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In The East End With A Bradshaw Guide

July 19, 2012
by the gentle author

When Jack London wrote in “People of the Abyss” that he went to Thomas Cook to arrange a visit to the East End and was told such a trip could not be made, he may have exaggerated for dramatic effect. The myth that the East End was a no-go area for tourists in the nineteenth century is scotched by this Bradshaw Guide from 1862 that came into my hands recently. It contains no less than an itinerary for the casual visitor, inspiring me to use it to navigate around the territory yesterday. And you can read excerpts below, accompanied by photographs from my tour as illustrations.

Joan Rose told me she remembers coach parties of tourists pulling up outside her grandfather’s shop in Calvert Avenue in Shoreditch in the nineteen thirties. The driver would announce, “And these are the slums!” which was the cue for Alf to run out onto the pavement and shake his fist in humiliation. Just like those Rio favela tours of our own age – poverty has always been a magnet for tourism, it seems.

Sculpture upon the side of the “Ald gate” where Chaucer lived above the gatehouse in 1386

Aldgate – to which an omnibus from any of the main thoroughfares will serve as a conveyance, may be taken as a suitable point to commence our pilgrimage in this direction. The place derives its name from the old gate that here guarded the entrance to the City, and which was taken down in 1606.

On the site of the Great Synagogue in Bevis Marks, destroyed by a bomb in 1941

Northward from Aldgate are Houndsditch, Bevis Marks and Duke’s Place, the great quarter of the Jews, and here they have settled in great numbers since the days of Oliver Cromwell.

The Minories –  a communication with Tower Hill, derives its name from the nuns of the order of St Clare, or minoresses who had been invited into England by Blanche, Queen of Navarre, who here found a convent for their reception.

Goodman’s Fields – now a thickly populated region at the back of the Minories. Stow in his quaint fashion, tells us that, in his time, one Trollop, and afterwards Goodman, were the farmers there, and “that the fields were a farm belonging to the said nunnery, at which farm I myself,” he says,“have fetched many a halfpenny worth of milk.”

The theatre in Goodman’s Fields was where Garrick first appeared, October 19th, 1741, and here he drew such audiences of gentry and nobility that the carriages filled up the road from Temple Bar to Whitechapel.

Whitechapel has nothing but the butcher’s shambles to boast of as a characteristic feature. The London Hospital was instituted in 1740 for the relief of maimed and invalided persons who are, from the nature of their avocations, subject to casualties. The patients are chiefly those employed about the docks and in shipping.

John Soane’s Church of St James, 1826-8

Passing up Globe Rd, we reach Bethnal Green, a large district chiefly populated by the silk-weavers of Spitalfields. Ten churches were erected here within the last ten years and model lodgings have materially contributed to the comfort of the poorer denizens.

The line of the Eastern Counties Railway traverses the very heart of this squalid region, where the houses generally are miserably small and densely inhabited.

Shoreditch – notwithstanding its present uninviting appearance, this was once a genteel district much inhabited by the players of the court.

The parish church of St Leonard’s, built by Dance the City architect in 1740, presents nothing exteriorly remarkable but in the burial ground several distinguished personages are interred.

This is all that remains of the former terminus, replaced by Liverpool St Station in 1874.

In Shoreditch is the spacious terminus of the Easter Counties Railway.

Norton Folgate – a continuation of Bishopsgate St Without, has nothing requiring notice.

The church of St Botolph in Bishopsgate was built in 1728 and the living, in the gift of the Bishop of London, is more valuable than any other in the City.

Guard on duty within the ring-fence surrounding Finsbury Sq since the eviction of Occupy London

Finsbury Sq – built in 1789, is a vestige in name at least of olden London, bringing to recollection its original appellation of Fens-bury, from the marshy nature of the soil before it was drained. Hence we may pursue our way by pavement again into the City and recruit ourselves for further expeditions in an opposite direction.

Bradshaw’s Handbook to London has been republished by Conway

6 Responses leave one →
  1. Marina B permalink
    July 19, 2012

    Another wonderful journey. I only wish my comments could do justice to the work you’ve put in.

  2. July 19, 2012

    Great series…many thanks again…M

  3. CornishCockney permalink
    July 19, 2012

    The photo is very apt for that description of Norton Folgate!
    I do enjoy these guided walks round the City.

  4. July 24, 2012

    Great photos — and a great way to look on these streets anew. But then that is your speciality.

  5. March 13, 2013

    I am following Bradshaw, and I will be taking this same route shortly!

  6. mary moulder permalink
    June 26, 2013

    It is wonderful to see the sites my Huguenot Rondeau ancestors must have seen. You give dimension and reality to family memories we treasure.

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