Print-friendly version of this page Spitalfields is near to Liverpool Street station and Brick Lane.
Gun Street was part of the Old Artillery Ground
- land formerly designated one of the Liberties of the Tower of London
It was converted to an artillery ground in 1538 for the use of ’The Fraternity or Guild of Artillery of Longbows, Crossbows and Handguns’. This group were later known as the Honourable Artillery Company and used the ground in conjunction with the Gunners of the Tower.
In 1658 the Honourable Artillery Company moved to a new ground at Bunhill Fields
, leaving the Gunners of the Tower in possession of the area until 1682, when it was sold off to speculative builders. These latter developed the area for housing, designating the streets with their present names of Fort Street, Gun Street, Artillery Passage
and Artillery Lane
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The area straddles Commercial Street
and is home to several markets, including the historic Old Spitalfields Market
, and various Brick Lane
Markets on Brick Lane
and Cheshire Street
. Petticoat Lane Market lies on the area's south-western boundaries.
The name Spitalfields appears in the form Spittellond
in 1399; as The spitel Fyeld on the 16th-century Civitas Londinium map associated with Ralph Agas. The land belonged to St Mary Spital, a priory or hospital erected on the east side of the Bishopsgate
thoroughfare in 1197, and the name is thought to derive from this. An alternative, and possibly earlier, name for the area was Lolsworth
After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, Spitalfields was inhabited by prosperous French Huguenot silk weavers. In the early 19th century their descendants were reduced to a deplorable condition due to the competition of the Manchester textile factories and the area began to deteriorate into crime-infested slums. The spacious and handsome Huguenot houses were divided up into tiny dwellings which were rented by poor families of labourers, who sought employment in the nearby docks.
The area has recently attracted a IT-literate younger population.