Having no previous knowledge of the area apart from the story of “Jack the Ripper”, I was impressed how rich the history of East End is. As a London Metropolitan University student I was given a task to explore the area.
After doing some research in the library I came across the book called “Spitalfields Life” by Gentle Author and illustrated by Mark Hearld. One story in particular attracted my attention:“The Pump of Death”.
In 1876 water in the pump began to taste strange. It was later discovered that the water was contaminated with liquid human remains which had seeped from the cemeteries through the underground tunnels. Once, a pump that people praised for being a health giving pump, have shocked the area when it was discovered that calcium in the water was coming from human bones. Hundreds of people who drunk the polluted water have died as a result.
Here is the picture of what the pump looks like nowadays.
On my way home from the campus I came across this example of typography on Liverpool Street. After doing some research I found that it is called “Alphabet Wall”. It has been created by Ben Eine, street artist who is not just a random person who paints graffiti on walls. His achievements have been mentioned on Spitalfields Life website and his art plays a significant part in the city.
I have wandered off to Brick Lane and the sign with the street name caught my attention. Underneath it there is another sign written in the foreign language.
After doing some research I found out that the mysterious language is Bengali. Brick Lane is known to be the area where Bangladeshi-Sylheti community is at large. Some even call it “Banglatown” and as I walked through the street it became obvious why. It actually does feel like you are in another country and I have never seen so many curry houses on one street.
The typography on the building located on Brune Street caught my attention in particular.
The Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor was founded in January 1854. Its aim was to supply soup, bread and meat twice a week, during the winter, to poor members of the Jewish community. At that time it was a temporary measure to help Jews fleeing from pogroms, who were arriving in London with no money and no jobs. It remained opened longer than anticipated, even though Jews have integrated it was still needed for the elderly and the sick amongst the Jewish community. Even though it closed in 1992, Jewish Care have taken over and carried on with its function. This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.
Few interesting facts about Whitechapel:
- in mid 18th century Whitechapel has degenerated into “Dickensian London” – dirty, overpopulated area full of slums
- between 1888 and 1891 gruesome murders struck the area,some of the murders were committed by legendary Jack the Ripper
- in 1980 Leicester born “Elephant Man” Joseph Merrick died in Whitechapel
- Whitechapel was a home to notorious gangsters the Kray Twins, their criminal empire rocked the Fifties and Sixties.
- It’s the place where in 1865 William Booth founded the “Salvation Army”
Getting to know the local history made me even more proud to be a student at London Metropolitan University. You don’t even realise that buildings or sculptures you walk past everyday have an interesting story behind it. East End is steeped in history and if you would like to explore more about it you can find few links below: