I See Elsie About this blog

I See Elsie

The Ithaca College London Centre

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Posted by Bill Sheasgreen at 6:06AM   |  Add a comment

I will occasionally use this blog to give a brief historical background to a part of London that we visit. First up is Spitalfields and I’ve named the blog after its favourite watering hole. And there's something else here too!



"Spitalfields, once the fields of St Mary’s hospital just outside the city’s north-eastern gate, is today an
artistic, culinary and fashion trendsetter in London’s east end. Dissolved like most monasteries
Roman in their allegiance in the 1530s, the area was granted a market by Charles II in the 1670s.
Alienated from the church by the paganism of their working class culture, and finding themselves
harassed by the ecclesiastical courts, the impecunious workers remained stubbornly resistant to the
inspirational preachers sent to convert them.  When in 1685 Louis 14 revoked the law that had given
silk weavers  a degree of religious freedom, these protestant ‘Huguenots’ as they were labelled,
migrated to the houses along Fournier and Wilkes street east of the market.  The last Stuart Queen,
Anne, passed an act to create 50 new churches in the ‘indies of the interior‘ that abutted London’s
richer areas. In 1746 a second new church, this a dissenting chapel, was erected east on Fournier,
right next to the brick works and Truman’s brewery.  Opposite Christ Church, favoured by trendy
youth today, stands the famous TEN BELLS public house, where two of Jack’s unfortunate victims,
imbibed their last drink, sang their last song, before succumbing to the unknown butcher in the
narrow alleyways of Spitalfields. When in the early 19th century,  new docks were built in Wapping
going east to the Isle of Dogs, new roads were built through the area. Goods from the Canaries,
Kalamazoo, the Congo, Cuba, Canada poured into the docks.  Jobs multiplied attracting men from
Ireland initially. By the 1880s, with the Victorian boom still underway, vicious pogroms in Eastern
Europe led to the arrival of thousands of impoverished Jews who squashed into the dilapidated
residences east of Commercial Street. Next, in the early 20th century,  socialists, revolutionaries,
anarchists preached sedition throughout Whitechapel and Mile End. Then, after centuries of neglect,
Nazi Heinkels, Stukas and Dornier bombers laid waste to the area in the blitz."


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