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Adam Dant’s Map of the Journey to the Heart of the East End

April 15, 2012
by the gentle author

Click to enlarge

The Museum of London commissioned cartographer extraordinaire Adam Dant to explore the question“Where is the East End today?” And, with characteristic ingenuity, Adam contrived an elaborate ruse, in the form of an epic quest to discover the heart of East London, resulting in the map you see above which records both the details of the journey and its unexpected outcome.

Daniel Langton served as Adam’s scout, making a reconnaissance by asking people on the street for the whereabouts of the heart of the East End and following their directions to the letter, however whimsical or strange. Some of the people “Scout Langton” encountered had never visited the territory before while others had lived here for generations, but all the directions they gave him led inexorably to the same location. Once the heart of the East End had been discovered, Adam designed his map around it, organising the postcodes of East London in a similar fashion to the map of central Paris which is structured around a spiral of the arrondissements in ascending numerical order. Thus his map charts the East End of popular conception and lore rather than the East End of conventional topography.

Those of us who are disappointed to learn that the consensus on the street is that a bin in Westfield Shopping Centre is perceived to be the heart of the East End, let us consider Odysseus. We may recall that while Ithaca was the purpose of his twenty-year voyage, Odysseus understood that Ithaca had given him a wonderful journey in itself. Let us contemplate Adam Dant’s map of the journey to the heart of the East End in the same spirit and take our consolation in the widely-held belief that “travelling is more important than arriving.”

According to Adam Dant’s researches on behalf of the Museum of London, this waste bin in the Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford marks the Heart of the East End.

Map reproduced courtesy of Museum of London

Images copyright © Adam Dant

You may like to take a look at some of Adam Dant’s other maps

Map of Hoxton Square

Hackney Treasure Map

Map of the History of Shoreditch

Map of Shoreditch in the Year 3000

Map of Shoreditch as New York

Map of Shoreditch as the Globe

Map of Shoreditch in Dreams

Map of the History of Clerkenwell

Click here to buy a copy of The Map of Spitalfields Life drawn by Adam Dant with descriptions by The Gentle Author

6 Responses leave one →
  1. April 15, 2012

    Absolutly Wonderful…Adam is by far one of our best Artists!!!

  2. Miss Gherkin permalink
    April 15, 2012

    I’m sure that Mary Portas’ PR company, which represents Westfield Stratford, will waste no time utilising this piece of information. Wouldn’t be surprised if the bin gets a plaque.

    Never before has the saying ‘travelling is more important than arriving’ held more truth.

  3. joan permalink
    April 15, 2012

    This made me laugh out loud – it’s wonderful. I live in Stratford – about ten minutes walk from that bin. Having been born in Wapping and grown up in Stepney I often joke to friends that, to me, Stratford is semi-rural. I see that I am going to have to rethink!


  4. April 16, 2012

    Super post – really engaging. Puts me in mind of Constantine Cavafy’s superb poem “Ithaca”.

  5. April 17, 2012

    Alan is quite right – everything east of the River Lea is suburbia. The East End is Spitalfields, Whitechapel, Bethnal Green, Wapping and Stepney. Stratford isn’t even IN the East End, let alone at it’s centre.

  6. Chris permalink
    April 29, 2012

    The heart of today’s East End is a twenty first century dustbin?

    I would argue that the original heart of the real East End was the area around the Blind Beggar public house in Whitechapel Road. As well as being the Kray twins’ manor, it was where William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, first preached in the open air. In 1853, Whitechapel, Bethnal Green and Stepney were in Middlesex, Stratford was further east, in Essex. The unofficial border of the East End during the 20th century was the River Lea and the Westfield Shopping Centre falls on the wrong side of the Lea.

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