East London: Where broken dreams go to die

‘Living in East London is like constantly being in the brief moment of silence that occurs after someone has just dropped a large tray of drinks in a pub. Pregnant with tension, and the possibility of experiencing extreme violence in the near future.’

Now home to some of the most hip people in London, many of the area’s residents have cultivated an urbane posture of disgust towards people from anywhere else in the country, much of where they live, and all other places. And while the East is in many ways the most avant-garde area of the capital, the region maintains some of its more celebrated connections to the past, with crime and prostitution still providing a upwardly mobile career path for many of the area’s school-leavers.

Historically the hang-out of new immigrants, criminal gangs and the working classes, East London has experienced its recent renaissance after realising that poverty didn’t have to be African in order to absorb money from the pockets of guilty middle class white people. Artists, writers and people who aspire to be either only for fate to deal them a poor hand of talent cards, have flocked to trendy boroughs like Hackney and Shoreditch in the hope of being discovered. And in fairness, they often are, usually found crying under a blanket in a the doorway of a vintage clothing shop.

Noticing the influx of callow ingénues, technology and advertising firms have moved in to convince these young free spirits that a career in online marketing is in fact the ultimate expression of modern creativity, and not merely this century’s equivalent of writing track notes in pencil on the inside of CD cases.


1280 – A leper hospital is founded in Dalston as an attachment to the chapel of St Bartholomew. Over seven hundred years later, the building is converted in to a bar called ‘The Leper Hospital’.

1415 – The Lord Mayor of London orders the building of unlit causeways across marshy lands towards Islington and Hoxton after caving in to requests from the powerful Guild of Highwaymen.

16th Century – Henry VIII uses a house on the south side of Newington Green as a base for hunting the wild bulls, stags and wild boars that form the basis of his Duchy Original’s butchery range.

1605 – Hoxton achieves notoriety after a letter arrives at the home of local resident William Parker warning him not to attend the Parliament convening on 5 November, warning that “they shall receive a terrible blow, the Parliament, and yet they shall not see who hurts them”. Parker immediately passes on the note to the authorities, fearing the Crown could become the victim of a Gotcha.

1933 – East End gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray are born in Stene Street Hoxton to their mother, Violent.

1998Hackney Council robustly rejects the accuracy of some national newspapers describing one of its streets as ‘Murder Mile’, pointing out that it is actually a much longer street.

Did You Know?

Fassett Square in Dalston was the inspiration for Albert Square, the fictional location of the BBC soap opera Eastenders. Writers were particularly taken by the square’s down-to-earth community feel, close family relationships, and persistently high levels of violent crime.

Co-operation between local police and Hackney council has resulted in the borough experiencing a bigger drop in crime than in any other London borough in the four year period up to 2007, seeing the area’s ranking in national crime statistics fall from first to first equal.


One thought on “East London: Where broken dreams go to die

  1. Pingback: Soerditch: A Diary of a Neighbourhood « Daniel Agnew

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