OK, so the debate may continue over whether Sweeney Todd was an actual person (according to author Peter Haining, the real Todd, born in Brick Lane, is supposed to have been hanged in 1802) or a fictional character, but, suspending that debate for the moment, we’re including the infamous Fleet Street barber in this list.

186-Fleet-StreetKnown as the “demon barber of Fleet Street”, Todd first appeared in literature as a murderer in the Victorian serial, The String of Pearls: A Romance, published in a weekly periodical, and soon became a staple of the Victorian theatre, later appearing in numerous plays and films including the 2007 Johnny Depp vehicle, Sweeney Todd.

His MO usually involved cutting his unsuspecting victim’s throat and then, using a specially constructed barber’s chair, dropping the body into the cellar. There, he and his associate, Mrs Lovett, would rob them (alternatively, other versions have him dropping the customers into the cellar first and then, if needed, finishing them off).

Mrs Lovett would then dispose of the remains by baking them into pies and selling them via her pie shop located nearby in Bell Yard. The story goes that the cellar was linked to nearby Bell Yard via tunnels.

Sweeney Todd was supposed to have terrorised London in the late 18th century and his barber shop was apparently located at 186 Fleet Street in London – right next to St Dunstan-in-the-West. The site is now occupied by a former newspaper office – that of the Dundee Courier (pictured above, left).

For Peter Haining’s book on Sweeney Todd, see Sweeney Todd: The Real Story of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

PICTURE: 186 Fleet Street, Sweeney Todd’s (Des Blenkinsopp) / CC BY-SA 2.0

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One of the more well-known street markets of London, there has been a market operating in Petticoat Lane (later known as Middlesex Street) in East London since the 17th century.

The market – which lies in relatively close proximity to the Columbia Road Flower Market and Old Spitalfields Market as well as Brick Lane – started to emerge in the early 1600s as a place where clothes were traded and received a boost with the arrival of Huguenot silk weavers who settled in the area later that century having fled religious persecution in the continent (it’s believed the lane was named after the silk petticoats which were sold here).

During the 1800s the area become renowned as the centre of the clothes manufacturing trade and the market was the place to buy the clothes. Around 1830, the name of the street was changed from Petticoat Lane to Middlesex Street after some sensibilities were offended that the street was named after unmentionables.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the market became dominated by Jewish traders who had arrived in London, like the Huguenots before them, fleeing persecution in Europe. They added new life to the market and maintained the coster traditions.

Like many other street markets in London, the market didn’t get formal approval until quite late in life – only in 1936 was it was protected by an Act of Parliament.

These days the market – one of 1o managed by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in whose jurisdiction the majority of the market lies – occupies the lanes and streets centring on Middlesex Street including Cobb Street, Goulston Street and Wentworth Street (which has long had a street market in its own right). It is open weekdays as well as Sunday when there are more than 1,000 stalls selling everything from clothes to CDs, books and artwork.

WHERE: Middlesex Street (nearest Tube stations are Aldgate, Aldgate East and Liverpool Street); WHEN: 10am to 4pm, Monday to Friday and 9am to 3pm Sunday; COST: Free.

PICTURE: Andrew Dunn, www.andrewdunnphoto.com (via Wikipedia).

An area of the East End of London which has become synonymous with the Jack the Ripper murders of the late 1880s, the origins of the name Whitechapel actually lie much further back in history.

The name dates back to the 14th century when the church of St Mary Matfelon (or Matfelun) was built on what is now the corner of Whitechapel High Street and Adler Street. The church, which was known as the “white chapel” apparently thanks to the white stone used in the walls, was apparently first constructed the mid 13th century and is said to have been named after a prominent local family. It became the parish church of Whitechapel in the 14th century.

Rebuilt and extended several times over the ensuing centuries – including in 1673 and the 1870s, it was bombed during the Blitz in 1940 and ultimately finally removed in 1952. The site where it once stood is now the Altab Ali Park, named after a young Bangladeshi man who was murdered in a racially motivated attack in Adler Street in 1978.

Whitechapel originally stood along the road, which from Roman times ran from London to Colchester. The fact it stood outside the city walls meant it to became home to some of the city’s more undesirable businesses including slaughterhouses, tanneries and breweries.

Greater numbers of poor came into the area from Middle Ages onwards and by the mid-1800s it was one of London’s most crowded, poorest and disease ridden areas, known for its immigrant population and for its rising levels of crime.

This reputation was only solidified in 1888 when the killings of the so-called murderer Jack the Ripper garnered worldwide attention for the brutal slayings of at least five women (some believe the figure should be much higher). Speculation still surrounds the Ripper’s identity.

These days, Whitechapel – along with many inner city areas – is undergoing a gentrification process and is now known as something of a hub for art and music as well as home to a street market in Brick Lane.

Ripperology aside, other notable landmarks include The Blind Beggar pub in Whitechapel Road (it was here gangster Ronnie Kray shot George Cornell in 1966; its sign is pictured above) and the Whitechapel Bell Foundry (described in the Guinness Book of Records as Britain’s oldest manufacturing company, it was founded in 1570 and among the most famous bells cast there are the US Liberty Bell (1752) Big Ben (1858) – stay tuned for our upcoming ‘London’s Oldest’ entry).

The area is also home to the internationally renowned Whitechapel Gallery on the corner of Brick Lane and Whitechapel High Street and the East London Mosque, one of the largest in the UK.