Spot­light on Stepney

Pe­riod ter­races that sur­vived the Blitz and an award-win­ning re­born hous­ing es­tate char­ac­terise this no-non­sense spot. By Anthea Masey

London Evening Standard (West End Final B) - ES Homes and Property - - Property Searching -

ATOP state sec­ondary school, the award-win­ning re­gen­er­a­tion of a tired coun­cil es­tate, a much-vis­ited city farm with sheep, goats, chick­ens and fer­rets, and a church which can date its min­istry back to the 10th cen­tury are the defin­ing fea­tures of today’s Stepney.

This east Lon­don neigh­bour­hood has over the cen­turies been moulded by waves of im­mi­gra­tion, from France — the silk-weav­ing Huguenots — and from Ire­land, Eastern Europe and more re­cently from Bangladesh. A third of Stepney was de­stroyed dur­ing the war as Ger­man bombers headed for the docks, and Six­ties coun­cil tower blocks grew where streets of ter­race hous­ing once stood.

Stepney’s cen­tre of grav­ity is St Dun­stan and All Saints church in Stepney High Street. Sur­rounded by the green­ery of its church­yard and roads of pretty, flat- fronted early Vic­to­rian houses built by The Mercers’ Com­pany, a lead­ing City liv­ery com­pany, the church is the old­est in the East End. This is a rest­ing place for sailors and sea cap­tains.

On the op­po­site side of the road, Stepney City Farm is where lo­cal fam­i­lies get a taste of the coun­try­side, buy farm pro­duce and visit the Satur­day farm­ers’ mar­ket.

Sir John Cass (1661-1718) was a City mer­chant and MP whose ed­u­ca­tional legacy is seen through­out the East End with schools and col­leges in­clud­ing the Sir John Cass School of Art, Ar­chi­tec­ture and De­sign in Aldgate and the Cass Busi­ness School in the City. In Stepney the Sir John Cass’s Foun­da­tion and Red Coat School is a top-per­form­ing state com­pre­hen­sive that is judged “out­stand­ing” by Of­sted.

Much of Stepney was re­built af­ter the de­struc­tion wrought dur­ing the Second World War Blitz that wiped out so many of the build­ings. This has left a legacy of post-war coun­cil hous­ing now reach­ing the end of its use­ful life. The re­gen­er­a­tion of the Ocean Es­tate has won hous­ing in­dus­try plau­dits and cov­ers an area stretch­ing half a mile from Mile End Road to As­ton Street. Over the past seven years, a con­sor­tium in­clud­ing Tower Ham­lets coun­cil, hous­ing as­so­ci­a­tion East Thames and Bell­way Homes has built 800 new homes and re­fur­bished a fur­ther 1,000.

The new blocks are ar­ranged around tra­di­tional roads with land­scaped court­yards , while more than 376 trees and 7,000 shrubs have been planted. Homes in the fi­nal phase, which saw three tower blocks de­mol­ished, will be avail­able early next year.

We all love a mar­ket: stall­holder Rory Waitt sells or­ganic pro­duce at the Satur­day mar­ket at Stepney City Farm

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