Thanks to a massive influx of young cosmopolitans, East London (home of November's 58 Gin!) has earned a certain reputation in recent years. But this hipster-laden side of the Big Smoke has a history that dates way, way back – and has a few amazing surprises up its sleeve! Here are six facts that are sure to surprise…
1. There are over 1,000 bodies buried underneath Aldgate Station
Image: L. Allen Brewer/Flickr
During the Great Plague of 1665, several pits were dug around the city to bury the bodies of those who caught the deadly disease. Aldgate Station happened to be constructed on top of one of the largest of these ‘plague pits’. So next time you pass through east London on your commute, try not to think too hard about what might be deep below you…
2. East London is one of the most popular film locations in the city
A Clockwork Orange; Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels; Full Metal Jacket; Sherlock Holmes; The Danish Girl… the list of films and television programmes filmed in East London is much, much longer than this. Before your next trip, have a quick online search and see if your favourite spots were shot here – then pay them a visit!
3. Brick Lane used to house an animal market
The market at Brick Lane is diverse even today, but back in the 50s it was home to an exotic animal market. It started as a dog and bird market, and over a couple of decades it grew and began selling animals of all types, including snakes, monkeys and even lions. It was shut down in the late 70s by the RSPCA, and today is home to mostly vintage garments, good eats and various knick-knacks.
4. The name Shoreditch originally meant… ‘Sewer’s Ditch’?
East London has never been the most elegant part of London – in fact, until the late 1900s much of it was inarguably grim. Fittingly, the name of one of the area’s most popular boroughs, Shoreditch, is believed to come from the Old English Soersditch, meaning ‘Sewer’s Ditch’. An alternative etymology claims that the name comes from that of one of King Edward IV’s mistress, Jane Shore, who died and was buried in a ditch in the area.
5. It was the stomping ground of William Shakespeare
Image: TripAdvisor Australia
Shakespeare came to Shoreditch as an actor and lived in east London. While he’s most famous for his Globe Theatre, it’s rumoured that his plays Henry V and Romeo and Juliet premiered at the Curtain Theatre, his original playhouse in Shoreditch.
6. It was the inspiration for one of our favourite programmes: EastEnders!
Image: The Construction Index
If the name of this famous soap didn’t make it clear enough, the fictional Borough of Walford was really based on locations in London’s East End. Albert Square, one of the main settings in the programme, is based off of Fassett Square and a nearby market in Dalston. The spot that Walford East station is found on the Tube map is the sport where, in reality, Bromley-by-Bow can be found. One of the programme’s most longstanding cast members, Barbara Windsor, was even born and raised in east London, and once mingled with notorious gangsters, the Kray twins.