: Paradise Row

This is a lovely little terrace of houses dating from late 18th and early 19th century set beside a little green.

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And here at Number 3 is a local blue plaque.

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Daniel Mendoza (1764 – 1836) was an English prizefighter, who was boxing champion of England in 1792–1795. He was of Portuguese-Jewish descent.

In 1981, he was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (who knew such a thing existed!)

Here is a link to his story on their site:  http://www.jewishsports.net/BioPages/DanielMendoza.htm

Our next stop is just across the main road (Cambridge Heath Road)

Stop 6: V & A Museum of Childhood

This building is an outpost of the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington.

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It does look a bit like it was an old tram shed, but actually the building has a much more interesting heritage.

The building we see today dates from 1868 – 1872 but incorporates the iron structure of the first temporary museum erected at South Kensington in the mid 1850s with the proceeds of the 1851 Great Exhibition.

According to Pevsner, as work was beginning on the permanent museum structure, the Government offered the temporary building to any London district capable of, or interested in, taking it. The plan was to split it so as to establish museums in more than one place. But in the end, it came to Bethnal Green – or rather two thirds of it came here. A bit stayed in South Ken but was subsequently demolished in 1906.

At first the Bethnal Green building held the Wallace Collection (now in Manchester Square) and later it had exhibits related to the trades and industries of the East End. It became the V & A Museum of Childhood in 1974.

And if you look down the right hand side by the gardens, you will see these rather lovely panels high up on the walls. These represent the work of man in the arts, sciences, industry and agriculture.

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Our next stop is just along Cambridge Heath Road.

Stop 7: Mayfield house, Number 172 Cambridge Heath Road

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On the site of this dull block of flats once stood a cinema.

When it opened in December 1912 it was called Museum Cinema, a nod to its neighbour just down the road.

It was rebuilt and enlarged in 1931. Taken over by the Odeon chain in February 1943, it was renamed Odeon Bethnal Green in 1950. After closure in December 1956, the building was demolished and Mayfield House was built on the site.

Our next stop is just next door to Mayfield House.

Stop 8: Town Hall Hotel

This building was the town hall of Bethnal Green Borough Council. The front dates from 1910 but there is a 1930s extension with the interiors in Deco style.

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No longer a Town Hall the building was converted to become a boutique hotel in 2010.

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Now retrace your steps along Cambridge Heath Road. Our next stop is at the corner by the church.

Stop 9: Bethnal Green Underground station and memorial

The Underground station here opened in 1946 but the building was well advanced before the war and so the station was used as an air raid shelter.

The station is an example of the style adopted by London Transport for new tube stations built under the “New Works Programme 1935 – 1940” . Downstairs the platforms have cream tiles and very so often there is a little special decorative tile showing an image in relief. These seem to have survived the refurbishment of 2007

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Back on the surface at the south west corner of the junction (diagonally opposite the church)  is a rather neglected bit of art work in the pavement. according to Pevsner this dates from 2004 and is by A J Bernasconi.

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It is described as pavement set lights in glazed segmental curved trenches with embossed images of ‘child friendly’ objects.

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Obviously it references the nearby Museum of Childhood. But it is looking sadly neglected.

On the south east corner of the junction is a green. As you go in, there is a monument looming up.

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This is the memorial to what is considered to have been the largest single loss of civilian life in the UK in World War Two and the largest loss of life in a single incident on the London Underground network.

On 3 March 1943, people had crowded into the underground station due to an air raid siren at 8:17pm. There was a panic at 8:27pm coinciding with the sound of an anti-aircraft battery being fired at nearby Victoria Park. In the wet, dark conditions the crowd was surging forward towards the shelter when a woman tripped on the stairs, causing many others to fall. Within a few seconds 300 people were crushed into the tiny stairwell, resulting in 173 deaths. The media reported that there had been a direct hit by a German bomb. The results of the official investigation were not released until 1946.

Here is a piece from the BBC about the disaster: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-21645163

A small memorial plaque was put up in the 1990s.  In 2007 the “Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust” was established to create a more fitting memorial to those who died in the disaster. This is only partly complete as there is eventually going to be an actual staircase suspended from the concrete upright. More info at: http://www.stairwaytoheavenmemorial.org/

Go down Roman Road (This runs between the green and the church). you will see ahead on the right a sculptural structure featuring a globe.

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This marks the beginning of what is known as Globe Town.  This district began to be built up in the early 1800s to provide for the expanding population of weavers around Bethnal Green attracted by improving prospects in silk weaving. By the 1820s, the silk industry was in decline but the area turned to manufacturing other goods such as furniture, boots and clothing.

Take the left turning at the cross roads by the Globe. This is Globe Road.

Stop 10: East End Dwelling Company buildings, Globe Road

Just a little way along Globe Road, you come into an area which was redeveloped by a private company, the East End Dwellings Company (EEDC) between 1900 and 1906.

This company was incorporated in 1884. One of its founders was the Reverend Samuel Augustus Barnett, who later with his wife went on to establish Hampstead Garden Suburb which we saw in NW11. They also founded the first University Settlement at Toynbee Hall (near Aldgate) in 1884, which sadly we did not get a chance to see in E1.

The aim of EEDC was to “house the very poor while realising some profit”. Their first development was Katharine Buildings in Aldgate, which was followed by a number of schemes here in Bethnal Green.

First comes Mendip House which dates from 1900.

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Then ahead is a series of 5 storey blocks of flats dating from 1901 – 1906.

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But the company also built some terraced housing as can be seen on the right hand side of the road. These date from 1906.

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Continue along Globe Road and turn right into Cyprus Street. Go along the first part and continue through the modern development. The bit of the street you have come to see is on the other side.

Stop 11: Cyprus Street

According to Pevsner, this street was built in 1850/51 as Wellington Street. Interesting in that the Duke of Wellington died in 1852, by which time he had retired from public life. So one wonders why the street got this name. Maybe it was actually named in 1852. But by 1879 it had been renamed Cyprus Street. No idea why.

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Lovely though this street is, what makes it rather interesting is this unusual war memorial, which sits opposite Clyde Place.

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During the Great War, unofficial memorials were often set up to local men who had been killed in battle. Such memorials were usually temporary and were later replaced by grander, official ones after the war.

The Cyprus Street plaque was originally paid for by the Duke of Wellington’s Discharged and Demobolised Soldiers and Sailors Benevolent Club; a group who were based at and took their name from a local pub (now closed like so many in this part of the world).

But all is not what it seems, according to this site:

http://blackcablondon.net/2013/11/03/wwi-100-londons-memorials-cyprus-street/

In the 1960s the Cyprus Street memorial was nearly lost for good when the local housing association decided to build a modern block of flats on the site. (I guess that is what we just walked through) During the demolition of the house upon which the memorial was located, the plaque was damaged. The monument was rescued and it (or perhaps a replica) was reinstated further down the street.

At the end of Cyprus Street turn left and then right. Soon you will see the gateway style entrance to the Cranbrook Estate.

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Go in and follow the road straight ahead (Mace Street)

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Veer towards the left and walk through the estate. As you come past Offenbach House have a look to your right where you get a glimpse of the Shard.

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By the way the Cranbrook Estate dates from the first half of the 1960s and was the last of three developments by Skinner, Bailey and Lubetkin for Bethnal Green Borough Council. The latter of course we came across in relation to the privately developed Highpoint flats in Highgate which were built in the 1930s.

Keep walking through the Cranbrook Estate and when you come out the other side you will be back on Roman Road. There is another Globe gateway sculpture here.

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If you turn right onto Roman Road you will soon see our final stop, set back off the main road in a fenced off area.

Stop 12: The Blind Beggar and his Dog

This is the Blind Beggar and his Dog by Dame Elizabeth Frink.

Or perhaps as the locals almost certainly would not call it: “All behind Ewan an’ ‘is London Fog” (All Behind = Blind; Ewan McGreggor = Beggar and London Fog = Dog). Well possibly!

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You cannot normally get near because it is a private garden but I struck lucky when I was passing. A handyman was working in the area and he let me in the gate, so I could get a bit closer.

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So that is the Blind Beggar and his dog we heard about in E1 where there is the pub of that name. Of course as we heard then, the legend of the Blind Beggar actually relates to Bethnal Green.

So that brings us to the end of our E2 walk. Again there was much more than I could possibly cover. In particular I could not include the Boundary Estate an early example of social housing, nor the location of the now closed Club Row market, which specialised in live animals. But we did get to see some interesting street artworks and memorials, not to mention the sites of two cinemas and the outpost of a major national museum.

You are now on Roman Road where you can get buses back to Bethnal Green tube or to Mile End for onward travel.

E1: You either see it or you don’t

E1 is the start of the real East End. It is a challenge as there is so much of interest to see. I have therefore focussed on the area from Whitechapel to Spitalfields, and even then I have had to leave out some things which I would loved to have mentioned.

We start our walk at Whitechapel Post Office, 208A- 210 Whitechapel Road. Turn right out of the Post Office and our first stop is a little way along on the other side of the road.

Stop 1: Former Mann’s Albion Brewery

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According to architectural guru Pevsner, a brew house was established here in 1808 by the landlord of the nearby Blind Beggar pub.  In 1818, two Lambeth brewers, Blake and Mann, bought the lease. Philip Blake retired in 1826 leaving John Mann to run the business alone. The Company’s name changed to John Mann, Brewer and in 1843 to Mann and Sons. Mann soon got new partners during the 1840s with Robert Crossman and Thomas Paulin. The company’s name then changed to Mann, Crossman & Paulin Ltd – as you just about see on this picture.

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By the 1950s, five generations of the Mann and Crossman families had been associated with the brewing and “Mann’s Brown Ale” was perhaps their best known product.

In 1959 the company merged with Watney, Combe, Reid and Co. to form Watney, Mann Ltd. Later in 1972 this Company was bought by Grand Metropolitan, who closed the Albion Brewery in 1979. The buildings were converted to flats in the early 1990s.

And just at the corner is the Blind Beggar pub.

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There has been an ale house here for a long time possibly back to the late 17th century, although the present building dates from 1894.

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The pub’s name references the story of the Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green. According to the legend in the 13th century there was a blind beggar living in Bethnal Green who was in fact Henry de Montfort, eldest son of Simon de Montfort. His identity was revealed at the wedding feast of his daughter Bessie.

A depiction of the beggar had appeared on the head of the staff of the local beadle from 1690. And when the Metropolitan Borough of Bethnal Green was formed in 1900 the borough seal depicted a scene based on The Beggar’s Daughter of Bednall Green. This was a version of the story from a poem in Percy’s Reliques of Ancient English Poetry, published in 1765 but which had been around since the time of Queen Elizabeth I.

In 1865, William Booth preached his first open-air sermon outside the Blind Beggar, which led to the establishment of the East London Christian Mission, later to become the Salvation Army. Although today their headquarters is in Queen Victoria Street in the City and the UK HQ is Newington Causeway SE1, the Salvation Army still has a presence locally. We will pass Booth House as we walk along the main road later.

This pub was also the location of a notorious murder on 9 March 1966 when local villain, Ronnie Kray shot and killed George Cornell, an associate of a rival gang, the Richardsons.

More info on this lovely website: http://www.eastlondonhistory.co.uk/the-blind-beggar-pub/

At this point you could take a short diversion down Sydney Street and right into Ashfield Street

Stop 1a: Number 91 Ashfield Street

Sir Jack Cohen (1898-1979) founder of Tesco Stores, lived at 91 Ashfield Street as a child.

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Jack Cohen began with a market stall in 1919. According to the Tesco company website, the Tesco name first appeared in 1924, after Cohen purchased a shipment of tea from T. E. Stockwell and combined those initials with the first two letters of his surname, and the first Tesco store opened in 1929 in Burnt Oak, Barnet. Tesco then went on to become the retail giant we know (and love?) today.

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Return up Cavell Street and then left into Whitechapel Road. But if you have not taken the diversion just retrace your steps along Whitechapel Road.

Stop 2: Royal London Hospital

Our next stop is on the left.

The Royal London Hospital was founded in September 1740 initially as The London Infirmary becoming the London Hospital in 1748. The hospital moved to its current location on the south side of Whitechapel Road in 1757. The buildings we see today date from the late 18th and 19th century. The hospital only got its Royal tag following a visit by the Queen in 1990, when the hospital celebrated its 250th anniversary.

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The hospital is undergoing a multi million pound rebuild at the moment and so the older buildings facing Whitechapel Road are surrounded by hoardings at present.

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But if you look to the left of the main portico you might just spot this blue plaque to Nurse Edith Cavell (1865 – 1915).

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She worked here from 1896 until 1901.  She was a nurse in German occupied Belgium in the First World War and helped some 200 Allied soldiers escape. She was arrested and accused of treason, found guilty by a court-martial and sentenced to death. Despite international pressure for mercy, she was shot by a German firing squad.

Continue walking along Whitechapel Road. Note the great view towards the City.

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And also Booth House across the road.

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Stop 3: Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Just at the corner of  Fieldgate Street is our next stop, the Whitechapel Bell Foundry – a quite amazing survival.

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The foundry was first recorded in Whitechapel in the 15th century and has been on this site since 1738. However Pevsner suggests most of the buildings we see on Whitechapel Road are 19th century. The Foundry made many famous bells including of course Big Ben and the Liberty bell which can be found in Philadelphia.

“Big Ben” by the way weighs 13½ tons and is the largest bell ever cast at the foundry.

The foundry is still making bells – large and small.

The place has a curious old fashioned look about it.

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It is like it is in a time warp – except of course for the no smoking sign which drags it back to the 21st century.

Keep walking along Whitechapel Road. Our next stop is on the left.

Stop 4: Altab Ali Park

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This is the site of the church which gives the area its name. The church here was called St Mary Matfelon. It was at first a chapel of ease – that is a subsidiary church – to St Dunstan’s Stepney. It had a whitewashed exterior and so became known as the White Chapel. The name Matfelon comes from the family who rebuilt the church in the 14th century.

The church was rebuilt a couple of times, most recently in the 1870s. The church was severely damaged by fire in the Blitz and the ruins were finally demolished in 1952. But part of the church outline is traced out in some paving in the garden.

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The churchyard became St Mary’s Gardens in 1966 but was renamed Altab Ali Park in 1989 after a Bangladeshi student murdered in 1979.

There is also a monument here in the diagonally opposite corner from where you first started with this park.

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This is called the Martyrs Monument and dates from 1999. It is a copy of a monument originally erected in Bangladesh to the memory of 5 students killed in 1952.

Cross over the main road and take the right hand turn called Osborn Street. This is just before the Whitechapel Gallery (which sadly we have not got time to cover)

Stop 5 Brick Lane

Osborn Street becomes Brick Lane. Today this area has been rechristened (if that is the right term!) Banglatown.

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The street is a seemingly endless strip of curry houses all vying for trade. Pevsner says this “has much character but little that stands out architecturally”. The street was strongly Jewish in the early 20th century but has since become a centre for Bangladeshi immigrants who settled in the area in large numbers from the 1970s.

Useless fact: The street’s name came from the nearby clay pits used for brickmaking. It was first built up haphazardly during the 17th century and much rebuilt around 1900.

We can take a slight diversion here and keep going along Brick Lane.

Stop 5a: Former Truman Brewery

Ahead is the former Truman Brewery. you cannot really miss it as part of it spans the street.

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The brewery was established in this area in the 1660s and was in the ownership of  Joseph Truman in the 1680s. A succession of Truman ran it for the next 100 or so years.

The last Truman to operate the brewery was Benjamin Truman. When he died in 1780, he left most of the brewery to his grandsons, with the rest going to his head clerk James Grant, who took over the running of the brewery. After Grant’s death in 1788, his share was purchased by Sampson Hanbury, who went on to run Truman’s for the next 46 years.

Hanbury brought new levels of professionalism and efficiency, including purchasing the brewery’s first steam engine in 1805. In 1808, Hanbury’s nephew Thomas Fowell Buxton joined the firm, which then became Truman, Hanbury, Buxton and Co Ltd.

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In 1971 Truman’s became the centre of a bidding war between Grand Metropolitan and Watney Mann, which as we have just heard had a local foothold with its brewery in Whitechapel. Eventually, Grand Metropolitan won. It then pursued and took over Watney Mann whereupon Grand Metropolitan then merged Watney Mann with Truman’s.

Grand Metropolitan made many changes to the company, in particular focussing on keg beer. But the company’s fortunes did not improve and although cask beer was brought back in the 1980s along with the traditional Truman’s eagle logo, the Brick Lane brewery was shut in 1989. Today it is an interesting mix of commercial premises, including some trendy market areas.

If you go under the bridge bit there is a the building on the left with a blue plaque.

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This is for Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton (1786 -1845) who was an anti-slavery campaigner in addition to being a key player in the beer business.

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Go down Hanbury Street. This will be a left if you have not gone to the Brewery or if you have, retrace your steps down Brick Lane and take a right 

Stop 6: Hanbury Street

Hanbury Street is no doubt named after the brewery family. There are a couple of things to mention on this stretch of Hanbury Street west of Brick Lane, both on the left as you go along the street.

First is Hanbury Hall.

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As the blue plaque says this was built in 1719 as a French Huguenot church. Having escaped France which at the time did not tolerate protestants, they had settled in the area and were largely engaged in the silk trade. Later it became a German Lutheran church, then a Baptist and finally a Methodist church. In 1887, the local Church of England parish church, Christ Church, bought the building and made it their church hall.

And it has some other interesting connections. Charles Dickens was a regular visitor in the 1800s using the building for public readings of his works and in 1888 young women working at the local Bryant and May match factory held their strike meetings here as they prepared to protest against working conditions at the factory. This was an important step in establishing trade unions.

And just before the junction with Commercial Street, there is a very red shop with a blue plaque.

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This was the birthplace of comedian Bud Flanagan (1896 – 1968).

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He was one of the Crazy Gang, a group of British comedians who were popular in the 1930s and 1940s , The members were: Bud Flanagan, Chesney Allen, Jimmy Nervo, Teddy Knox, Charlie Naughton and Jimmy Gold and sometimes ‘Monsewer’ Eddie Gray. Essentially the gang comprised three double acts; Flanagan and Allen, Naughton and Gold, and Nervo and Knox (with some input from Gray). They had all had success before the Crazy Gang but not of the same magnitude.

Flanagan also wrote the song “Underneath the Arches” which in effect became Flanagan and Allen’s theme song,

At the end of Hanbury Street turn right into Commercial Street. Our next stop is across the road.

Stop 7: Spitalfields Market

According to the City of London Corporation website,  Spitalfields is one of the City’s younger markets, starting life as a thirteenth century market in a field next to St Mary Spital on the edge of the Square Mile. It explains:

“In 1682, King Charles II granted John Balch, a silk thrower, a Royal Charter that gave him the right to hold a market on Thursdays and Saturdays in or near Spital Square. For the next 200 years, the market traded from a collection of sheds and stalls, doing its best to cope with London’s growing appetite for fresh fruit and vegetables. As time went by, it became a centre for the sale of home-grown produce, which was being traded there six days a week.

By 1876, a former market porter called Robert Horner bought a short lease on the market and started work on a new market building, which was completed in 1893 at a cost of £80,000. In 1920, the City of London acquired direct control of the market, extending the original buildings some eight years later.”

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And here is a detail from over the doorway which refers to Robert Horner and so predates the City Corporation’s ownership.

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Not sure which Queen Victoria Jubilee this would be, Is it the 50th (Golden) which would have been 1887 or perhaps the 60th (Diamond) which was 1897?

The wholesale market moved out to purpose built premises in Leyton in 1991. And for a while it was not clear what would happen.

In the end around two-thirds of the historic market was kept and rebuilt to include restaurants, shops and a large indoor arts and crafts market.

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But the 1920s market extension to the west was replaced by a Norman Foster designed office block. Pevsner says “The baleful  effect of this cannot be overemphasised and marks the continued, and doubtless irresistible, empire building of the City of London over the domestic and social needs of the East End.” Quite.

If you have ventured in to the market come back out. Our next stop is on Commercial Street on the diagonally opposite corner to the old market building.

Stop 8: Christ Church, Spitalfields

Christ Church Spitalfields is the Nicholas Hawksmoor masterpiece, started in 1715 and consecrated in 1729. It was built in part to demonstrate the power of the established church to the dissenting Huguenots, who had established a number of their own chapels in the area.

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The church has gone through some hard times, having been closed as unsafe in 1958. In 1966 the crypt was restored and then starting in 1976 a major restoration was undertaken. It is a wonderful space, well worth a visit. It is open most days. It is also used for concerts, events and functions.

Now take the street to the left of the main market building. This is Brushfield Street, The site immediately on the left (south) side of Brushfield Street is currently being rebuilt. Only the facade of the old building remains. This was the Fruit and Wool Exchange building of 1926.

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Stop 9: Brushfield Street

Just after this building site is a run of interesting old buildings on your left, some are facsimiles (numbers 8 – 10 near Bishopsgate were rebuilt after a fire in 1983)

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Numbers 40 – 42 and 14 – 16 are genuine 18th century. Number 40 is Verde and Company.

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This is a lovely little shop which does great sandwiches and salads plus some luxurious food items. You often see oranges on display.

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Well this seems to be a little nod to the author Jeanette Winterson who owns the building.

In an article in the Guardian in June 2010 she said:

“My house had been the offices of an oranges importer – which seemed auspicious, as my first novel was Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. Then I found out that the business had been called JW Fruits – so I had to buy it, didn’t I?”

A coffee chain wanted to rent the premises but she explained:

“It never occurred to me open a food shop. The coffee offer forced me to focus on what I would really like to happen, instead of either doing nothing or passively accepting what someone else would like to happen – so it was a pretty good life lesson, too.”

So she went into partnership with an american called Harvey Cabaniss to create the shop and I think he is still at front of house. By the way, the name Verde comes from a 1930s sign that was on the facade.

Here is a link to the full article in the Guardian:

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/jun/13/once-upon-a-life-jeanette-winterson

Now on the right you will see a branch of Patisserie Valerie. Go into the pedestrianised area here keeping Patisserie Valerie on your right. The Foster buildings (so hated by Pevsner) are on your left.

Just ahead you will see a little area of water and beyond that is a rectangular hole in the ground. There is a lift here or else go down the steps at the far end of the hole.

Stop 10: The Charnal House

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This is what’s left of the Charnel House of St Mary Spital (although the sculpture is modern).

There was a Roman cemetery hereabouts but in 1197 the site of this cemetery became a priory called The New Hospital of St Mary without Bishopsgate. This became known as St Mary Spital – hence the land nearby was Spital Fields. This religious foundation was one of the biggest hospitals in medieval England and there was also a cemetery which included a stone charnel house (used to store bones) and mortuary chapel.

There are these lovely information panels. They are rather attractive but almost impossible to read especially if it is sunny.

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The Charnel House was uncovered when the area was redeveloped in the early 2000s.

Keep going straight ahead. You are now in Spital Square, which is no longer a square since redevelopment. At the end take a left into Folgate Street

Stop 11: Dennis Severs’ House, Number 18 Folgate Street

Just here in a terrace of houses dating from 1724 is a fascinating place, a visitor experience like no other.

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This was the creation of one man, an American called Dennis Severs (1948 – 1999). There are ten rooms all furnished in period and are arranged as if they are in use and the occupants have only just left. So there is half-eaten bread, discarded clothes and wigs, and smells and background sounds. But no wax models of people. Severs called this “still life drama”.  You go round in your own time in silence. Highly recommended!

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The motto of the house is: “You either see it or you don’t”. And in a way that is the watchword of this whole walk, be it the stones that trace the outline of the church on the site of the White Chapel, the sign giving a clue to the developer of Spitalfields Market, a basket of oranges or the little reminder of an artist’s work which we shall see at the next stop.

Now go along Folgate Street and take the next left into Elder Street. Our next stop is just on the left hand side of the street.

Stop 12: Number 32, Elder Street

This house was lived in by artist Mark Gertler (1891 – 1939).

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Here is the Blue Plaque

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And in addition there is this lovely little roundel in the pavement which shows a little extract of one of his famous paintings: “Merry-Go-Round”

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“Merry-Go-Round” dates from 1916, when he was 24 years old. It depicts men and women (many in uniform) on a merry-go-round fairground ride.

We are now at the end of our E1 walk. There was far more to see than I could possibly cover, but hopefully I have shown you a good slice of this intriguing part of London.

For onward travel return to Folgate Street, turn right and at the end is Bishopsgate with lots of buses and just down the road is Liverpool Street station.