We joined up with 21 other members of the Buckinghamshire branch of the Cambridge Society outside the Aldgate tube station at 11:15 for a walking tour of Spitalfields. The tour was led by Stan Pretty. Stan is the playwright/actor/theatre director who led previous tours of Southwark and Stratford upon Avon. He is a clear, confident and literate speaker, a lively but urbane raconteur of London history and literary heritage, and a professional guide.
The area has a rich history, having seen many waves of immigration: French Huguenot Silk Weavers, the Irish, Jews fleeing C19th pogroms, Socialist Intellectuals, Bangladeshis fleeing poverty, civil war and inundation. It has Hawksmoor’s Christchurch and Art Deco architectural gems. It is also the birthplace of some of the most well established charities and similar organisations of today.
Stan related a few stories about Jack the Ripper as we walked around. Only a few because he was unhappy with some of the Jack the Ripper tours, and this was not a Jack the Ripper tour.
Lunch, which should have been taken at the Pride of Spitalfields pub was taken at the White Hart. A couple of pints of Spitfire, and lots of good unhealthy sausages, port pies, chicken wings etc.
It was an interesting walk in a place I would not normally go to. I now know where to go for a Curry in Bangali. We see how a building turned from a Methodist church, to a Synagogue and know to a Mosque. We see how the one poor falling down buildings and streets are now expensive homes for City workers.
A few of the places visited were:
Toynbee Hall Opened in 1884 to educate and politicise poor local immigrants. Toynbee Hall continues to offer community advice, alongside performance spaces and the Arts Café.
Whitechapel Bell Foundry Established in 1570 and the oldest manufacturing company in the UK, this is where Big Ben and Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell were cast.
Christ Church Built 1714-1729 by Nicholas Hawksmoor, this church’s beauty and lofty spire was designed to impress the locals and show them that Anglicanism was the most heavenly of denominations
St Botolph’s Church A haven of peace dedicated to the patron saint of travellers – Botolph is sometimes called ‘the English St Christopher’. A church has stood at this spot for over a thousand years, the present building dating from 1744. Author Daniel Defoe got married at this church. There are four St Botolph’s Churchs in London. One on each main exit out of London. St Botolph is the patron Saint of Travellers.
I will have a few pictures of the area in the next few weeks.