Formerly Nos. 1 and
2 Princes Street
These two houses, on the south side of the street, were the last of the original houses to be built in
Princelet Street. The builder was Samuel
Worrall of Spitalfields, carpenter, under ninety-nine-year leases granted by
Wood and Michell on 27 January 1723/4, the houses having by then been built.
(fn. 64)The site had been vacant in Feb ruary 1721/2. (fn. 65) The leases also
included No. 6 Wilkes Street,
which was built at the same time. The lease of No. 2 was witnessed by Marmaduke
In June 1724 Worrall assigned his leases of No. 2 and of
No. 6 Wilkes Street
to a glover for £756. (fn. 66) No. 4 was occupied in 1724 by Benjamin Truman.
No. 2, the south-west corner house,contains three storeys and a roof loft. The building is one room deep and has a frontage four windows wide, with the doorway in the second opening from the left. Although the original fenestration pattern remains, the front has been refaced, or altered, and covered with stucco, probably around 1860. The ground storey is channel-jointed and the upper part coursed in imitation of stonework. The door way, and the one opening on to
Street, have cornice-hoods resting on moulded
consoles. The interior appears to be largely original. The hall is lined with
plain rebated panelling finished with a box-cornice, and the dog-leg staircase
has closed strings, turned balusters, column-newels, and moulded straight
As originally built, No. 2 was uniform with No. 4 which survives in a much less altered state. Each of the upper two storeys of No. 4 has four evenly spaced windows, with a blind window against the party wall to complete the even rhythm across the two fronts. The ground storey has a stucco facing of about 1820, with Doric pilasters supporting a plain entablature. The rest of the front is of yellow brick, with red brick jambs and high segmental arches to the windows, which now contain wooden casements with hoppers. A brick bandcourse underlines the parapet which is finished with a stone coping. One small hipped-roofed dormer lights the loft. The interior finishings are similar to those in No. 2, but in far better order.
Spitalfields' historic association with the silk industry was established by French Protestant (Huguenots) refugees who settled in this area after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. By settling here, outside the bounds of the City of
, they hoped to avoid the restrictive
legislation of the City Guilds. The Huguenots brought with them little, apart
from their skills, and an Order in Council of 16 April 1687 raised £200,000 for
the relief of their poverty. In December 1687, the first report of the
committee set up to administer the funds reported that 13,050 French refugees were
settled in London, primarily around Spitalfields, but also in the nearby
settlements of Bethnal Green, Shoreditch, Whitechapel and Mile End New Town. London
The late 17th and 18th centuries saw an estate of well-appointed terraced houses, built to accommodate the master weavers controlling the silk industry, and grand urban mansions built around the newly created
, Spitalfields on Christ Church Fournier Street,
designed by the architect Nicholas Hawksmoor, was built during the reign of
Queen Anne to demonstrate the power of the established church to the dissenting
Huguenots, who had built ten of their own chapels in the area.More humble
weavers dwellings were congregated in the Tenterground.
There has been a market on the site since 1638 when Charles I gave a licence for flesh, fowl and roots to be sold in what was then known as Spittle Fields. The Market currently receives around 25,000 visitors every week.
From the 1730s Irish weavers came here, after a decline in the Irish linen industry to take up work in the silk trade. The 18th century saw periodic crises in the silk industry, bought on by imports of French silk – in a lull between the wars between the two rivals; and imports of printed calicos. The depression in the trade, and thence the prices paid to weavers, led to protests. In 1769, the Spitalfield Riots occurred, where attempts were made to break up meetings of weavers, called to discuss the threat to wages, caused by another downturn in the market for silk. This ended with an Irish and a Huguenot weaver being hanged in front of the Salmon and Ball public house at Bethnal Green.
Price controls on amounts master weavers could pay journeymen for each piece were established. This removed all incentive to pay higher wages during good times. During bad times workers had no work. As the price was per piece, there was incentive for using machinery, as master would have to pay for the machine and still pay the same price per piece to journeymen. By 1822 labour rates were so above market labour rates, that much of the employment in silk manufacture had moved to the country. Remaining manufacture tended to focus on expensive fashion items, which required proximity to court and had higher margins.
By the Victorian era, the silk industry had entered a long decline and the old merchant dwellings had degenerated into multi-occupied slums. Spitalfields became a by-word for urban deprivation, and, by 1832, concern at a
cholera epidemic led The Poor Man's Guardian (18 February 1832) to write of
The low houses are all huddled together in close and dark lanes and alleys, presenting at first sight an appearance of non-habitation, so dilapidated are the doors and windows:- in every room of the houses, whole families, parents, children and aged grandfathers swarm together.
1860, a treaty was established with ,
allowing the import of cheaper French silks. This left the many weavers in
Spitalfields, and neighbouring Bethnal Green and Shoreditch indigent. New
trades such as furniture and boot making came to the area; and the large
windowed Huguenot houses were found suitable for tailoring, attracting a new
population of Jewish refugees drawn to live and work in the textile industry. France
By the later 19th century inner Spitalfields had eclipsed rival claimants to the dubious distinction of being the worst criminal rookery of
with common lodging-houses in the Flower and London Dean Street area being a focus for the
activities of robbers and prostitutes. The latter street was dubbed in 1881 as
being "perhaps the foulest and most dangerous street in the
metropolis". Another claimant to the distinction of being "the worst
street in London" was nearby Dorset Street, which was highlighted by the
brutal killing and mutilation of a young woman named Mary Kelly in her lodgings
here by the serial killer known as Jack the Ripper in the autumn of 1888.This
was the climax of a whole series of slayings of local prostitutes that became
known as the Whitechapel Murders. The sanguinary activities of "Jack"
was one of the factors which prompted the demolition of some of the worst streets
in the area 1891-94. Deprivation, however, continued and was brought to notice
by social commentators such as Jack London in his The People of the Abyss
(1903). He highlighted ' Itchy Park', next to ,
Spitalfields, as a notorious rendezvous for homeless vagrants. Christ Church
In the late 20th century the Jewish presence diminished, to be replaced by an influx of Bangladeshi immigrants, who also worked in the local textile industry and made
Brick Lane the curry capital of . London
Another development, from the 1960s onwards, has been a campaign to save the housing stock of old merchant terraces to the west of
from demolition. Many have been conserved by the Spitalfields Historic
Buildings Trust. This has led to gentrification, a large increase in property
prices and the removal of the last of the vagrants from the area.
Current 'urban regeneration' has also seen the erection of large modern office blocks, between Bishopsgate and Spitalfields Market. These represent, in effect, an expansion of the City of
beyond its traditional bounds, into this area. However, a rear-guard action by
conservationists has resulted in the preservation of Old Spitalfields Market
and the provision of shopping, leisure amenities and a new plaza behind the
city blocks.Permission was granted to demolish the Fruit and Wool exchange on
the edge of old Spitalfields market to provide office buildings by developer
Since 1998 the area has formed part of the larger Spitalfields and Banglatown local government ward. This decision was considered controversial at the time and still rouses strong opinions on both sides.
Dennis Severs' House in
Folgate Street is a "still-life
drama" created by the previous owner as an "historical
imagination" of what life would have been like inside for a family of
Huguenot silk weavers. In 2009, Raven Row, a non-profit contemporary
art centre, opened to the public at 56
Artillery Lane. Constructed within a pair of 18th
century silk merchants' houses, onto which London practice 6a Architects added
two contemporary galleries, it stands on the part of the street know until 1895
as Raven Row.
is located at the bottom of Whitechapel
Art Gallery Brick
Amongst the many well known artists living in Spitalfields are Gilbert and George, Ricardo Cinalli, Tracey Emin and Stuart Brisley. TV presenter, architecture expert and Georgian fanatic Dan Cruickshank was an active campaigner for Spitalfields, and continues to live in the area. Writer Jeanette Winterson turned a derelict Georgian house into an organic food shop, Verde's, as part of the Slow Food movement.
Spitalfields figures in a number of works of literature, including A New Wonder, a Woman Never Vexed (performed 1610-14; printed 1632) by William Rowley, a dramatisation of the foundation of St Mary Spital; The People of the Abyss (1903), the journalistic memoir by Jack London; Hawksmoor (1985) by Peter Ackroyd; Rodinsky's Room (1999) by Iain Sinclair and Rachel Lichtenstein; Brick Lane (2003) by Monica Ali; and The Quincunx (1991) by Charles Palliser.
19th century Spitalfields was recreated as the setting for the film From Hell about Jack the Ripper. This included a reconstruction (in
of the notorious Ten Bells pub (still extant on Prague Commercial Street): alleged to have been
a rendezvous of some of the Ripper's prostitute victims, before they were
murdered. In the film Johnny Depp (as Inspector Abberline) is seen drinking
there with Ripper victim Mary Jane Kelly.