Now and then on an old London street corner

A few years ago I did a short series of then and now photos showing how places have changed since the advent of photography

I’ve seen the photo below before and still think it is very evocative. This is the junction of Fieldgate Street and Plumbers Row in Whitechapel, London. The building in front is the side of Whitechapel Bell Foundry, until recently one of the oldest commercial organisations in the world.


The foundry is older but it moved to this site around 1740, the building used to be The Artichoke Alehouse or pub.

This Foundry created the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and also Big Ben in London. One of the theories of the naming of Big Ben is that the original Big Ben was a champion bears knuckle boxer in Whitechapel and the bell was named in his honour.

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Casting bells in Whitechapel

Recently the Foundry had a purple period as orders of Handbells went through the roof due to the popularity of Downton Abbey.

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Sadly the foundry closed just a year or so ago but the local outcry of it being redeveloped by a foreign buyer to build a hotel and shops on it has stopped this from happening and there are strong moves to re-open the foundry even if just as a heritage site.


One of the two most likely streets for the home of Jack The Ripper is just a building or so behind the foundry.

You can see in the old photo the building on the right has either war damage or was just generally falling apart. Many of the buildings in Whitechapel were all ready falling apart and ready to be pulled down even in the time of Jack The Ripper and in the 1970’s and 80’s it was thought better to start from scratch though in the 21st century, the many surviving buildings have been restored.  The original old photo was taken by a photographer in the 1960’s-70’s as you might just be able to tell from the clothing the figure is wearing on the right.

Below you can see the same scene today.

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There has been massive works to ‘improve’ Whitechapel and re-aligned the road junction to create a public seating area.

Either way it’s pretty certain that Jack The Ripper, the Elephant Man and The Krays will have walked here many a time.

Away from the awful crimes and poverty of the past, you can see some of the incredible street art in whitechapel  as well as some sights around Whitechapel.  Or my recent post on the Aldgate Priory which I just ‘discovered’!

About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including several #1 sellers. I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. I run my private tours company with one tour stated by the leading travel website as being with the #1 authentic London Experience. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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2 Responses to Now and then on an old London street corner

  1. 23rd November 1848 16 Plummers Row, Stepney bith of Henry Hugkulstone one of ancestors.
    Still there in 1851 census.
    Henry’s father John was a waterproofer by trade on Henry’s marriage certificate (1871).
    Thanks for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: The secret world of Knocker-upper’s! | Stephen Liddell

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