I’ve written countless posts over the years about Spitalfields, Whitechapel and Aldgate and many of them have been on less than savoury subjects but recently when I was out and about walking through the area I decided to revisit one of the more upmarket districts.
Of course at one point the whole area was very well-to-do and was home to the Huguenots who were essentially refugees from France who settled in London to escape religious persecution in their homeland. Around 50,000 of them settled here between 1670 and 1710 due to an invite by King Charles II.
As their trade was Silk Weaving, they were generally rather wealthy and were mobile than others in France and so were more able to flee abroad. Their wealth and status helped create the beautiful old streets of Spitalfields, many of which later fell into poverty by the time of Jack The Ripper 200 years later and indeed continued to do so until the turn of the millenium.
Large sections of the area were also either decimated by The Blitz in WW2 or pulled down as the houses had become dilapidated and beyond repair and few valued the now runs-down buildings.
These days Spitalfields is a booming place and there are fascinating pockets of Huguenot grandeur scattered all around as well as other reminders of the days when French was widely spoken in the streets.
It’s often overlooked though as it is surrounded by more famous districts such as trendy Shoreditch to the north, Liverpool Street and the City of London to the west, Aldgate to the south and Whitechapel to the east. To met though, Spitalfields is my favourite as I love the mix of old and new and the vibrancy therein.
Whilst I was walking around, I found an old wooden spindle mounted outside the house. There used to be more of them around and one has gone even in the last few years so it was a nice surprise to notice this one here, celebrating the Huguenot silk weavers who sought refuge (actually this is where the word refugee originates from) in London and whose industriousness and wealth has bequeathed such a marvellous legacy.
I think I have more than enough places to create a wonderful tour without mention that man Jack what’s his name!