By the late 1500s Whitechapel
and the surrounding area had started becoming 'other half' of London. Located downwind of the genteel sections of west London which were to see the expansion of Westminster Abbey and construction of Buckingham Palace, it naturally attracted the more fragrant activities of the city, particularly tanneries, breweries, foundries (including the Whitechapel
Bell Foundry which later cast Philadelphia's Liberty Bell and also Big Ben), slaughterhouses and, close by to the south, the gigantic Billingsgate fish market, famous in its day for the ornately foul language of the extremely Cockney fishwomen who worked there.
Population shifts from rural areas to London from the 160
0s to the mid 1800s resulted in great numbers of more or less destitute people taking up residence amidst the industries and mercantile interests that had attracted them. By the 1840s Whitechapel
, along with the enclaves of Wapping, Aldgate, Bethnal Green, Mile End, Limehouse and Stepney (collectively known today as the East End
), had evolved, or devolved, into classic 'dickensian' London. Whitechapel
Road itself was not particularly squalid through most of this period - it was the warren of small dark streets branching from it that contained the greatest suffering, filth and danger, especially Dorset St., Thrawl St., Berners St. (renamed Henriques St.), Wentworth St. and others.
In the Victorian era the base population of poor English country stock was swelled by immigrants from all over, particularly Irish and Jewish. 1888 saw the depredations of the Whitechapel
Murderer, later known as 'Jack the Ripper'. In 1902, American author Jack London, looking to write a counterpart to Jacob Riis's seminal book How the Other Half Lives
, donned ragged clothes and boarded in Whitechapel
, detailing his experiences in The People of the Abyss
. Riis had recently documented the astoundingly bad conditions in the leading city of the United States. Jack London, a socialist, thought it worthwhile to explore conditions in the leading city of the nation that had created modern capitalism. He concluded that English poverty was far rougher than the American variety. The juxtaposition of the poverty, homelessness, exploitive work conditions, prostitution, and infant mortality of Whitechapel
and other East End locales with some of the greatest personal wealth the world has ever seen made it a focal point for leftist reformers of all kinds, from George Bernard Shaw, whose Fabian Society met regularly in Whitechapel
, to Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, who boarded and led rallies in Whitechapel
during his exile from Russia.
remained poor (and colourful) through the first half of the 20th Century, though somewhat less desperately so. It suffered great damage in the V2 German rocket attacks and the Blitz of World War II. Since then, Whitechapel
has lost its notoriety, though it is still thoroughly working class. The Bangladeshis are the most visible migrant group there today and it is home to many aspiring artists and shoestring entrepreneurs.
Since the 1970s, Whitechapel
and other nearby parts of East London have figured prominently in London's art scene. Probably the most prominent art venue is the Whitechapel
Art Gallery, founded in 1901 and long an outpost of high culture in a poor neighbourhood. As the neighbourhood has gentrified, it has gained citywide, and even international, visibility and support.
, is a London Underground and London Overground station, on Whitechapel
Road was opened in 1876 by the East London Railway on a line connecting Liverpool Street station in the City of London with destinations south of the River Thames. The station site was expanded in 1884, and again in 1902, to accommodate the services of the Metropolitan District Railway, a predecessor of the London Underground. The London Overground section of the station was closed between 2007 and 27 April 2010 for rebuilding, initially reopening for a preview service on 27 April 2010 with the full service starting on 23 May 2010.