EAST END THEN & NOW
Start – Liverpool Street Station
End – Old Street Station
Length – 1.8 miles; 1½ hours This route leads through the heart of historic, multicultural Spitalfields and on to hipper-than-thou Shoreditch. You’ll find it at its liveliest on Sundays, when the various markets are e ervescing, but during the rest of the week there are still plenty of diverting shops and bars to break your stride.
Leaving Liverpool Street tube station, cross busy Bishopsgate, turn le and then right when you come to Middlesex St.
This used to be known as Petticoat Lane, in honor of the lacy women’s undergarments that were sold here, but that proved too saucy for the authorities, and the name was changed in 1830 – to Middlesex! The East End locals weren’t nearly so prudish and the ragtag Sunday market that’s been here for more than 400 years is still known by its former name.
Veer le into Widegate Street and into atmospheric Artillery
Passage, lined with historic shopfronts and drinking dens. From here, a le and then a right brings you to Gun Street and, at its end, Old Spitalfields Market. Enter the market and turn right into the covered lane lined with fancy gi shops and eateries – a far cry from the fruit-andvegetable stands the market was famous for until 1991, when “New Spitalfields” opened in Leyton. Continue on through the market proper, then step out onto Commercial Street. Just over the road is the Ten
Bells pub – famous as one of Jack the Ripper’s possible pick-up joints – and the hulking presence of Christ Church.
Running between the two, Fournier Street is one of the area’s most intact Georgian streetscapes. As you wander along, note the oddball numbering (11½ Fournier St.) and keep an eye out for famous arty residents Tracey Emin and art duo Gilbert & George. The last building on the le is
Brick Lane Great Mosque. Turn le onto
buzzing Brick Lane.
Today, this narrow but famous thoroughfare is the centerpiece of a thriving Bengali community in an area nicknamed Banglatown. Expect to be cajoled by solicitors as you pass the many curry houses. Mostly, the standard is pretty average, despite claims to the contrary. Stop at the corner of Hanbury
Street to admire the
grati and then continue on to Old Truman
Brewery. North of here Brick Lane is a very di erent place, stu ed with eclectic clothing shops, cafés, bars and old-time Jewish bagel bakeries. At the trac lights, cross Bethnal Green Road, turn le and then veer right onto Redchurch Street, where there are interesting independent shops. As you turn right into Club Row, keep an eye out for an elaborate black-and-red piece of street sculpture called
Portal, dedicated to street artist Cityzenkane’s late son. Leafy Club Row terminates in Arnold
Circus, a circular intersection topped with a few trees and a bandstand on a mound. Until 1891, this was the heart of London’s worst slum, the Old Nichol. Nearly 6,000 people lost their homes when the slum was cleared, and most had to rent similarly impoverished rooms farther east. The rubble
from the 730 demolished houses lies under the bandstand.
Take the third road on the le (Calvert Avenue) and walk past St.
Leonard’s Church, built in the Palladian style around 1740, to
Shoreditch High Street. Turn le and cross over to Rivington Street. Just past the railway bridge, look out for a wrought-iron gate on the right leading to
Cargo. Inside the gate, under Perspex, is a piece by famous grati artist Banksy featuring a security guard holding a poodle on a leash. Many street artists have le their mark in Shoreditch and you’ll spot plenty as you continue. At the end of Rivington Street, turn right onto Great Eastern Street and then veer le onto trac-clogged Old Street. Believed to have had its origins as a Roman road, it remains a major route. Soon the distinctive arcs straddling the Old Street tube station will come into view.