A Walk Down The Mile End Rd
William Booth points the way
It was once the custom for East Enders to promenade along the Mile End Rd at weekends, dressed in their Sunday best and admiring the shop windows, and – in similar vein – I set out down the road with my camera yesterday to record some of the sights for you.
Mile End Rd takes its name from the turnpike in Whitechapel, which stood exactly a mile from the City of London situated at the crossroads where Cambridge Heath Rd meets the Whitechapel Rd. Traders who had come far, bringing their goods to market in the City, would pass through this gate and park their wagons safely upon the wide thoroughfare, spending the night at one of the taverns in Whitechapel, before rising early to arrive in London next morning.
Beyond Whitechapel, lies Mile End Waste where William Booth preached against the degradations of drink in the nineteenth century, giving sermons which led to the founding of the Salvation Army to minister to the poor and destitute that congregated here – and, more than a century later, the Salvation Army still maintains Booth House in Whitechapel to fulfil the same purpose. Yet Booth’s statue by George E. Wade of 1927 stands outside Trinity Green Almshouses of 1695 for “decay’d Masters & Commanders,” revealing an earlier history of this area defined by the proximity to the London Docks.
Just across the road, is the site of Captain’s Cook’s House dating from the eighteenth century, when the land was open upon either side of the Mile End Rd and the masts of ships might been seen by travellers approaching London. Further east, the magnificent terrace built by Anthony Ireland in 1717 and Malplaquet House built by Thomas Andrews in 1741-2, along with equally affluent dwellings on Stepney Green attest to the wealth of those who made their money through maritime trade. Elsewhere, Bellevue Place, Maria Terrace and Mile End Place are more modest dwellings which survive as dignified examples of housing for those employed in local industries, brewery workers and artisans.
Remarkably these fragmentary survivals still hold their own amongst the dense nineteenth and twentieth century developments – accelerated by bombing and slum clearance and now the incursion of the City – and thus the entire history of the East End is to be found along the Mile End Rd.
The Albion Brewery, Whitechapel
Trinity Green Almshouses beside Park House, built c.1820 by the Barnes family, property developers
On this site stood Captain’s Cook’s house, demolished in the fifties and commemorated in the seventies
The former Wickhams Department Store, constructed 1927
In Bellevue Place, cottages once attached to the Charrington Brewery
The much-missed Billy Bunter’s Tea Stall
Genesis Cinema, built 1939, replacing Frank Matcham’s Paragon Theatre of 1885
Terrace built by Anthony Ireland in 1717
Nineteenth-century cottage in Stepney Green
Eighteenth century terrace in Stepney Green
Built in Stepney Green c.1694 for Dormer Sheppherd, a wealthy merchant with overseas connections and acquired c.1714 by Dame Mary Gayer, widow of East India Company’s Governor of Bombay
Malplaquet House, constructed by Thomas Andrews in 1741-2
Stepney Green Station by C.A. Brereton, 1902
Gothic Cottages in Maria Terrace
Eric Gill’s relief sculpture on the front of the New People’s Palace, 1936
The People’s Palace, built 1886-92
Looking west along the Mile End Rd
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