Image by David Burrows Shutterstock
The East End’s main thoroughfare hums with a constant cacophony of Asian, African, European and Middle Eastern languages, its busy shops and market stalls selling everything from Indian snacks to Nigerian fabrics and Turkish jewellery, as the area’s multitudinous ethnic groupings rub up against each other more or less comfortably. It’s a chaotic and poor place, but it’s full of life.
Within a few minutes’ walk of Whitechapel tube station you’ll pass the enormous East London Mosque. Behind it, on Fieldgate St, is oversized Tower House – once a hostel and then a dosshouse, but now a redeveloped apartment block. Past residents include Joseph Stalin and authors Jack London and George Orwell. The latter described it in detail in Down and Out in Paris and London (1933).
Whitechurch Rd morphs into Mile End Rd at the intersection with Cambridge Heath Rd, but just before it does you'll find the Blind Beggar. William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, preached his first streetside sermon outside this pub in 1865; there's a statue to his memory near the beginning of Mile End Rd. The pub is also famous as the place where notorious gangster Ronnie Kray shot and killed George Cornell in 1966 during a turf war over control of the East End’s organised crime. He was jailed for life and died in 1995.
It's worth strolling 150m along Mile End Rd to take a look at the Trinity Green Almshouses. Built for injured or retired sailors in 1695, the two rows of almshouses run at right angles away from the street, facing a lawn and a central chapel with a clock tower.