Just hearing the phrase ‘the East End’ summons up images of slums and dark alleyways, with Jack the Ripper appearing from the mist, or housing estates and pubs where you might find the Kray twins. It is a place of poverty and menace, yet these images can prevent us from seeing the reality of life east of the City of London, and of its dark history. This study features stories of crimes and misdeeds that show what life was like in this area before the ‘East End’ existed. They also reflect the changes caused as the settlements of the Tower Hamlets became absorbed by the new metropolis of London.
As there is nothing new under the sun, so these stories find their modern counterparts in our times. However, they also take us into unfamiliar territory as they bring to light the often forgotten past that underlies the present-day streets and lurks behind the façades of some of the area’s older buildings. Many of the stories will be unfamiliar and indeed strange, but yet they show how the character and notoriety of the City’s famous shadow has been formed. Paying scrupulous attention to place, this volume features a wealth of specially-commissioned photographs, allowing the reader to locate these stories in the present-day London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
This volume concentrates on a specific part of London, the East End, exploring it’s past as the city spread out and swallowed up the hamlets and fields east of the Tower. Rioting, thefts, murders and child abuse (by a vicar, no less), all feature in this book, as well as a description of how the scenes of these events have changed since the crimes took place.
The information is interesting and I definitely want to learn more about the weavers riots in Spitalfield, but the execution left something to be desired. The text reads like a tour guide trying to hard to be entertaining while they’re leading you round the town. It might be for dramatic effect, but it doesn’t work. There’s something a little unprofessional about it.