Bethnal Green, part of the world famous east end of London. Have you ever fancied some Jellied Eels with pie n mash me old china? No, me neither, but if you did, Bethnal Green is the place to be. You can also get a nice hot Ruby Murray, but be careful, I hear it can make you Raspberry Tart!
As you may have guessed, it is also home to cockney rhyming slang, a dialect unique to the Bethnal Green and the surrounding areas. Bethnal Green is famous as a working class area, and has many notable historical figures associated with the area. The first would be Jack The Ripper who operated on the borders of Bethnal Green and Whitechapel. The mystery that surrounds him and his identity, has ensured that even today, he is a household name with several movies made on his life. In modern day, you can follow in his footsteps with one of the many walking tours that are on offer.
Other famous residents of Bethnal Green were the Kray Twins. Yet again, people that were of more interest to the police or mental health services, but due to media glorification and the notion of the working man’s criminal, they have worldwide notoriety with their violent deeds overlooked as they were men of the people.
That’s the worst that Bethnal Green had to offer. A chronicler of the working man in the area and a local resident was Karl Marx, author of the Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital. His writing on the area can be seen in Capital, where he explores the poverty and extreme deprivation of Bethnal Green.
Modern day Bethnal Green is a different place. On the turn of the millennium, the area began to undergo a process of gentrification. Bethnal Green’s is positioned well for many local amenities which is the main draw to residents.
Bethnal Green shares a border with the oldest public park in Britain, Victoria Park. It is here that there are festivals, music concerts, firework displays and it will even have a part to play in the forthcoming Olympics. Also on the border is Brick Lane, famed for its local dish, the above mentioned Ruby Murray = Curry. There are also street festivals, markets and some great live music venues and clubs that are set in the spacious old buildings that used to be warehouses. Well worth a visit on a night out.
Within the boundaries of Bethnal Green itself, you have such attractions as Colombia Road Flower Market. As the market traders would say “better than a garden centre”. If you love flowers, I expect that is true.
For exercise there is York Hall which opened in 1929 and has a boxing ring, gymnasium and a swimming pool. As part of a recent refurbishment, there is also Spa London where you can relax and choose from one of the 50 treatments on offer, the Turkish Baths or a sauna.
The Museum of Childhood (part of the V & A) is one of the few of its kind and has collections of children’s toys that date back to the 18th century. A popular choice for school trips, but If you have kids, it’s well recommended as a day out.
Nettewell House in Victoria Park square is one of the oldest houses in the area. Inhabited since at least 1550, the house has been remodelled in 1705 and 1862. Its most notable event was in 1666, as the Great Fire of London raged, it was here that Samuel Pepys brought his books and other possessions to escape the flames. Among the books were his diaries which have since become world famous.
Finally, for architecture you have several places of interest to visit. There is St John’s church by Bethnal Green tube station, opened in 1828, anyone who uses the central line or one of the nearby bus stops, will see this spectacular building on a regular basis. Slightly further afield is the Old Bethnal Green Town Hall. Set on the corner of Patriot Square and Cambridge Heath Road, it is easy to miss if you are not looking as its main bulk is set back from the main road. At the moment, it is vacant and used for filming, the most notable recently was the locally based Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
Bethnal Green’s housing stock is a mixture of new build flats, Victorian houses and some ex locals. With Bethnal Green Road being a hub of shopping and leisure pursuits, the area has become popular with city workers who look for this and of course being on the central line for tube access to the rest of London. A charming place to live with plenty to do, I would highly recommend it.