Charnowalks in the East End of London
I’ve lived my whole life in Bethnal Green, and am developing my portfolio of East End tours; those I have created so far are listed alphabetically below. Please click on the picture to get a more detailed description of each tour. (This will open in a new window.)
Please click HERE to go to the Schedule: it will tell you what tours are on offer at this time, and will you give links to follow in order to book your place.
All East End tours can be booked as a private tour: please contact me for details!
As London expanded in the nineteenth century to become the world’s biggest metropolis, it absorbed many small communities. This new urban context brought many challenges to these areas: housing for the huge influx of people, health issues caused by overcrowding and poor (and often non-existent) sanitation.
This tour explores how Bethnal Green faced those challenges; in many ways it continues to face the challenges of the urban context.
This is a tour with readings. Through the words of authors such as Iain Sinclair, Arthur Morrison and Monica Ali, Bethnal Green is revealed. Most famously George Orwell used his experiences in Bethnal Green when writing one of the twentieth century’s most important novels.
The works selected range from 1896 to 2003 and include a fight scene at the very railway footbridge where it was set.
The West India and East India Docks brought a new dimension to London’s maritime trade, ushering in the development which would make London the world’s biggest port. But what of the maritime hamlets of Poplar and Blackwall themselves?
This tour begins with the West India Docks, a marvel of public provision built on the back of slavery, and concludes in Blackwall, an ancient maritime settlement from which voyages once set out to reach the ends of the earth.
The East End was devastated by the Second World War, but the hardships of the Home Front weren’t the only impact on the area. Post-War development sought to create a brand new London, one which turned its back on the past and looked only to the future.
This tour explores the effect on Bethnal Green of wartime struggles and post-War ambitions, as well as the pre- and post-war political context. It’s a story of resilience and of disaster, of the darker and brighter sides of human nature.
In 1988 work began on the Canary Wharf development. This newly-designated enterprise zone was to become an extension of the City of London, given over strictly to business. But since then the nature of development has given rise to new imperatives.
This tour explores an area which is as much an art space and a focus of ecological diversity as it is a place of business.
In 1842, with Euston Station and Covent Garden Market to his credit, William Cubitt undertook to develop the land on the southeast of the Isle of Dogs. It was a considerable project which required and exceptional developer, and was to bring the Island to new life.
Though much of Cubitt Town has been lost to post-War development, this tour takes in most of the surviving buildings to tell a curious story of successes and failures.
Bethnal Green is an old parish, and old sins cast long shadows. Why should you think twice before accepting a drink from John Bishop and Thomas Williams? Or before letting the Reverend Benjamin Russen teach your daughter? And just what did happen at the Bluecoat Boy in 1911, and at the Carpenters’ Arms in 1965?
These stories of crimes and misdeeds in Bethnal Green span the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
So many clues get overlooked, though they are in plain sight and are passed by crowds of people everyday. That gateway could be a railway station or a cemetery; was that building a workhouse or an asylum? So many stories wait behind sometimes the smallest of details. They remind us that we are living in just one chapter of an ongoing narrative.
This tour takes in two very different settlements – Mile End Old Town and Bethnal Green – and gives tongue to the mute clues which tell of their pedigrees.
Once the East End was dominated by the silk weaving trade. Irish and French immigrants joined local craftsmen in producing silk cloth from hand looms in purpose-built weavers’ cottages. But competition combined with bad pay and conditions to bring about poverty and direct action.
This tour moves from Bethnal Green to Spitalfields and takes in weavers’ cottages and Georgian townhouses. We see the site of an armed confrontation, and two of the oldest shopfronts in London.
When the hipster came to town, suddenly to be un-hip was to be hipper than hip. The rejection of fashion norms became a fashion choice in itself. But it has also provided the impetus for a new air of creativity, and the means for creatives to thrive.
This tour takes us from Shoreditch and through Bethnal Green and Spitalfields to experience the new creative economy.
Starting out from Limehouse, this tour evokes the monsters created by Peter Ackroyd in his depictions of the East End riverside. We encounter the Architect, Frankenstein’s Monster, and of course the Limehouse Golem.
The tour features readings from three of Ackroyd’s novels, and from Limehouse we pass through Ratcliffe to finish in Shadwell.
With the nineteenth century development of London, new pressures were brought to bear on the already crowded areas of Whitechapel and Spitalfields. Very soon poverty and disease were turning this area into an alien territory of suffering and vice.
This tour sees how Victorian London reached out to the dark shadow clinging to the north-eastern corner of the City. We see wash houses, refuges and soup kitchens, as well as the evidence of slum clearance and educational outreach.
So deeply have the Ripper Murders touched our collective imaginations that they have passed into London folklore, but what actually happened between August and November 1888? And why do the murders grip us still?
This is no grim sideshow of a tour; rather it explores the five murders within their social context. Also we explore the public perception, and issues that arise from the murderer’s peculiar signature.
Once maritime trade brought a vivid and exotic life to the riverside areas of the East End. Though in the 1970s this flood tide of trade ebbed downriver to Tilbury Docks, it left behind a wealth of heritage. These are the tidemarks which remind us of those exciting times when the world came to London.
From St Katharine’s to Shadwell this tour explores the Port of London and the experiences of the merchant seaman ashore. It conjures up the vibrancy of the riverside East End.
All pictures sourced from Wikimedia Commons, except St Anne Limehouse (detail) © 2018 Alan Tucker and One Canada Square © 2020 David Charnick