Living in Bethnal Green

Bethnal Green is an easy, central and convenient neighbourhood. The central line runs through it and is a few stops to key spots, like St. Paul’s, Oxford Circus or Notting Hill. There is an overground train in Shoreditch and the Liverpool train station for trains to Cambridge and Stansted airport. There are buses always running.

The Blind Beggar Pub was established in 1894. It's a typical old Victorian bar in London. It's also the site of some pretty brutal history, and gangland London when the Kray Twins ruled the roost in the 1960s. It's thought the pub got its name from an old Local Legend about a Blind Beggar and a Local Lord. It was opened on the site of the old Mile End Toll Gate, where Jack the Ripper committed a lot of his crimes. Later on, in the 1960s, 9th March 1966, Ronnie Kray walked into the pub and shot George Cornell dead with a 9MM Mauser. The record playing on the juke box at the time, which also got hit by a bullet was 'The Sun Ain't gonna shine anymore' by the Walker Brothers.

There are lots of great markets and vintage shops to browse through in Bethnal Green, Columbia Road Flower market is brilliant on a Sunday. Spend all day there, having brunch and go home with armfuls of flowers and plants. Also nearby are Spitalfields, Petticoat Lane, Roman Road, and Brick Lane. There are lots of cool vintage Shops and boutiques on the Bethnal Green High Road.

The best bits of the borough are in pockets off the main roads – Globe Road for pubs, galleries, cafes and shops; Broadway Market for fresh produce and artisan foods; and Columbia Road for its flower market.

Beyond Retro is on Cheshire Street and there are a host of pop-up vintage sales such as The Bethnal Green Affordable Vintage Fair. For high-street knockoffs, there’s also a market on Bethnal Green Road.

Property in Bethnal Green

  • Three Colts Lane E2
  • Mettle & Poise, Hackney Road E2

Area History

The first recorded names for Bethnal Green were Blithehale and Blythenhale. These could be translated as “happy corner”, although nobody is exactly sure where the name came from. Over time, the area became known as Blethenal Green and then Bethan Hall Green.

The current name for the area probably came from the local pronunciation of Bethan Hall Green, ultimately leading to the connecting of Bethan and Hall to Bethnal. This was a marshy forest land for many years that seemed a relatively quiet and sleepy hamlet.

During the 16th century merchants and noblemen were building large houses in the fields and Bethnal Green remained a pleasant country retreat on the outskirts of London until about 1700. Thereafter, houses began to line Dog Row (now Cambridge Heath Road) and Bethnal Green soon developed into one of the first manufac¬turing districts in the East End, becoming a separate parish in 1743.

The parish gained fame for chair-making and silk-weaving, though market gardens clung on in the eastern part. During the following century Bethnal Green became one of London’s poorest quarters, described by Karl Marx as a “notorious district” because of its child labour.

During the 1700s, the area became associated with boxing. The champion of England, Daniel Mendoza, spent most of his adult life living in Bethnal Green. The area became well known for boxing gyms. You can still watch boxing at the York Hall leisure centre in the area.

During the 1800s, the area became home to an influx of silk weavers who spilled over from the Spitalfields area; this led to a need for more housing. Bethnal Green expanded and local authorities built an area called Globe Town. This saw the local population treble by the 1830s and there are estimates that 20,000 weavers had looms working in their homes in the weaving heyday.

Although the silk weaving industry declined in the next few decades, Globe Town kept on growing until the 1860s. If you take a walk around this area, be sure to look for its four sculptures of globes set into its four corners.

Bethnal Green also became well-known for its market gardens, however by the end of the 19th century it was turning into a bit of a slum. It was overcrowded, had inadequate housing and suffered from a lot of poverty and crime related problems. By 1900, however, moves were made to get rid of some of the worst slum housing and local authorities built the Boundary Estate. This is held to be the first council housing development in the world.

The original buildings of what became the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington were re-erected on Cambridge Heath Road between 1868 and 1872 and they now house the Museum of Childhood, which draws nearly a quarter of a million visitors annually.