The Whitechapel area today is not the Whitechapel I remember from fifty years ago when I lived nearby for 8 years. It’s always been a filthy seedy area and as far as I can see it still is. One noticeable change though is that the population, the market and the shops are almost entirely Muslim. Unfortunately this seems to have done nothing to improve the look of the place. It is still as grubby as it ever was, if not worse.The Royal London Hospital takes up a very large part of the area away from the main street with separate departments in the side streets away from the main building The main entrance to the new building (the largest hospital in Europe apparently) is now off the main road. It's fourteen floors of blue glass is visible for miles. The old building is, at the time of this update (2022), being converted to the new town hall.Gone, are the homeless and alcoholic "dossers" who used to walk the streets and sit in the parks, or the public bars if they could afford it, drinking the day away before taking their place in the queue for a bed at Tower House (Rowton House) or Booth House in the hope they could act sober enough to be allowed in.I wonder if the people living in Tower House today realise that the luxury flat they are paying hundreds of thousands of pounds for was once a Rowton House “Monster doss house” room, where the down and outs paid a few shillings for a room up to the end of the twentieth century.Gone, are the pubs, apart from the Blind Beggar, replaced by curry, coffee and kebab shops. Gone are the prostitutes who used to hover on back street corners. Now it is home to the East London Mosque and the highest Muslim population in the land.This was also Jack the Ripper’s hunting ground, the narrow back streets of Whitechapel, many years ago. This is the only mention he will get here as there are many sites devoted to him that contain more information than I could ever cram on here. The same goes for the Kray twins, the Grave Maurice and Blind Beggar pubs. I'm sure you can find volumes about them with a search. Also gone, is the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. In May 2021 permission was granted to convert the listed building into a hotel and leisure facility.Whitechapel 2020 photo album >>
East London Mosque
In 1940, three houses were purchased by a Muslim group on Commercial Road in the East end of London, and so a permanent place of prayer was set up to replace the previous arrangement where a small room was hired on Fridays for Jumma prayers. The following year, the combined houses were inaugurated as the "East London Mosque" and became the focal point for the growing number of migrant workers taking part in the rebuilding of the city in the post war era.In 1975, the local authority bought the properties under a compulsory purchase order but provided temporary buildings on Whitechapel Road. The local community set about raising funds to erect a purpose built mosque on the site. Apparently the funds were boosted by a contribution from the King of Saudi Arabia. Seven years later, the rebuilding of the new mosque commenced with foundations laid down in 1982 and completion achieved in 1985. In 2004 work was completed on the adjacent buildings which have been converted to the London Muslim Centre.
Whitechapel Art Gallery
The Whitechapel Art Gallery, which was founded in 1901, is right next door to Aldgate East tube station. The gallery is normally associated with exhibitions of modern art. It was founded by Canon Samuel Augustus Barnett. He mounted exhibitions to bring art into the lives of local East Enders. Today the Whitechapel Gallery runs a program of exhibitions of modern art throughout the year.Following the former Whitechapel library’s move to a new facility, the gallery has acquired the building to restore and keep it open as a free art gallery all year round. There are all manner of books and other items of interest for sale in the bookshop. There are always projects, exhibitions and events being arranged at the gallery.
The Royal London
The London Hospital, as it was known then, was founded in 1740 and the medical college in 1785. This was the first medical college in the country. The Royal London Hospital amalgamated with Saint Bartholomew’s Hospital (Barts) in 1995 under the aegis of Queen Mary, University of London, to become Barts and The London, Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry. The London Chest Hospital was also a part of the trust but is now in the hands of property developers being converted into a hotel.The Royal London underwent major alterations in the early 21st. century and a massive 14 storey glass building was added to the complex. The new building was completed in 2011 and is now the largest hospital in Europe.The old listed facade still looks out onto Whitechapel Road and has been undergoing renovations for years, hidden behind hoarding. Tower Hamlets Council bought it for £9 million in 2015 and approved a £100 million project to convert it into a new Town Hall and Civic Centre planned to open in 2021. Covid 19 held it up and the work is still in progress in 2022. Dame Edith Cavell was once a nurse there.The air ambulance has operated from the London for many years. The new building now has helicopter pads on it’s roof.There have been many famous people pass through it’s doors over the years as patients but one of the most famous and also the saddest must be Joseph Merrick, known as the “Elephant Man”, who spent the last years of his life living in private quarters there. His skeleton was kept in the hospital museum. The museum underwent extensive refurbishment in 2002. I have not visited myself so do not know whether the skeleton is on display but there is a model of a church that Joseph Merrick made during his stay at the hospital.This photo was taken in 2020 but the work is still going on in 2022/