Whitechapel, once the archetypal ‘Dickensian’ London district steeped in poverty, has now reinvented itself as a colourful area of the East End, made famous for its prominent ethnic community and legendary curry houses on the iconic Brick Lane.
The area was notorious during the 19th century for its overcrowding, squalor and prostitution, and strongly associated with Jack the Ripper at the time of the infamous Whitechapel Murders. The area remained poor throughout the first half of the 20th century and suffered considerable damage in the Blitz, with many buildings later ripped down and elegantly renovated by developers.
Nowadays, a prominent Bengali Muslim community have made an impact in the area, particularly around Brick Lane and the East London Hospital, with the East London Mosque acting as a major symbol of the resident Islamic population. The area is also considered a cultural hub for community based political activism, particularly of an anti-authoritarian, anti-war trend.
Whitechapel is a vibrant area with buzzing street markets and an excellent, recently expanded art venue, The Whitechapel Gallery - a haven for aspiring artists. It also figures prominently in London’s punk rock/skuzz scene, with the Whitechapel Factory and Rhythm Factory venues being particularly popular.
Linked to Whitechapel High Street is the famous Brick Lane, known locally as Banglatown - a vibrant and colourful street now at the heart of the city’s Bangladeshi-Sylheti community. As a result of this ethnic concentration, Brick Lane has become famed as one of the most famous curry capitals of the UK. In addition, a vibrant art and fashion student scene has emerged – with a lot of fine art and fashion course work exhibited locally. In recent years, Brick Lane has also become known for its use of graffiti, with controversial artist, Banksy featuring particularly heavily. It has been made further iconic by the publication of Monica Ali’s book Brick Lane and 2007 film of the same name.
Architecturally, the more period properties are found near the hospital – with 3- and 4- storey Victorian terraces and Georgian houses abound. Nearby, a number of luxury flat developments and countless conversions, including lofts, churches, breweries and schools, attract Londoners seeking something a little more unique.