Youthquake in Spitalfields
There has always been a significant transient population in Spitalfields and it is the presence of these people, in part, that has created the complex history of our neighbourhood as a shifting ground, an intermediary space at the City boundary.
First there were the sick and needy who inhabited the Hospital of St Mary (St Mary Spital), founded in 1197 next to the Roman road out of the City. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, there were the itinerant workers who found employment as weavers and in the market, while dossing in the seedy lodging houses that surrounded the market. In the last century, I think of the dispossessed who took refuge in the Sisters of Mercy Hostel in Artillery Lane.
In our own century, something new and on an entirely different scale is about to arrive within close vicinity of these locations. This picture shows the thirty five storey Nido building currently under construction in Middlesex Street. From winter 2010, this will provide accommodation to 12o4 students with rents starting at £720 a month for a single bedroom studio. The complex will have its own cinema and shops in a cashless environment where residents use their Nido card to pay. Students who are anxious at being away from home for the first time will be consoled by technology that promises an SMS to tell them when their laundry is done.
Maybe we shall find ourselves living in the student quarter next, when Spitalfields becomes London’s Rive Gauche?