Bethnal Green is a district in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.
Located 3.3 miles (5.3 km) northeast of Charing Cross, it was
historically a hamlet in the ancient parish of Stepney, Middlesex.
Following population increases caused by the expansion of London
during the 18th century, it was split off from
Stepney as the parish
Bethnal Green in 1743, becoming part of the Metropolis in 1855 and
County of London
County of London in 1889. The parish became the Metropolitan
Bethnal Green in 1900 and the population peaked in 1901,
entering a period of steady decline which lasted until 1981.
The economic history of
Bethnal Green is characterised by a shift away
from agricultural provision for the
City of London
City of London to market
gardening, weaving and light industry, which has now all but
disappeared. The quality of the built environment had deteriorated by
the turn of the 20th century and was radically altered by the aerial
bombardment during the
Second World War
Second World War and the subsequent social
housing developments. Some 173 people were killed at a single incident
Bethnal Green Underground station in 1943.
Bethnal Green has formed
Greater London since 1965.
1.2 Early history
1.3 The Green and Poor's Land
1.4 Other houses on the Green
2 Globe Town
3 Modern history
9 Sport and leisure
10 See also
12 External links
The place name Blithehale or Blythenhale, the earliest form of Bethnal
Green, is derived from the Anglo-Saxon healh ("angle, nook, or
corner") and blithe ("happy, blithe"), or from a personal name Blitha.
Cambridge Heath (Camprichesheth), is unconnected with Cambridge
and may also derive from an Anglo-Saxon personal name. The area was
once marshland and forest which, as Bishopswood, lingered in the east
until the 16th century. Over time, the name became Bethan Hall
Green, which, because of local pronunciation as Beth'n 'all Green, had
by the 19th century changed to Bethnal Green.
Parish of Bethnal Green, 1848
A Tudor ballad, the Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green, tells the story of
an ostensibly poor man who gave a surprisingly generous dowry for his
daughter's wedding. The tale furnishes the parish of Bethnal Green's
coat of arms. According to one version of the legend, found in Thomas
Reliques of Ancient English Poetry
Reliques of Ancient English Poetry published in 1765, the
beggar was said to be Henry, the son of Simon de Montfort, but Percy
himself declared that this version was not genuine. The Blind
Beggar public house in
Whitechapel is reputed to be the site of his
Boxing has a long association with Bethnal Green. Daniel Mendoza, who
was champion of
England from 1792 to 1795 though born in Aldgate,
lived in Paradise Row on the western side of
Bethnal Green for 30
years. Since then numerous boxers have been associated with the area,
and the local leisure centre, York Hall, remains notable for
presentation of boxing bouts.
In 1841, the
Anglo-Catholic Nathaniel Woodard, who was to become a
highly influential educationalist in the later part of the 19th
century, became the curate of the newly created St. Bartholomew's in
Bethnal Green. He was a capable pastoral visitor and established a
parochial school. In 1843, he got into trouble for preaching a sermon
in which he argued that
The Book of Common Prayer
The Book of Common Prayer should have
additional material to provide for confession and absolution and in
which he criticised the "inefficient and Godless clergy" of the Church
of England. After examining the text of the sermon, the Bishop of
London condemned it as containing "erroneous and dangerous notions".
As a result, the bishop sent Woodard to be a curate in Clapton.
The Green and Poor's Land
The Green and Poor's Land is the area of open land now occupied by
Bethnal Green Library, the V&A Museum of Childhood and St John's
Church, designed by John Soane. In Stow's
Survey of London (1598) the
hamlet was called Blethenal Green. It was one of the hamlets included
in the Manor of
Stepney and Hackney. Hackney later became separated.
In 1678 the owners of houses surrounding the Green purchased the land
to save it from being built on and in 1690 the land was conveyed to a
trust under which it was to be kept open and rent from it used for the
benefit of poor people living in the vicinity. From that date, the
trust has administered the land and its minute books are kept in the
London Metropolitan Archives.
Bethnal House, or Kirby's Castle, was the principal house on the
Green. One of its owners was Sir Hugh Platt (1552–1608), author of
books on gardening and practical science. Under its next owner it was
visited by Samuel Pepys.
In 1727 it was leased to Matthew Wright and for almost two centuries
it was an asylum. Its two most distinguished inmates were Alexander
Cruden, compiler of the Concordance to the Bible, and the poet
Christopher Smart. Cruden recorded his experience in The London
Citizen Grievously Injured (1739) and Smart's stay there is recorded
by his daughter. Records of the asylum are kept in the annual reports
of the Commissioner in Lunacy. Even today, the park where the library
stands is known locally as "Barmy Park".
The original mansion, the White House, was supplemented by other
buildings. In 1891 the Trust lost the use of Poor's Land to the London
County Council. The asylum reorganised its buildings, demolishing the
historic White House and erecting a new block in 1896. This building
became the present
Bethnal Green Library. A history of Poor's Land and
Bethnal House is included in The Green, written by A.J. Robinson and
Other houses on the Green
The north end of the Green is associated with the Natt family. During
the 18th century they owned many of its houses.
Netteswell House is
the residence of the curator of the
Bethnal Green Museum. It is almost
certainly named after the village of Netteswell, near Harlow, whose
rector was the Rev. Anthony Natt. A few of its houses have become
University settlements. In Victoria Park Square, on the east side of
the Green, No. 18 has a Tudor well in its cellar.
Brick arch and globe sculpture on Roman Road, Bethnal Green, Globe
Town is directly to the right of photo.
To the east of
Bethnal Green (and west of Bow and north of Stepney)
lies the neighbourhood of Globe Town, established from 1800 to provide
for the expanding population of weavers around
Bethnal Green attracted
by improving prospects in silk weaving. The population of Bethnal
Green trebled between 1801 and 1831, operating 20,000 looms in their
own homes. By 1824, with restrictions on importation of French silks
relaxed, up to half these looms became idle and prices were driven
down. With many importing warehouses already established in the
district, the abundance of cheap labour was turned to boot, furniture
and clothing manufacture.
Globe Town continued its expansion into the
1860s, long after the decline of the silk industry.
Globe Town has three globe sculptures situated in three corners of the
area. The main shopping area is known as
Globe Town Market, and is
located on the northern border with
Bethnal Green next to the
Cranbrook Estate. The area is home to a large Bangladeshi community.
Part of Charles Booth's poverty map showing the
Old Nichol slum,
Bethnal Green Road
Slum children in bed, Bethnal Green, 1900-1910
Slum street in Bethnal Green, circa 1900
The silk-weaving trade spread eastwards from
the 18th century. This attracted many
Huguenot and Irish weavers to
the district. Large estates of small two story cottages were developed
in the west of the area to house them. A downturn in the trade in 1769
led to the Spitalfield Riots, and on 6 December 1769, two weavers
accused of 'cutting' were hanged in front of the Salmon and Ball
In the 19th century,
Bethnal Green remained characterised by its
market gardens and by weaving. Having been an area of large houses and
gardens as late as the 18th century, by about 1860
Bethnal Green was
mainly full of tumbledown old buildings with many families living in
each house. By the end of the century,
Bethnal Green was one of the
poorest slums in London.
Jack the Ripper
Jack the Ripper operated at the western end
Bethnal Green and in neighbouring Whitechapel. In 1900, the Old
Nichol Street Rookery was demolished, and the
Boundary Estate opened
on the site near the boundary with Shoreditch. This was the world's
first council housing, and brothers
Lew Grade and
Bernard Delfont were
brought up here. In 1909, the
Bethnal Green Estate was built with
money left by the philanthropist
William Richard Sutton which he left
for 'modern dwellings and houses for occupation by the poor of London
and other towns and populous places in England'.
On 3 March 1943 at 8:27PM the unopened
Bethnal Green Underground
station was the site of a wartime disaster. Families had crowded into
the underground station due to an air raid siren at 8:17, one of 10
that day. There was a panic at 8:27 coinciding with the sound of an
anti-aircraft battery (possibly the recently installed Z battery)
being fired at nearby Victoria Park. In the wet, dark conditions the
crowd was surging forward towards the shelter when a woman tripped on
the stairs, causing many others to fall. Within a few seconds 300
people were crushed into the tiny stairwell, resulting in 173 deaths.
Although a report was filed by Eric Linden with the Daily Mail, who
witnessed it, it never ran. The story which was reported instead was
that there had been a direct hit by a German bomb. The results of the
official investigation were not released until 1946. A plaque at
the entrance to the tube station commemorates it as the worst civilian
disaster of the
Second World War
Second World War and a memorial in nearby Bethnal Park
has been built. It was unveiled in a ceremony attended by Mayor of
Sadiq Khan and
Bethnal Green and Bow
Bethnal Green and Bow MP
Rushanara Ali on 17th
It is estimated that during the Second World War, 80 tons of
bombs fell on the Metropolitan Borough of Bethnal Green, affecting
21,700 houses, destroying 2,233 and making a further 893
uninhabitable. There were a total of 555 people killed and 400
seriously injured. Many unexploded bombs remain in the area, and
on 14 May 2007, builders discovered a
Second World War
Second World War 1 m long
500 lb (230 kg) bomb.
The book Family and Kinship in East London, based on materials
gathered in the 1950s, shows an improvement in working class life.
Husbands in the sample population no longer went out to drink but
spent time with the family. As a result, both birth rate and infant
death rate fell drastically and local prosperity increased. It is true
that the infamous gangsters, the Kray twins lived in
Bethnal Green in
the 1960s. However, by the beginning of the 21st century, Bethnal
Green and much of the old East End began to undergo a process of
Bethnal Green Infirmary, later the London County Council
Bethnal Green Hospital, stood opposite
Cambridge Heath railway
station. The hospital closed as a public hospital in the 1970s and was
a geriatric hospital under the NHS until the 1980s. Much of the site
was developed for housing in the 1990s but the hospital entrance and
administration block remains as a listed building. The Albion Rooms
are located in
Bethnal Green where
Pete Doherty and
Carl Barât of the
Libertines used to live when the band was together. It became part of
music history as the band would hold Guerilla Gigs in the flat that
would be packed with people.
The London Chest Hospital, founded in 1848 by Thomas Bevill Peacock,
was located in Approach Road and first opened in 1855. It closed on 17
April 2015 and its functions transferred to other sites of the Barts
Health NHS Trust.
A map showing the civil parish boundaries in 1870.
A map showing the wards of
Bethnal Green Metropolitan Borough as they
appeared in 1916.
Bethnal Green is centred around the Central line tube station at the
Bethnal Green Road, Roman Road and
Cambridge Heath Road.
The district is associated with the E2 postcode district, but this
also covers parts of Shoreditch,
Between 1986 and 1992, the name
Bethnal Green was applied to one of
seven neighbourhoods to which power was devolved from the council.
This resulted in replacement of much of the street signage in the area
that remains in place. This included parts of both
Whitechapel (north of the
Whitechapel Road) being more associated
with the post code and administrative simplicity than the historic
Bethnal Green had a total population of 27,849 at the 2011 census,
based on the north and south wards of Bethnal Green. The largest
single ethnic group is people of Bangladeshi descent, which constitute
38 percent of the area's population. Every year since 1999 the
Baishakhi Mela is celebrated in Weaver's Field,
Bethnal Green which
celebrates the Bengali New Year. The second largest are the White
British, constituting 30 percent of the area's population. Other
ethnic groups include Black Africans and Black Caribbeans.
The two main faiths of the people are
Islam and Christianity, with 50
Muslim and 34 percent Christians.
St John on Bethnal Green
St John on Bethnal Green from Roman Road.
There are many historical churches in Bethnal Green. Notable churches
include St John on Bethnal Green, located near Bethnal Green
Underground station, on
Bethnal Green Road and Roman Road. The church
was built from 1826 to 1828 by the architect John Soane. Other notable
churches include St Matthew - built by
George Dance the Elder
George Dance the Elder in 1746.
St Matthew is the mother church of Bethnal Green; the church's opening
coincided with a vast population increase in the former village of
Stepney, resulting in the need to separate the area around Bethnal
Green from the mother Parish of St Dunstan's, Stepney. All but the
bell tower, still standing today, was destroyed by fire and the church
again suffered devastating damage during the bombing campaigns of the
Second World War, resulting in the installation of a temporary church
within the bombed-out building. St. Matthew's remains a major beacon
of the local East End community and is frequented on Sundays and other
religious occasions by a mixture of established locals and more recent
migrants to the area.
Other churches include St Peter's (1841) and St James-the-Less (1842),
both by Lewis Vulliamy,
St James the Great
St James the Great by
Edward Blore (1843) and
St Bartholomew by
William Railton (1844). The church attendance in
Bethnal Green was 1 in 8 people since 1900, and is estimated around
100 people attend church today (only 10% attend regularly in the UK).
Baptisms, marriages and burials have been deposited nearly at all
churches in Bethnal Green.[clarification needed]
There are two Roman Catholic churches, St Casimir's and the Church of
Our Lady of the Assumption, in Bethnal Green. St Casimir serves
London's Lithuanian community and masses are held in both Lithuanian
and English. The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption hosts the
London Chinese Catholic Centre and Chinese mass is held weekly.
Other Christian churches include The Good Shepherd Mission, The
Bethnal Green Medical Mission, The
Bethnal Green Methodist
The Quakers hold regular meetings in
Old Ford Road.
There are at least eight Islamic mosques or places of worship in
Bethnal Green for the
Muslim community. These include the Baitul
Mosque and Cultural Centre, Darul Hadis Latifiah, the
Senegambian Islamic Cultural Centre and the
The London Buddhist Centre, at 51 Roman Road, is one of the largest
urban Buddhist centres in the West, and is the focus of a large
Buddhist residential and business community in the area.
Main article: List of schools in Tower Hamlets
Bethnal Green has numerous primary schools serving children aged three
to 11. St. Matthias School on Bacon Street, off Brick Lane, is
over a century old and uses the Seal of the old Metropolitan Borough
Bethnal Green as its badge and emblem. The school
is over a century old but underwent extensive remodelling in 1994 and
added a new sports hall on its Granby Street former playground site in
2006. The school is linked with the nearby 18th
century St. Matthew's Church on St. Matthew's Row.
Bangabandhu Primary School, named after the father of Bangladesh,
Sheikh Mujib, a non-selective state community school, was opened
in January 1989, moved to a new building in November 1991, and has
over 450 pupils. 70% of the school's pupils speak English as a second
language, with a majority speaking Sylheti, a dialect of Bengali, at
home. In 2010, the
Ofsted inspectorate deemed
Bangabandhu a "successful and effective school" where pupils "achieve
well and make good progress". One of several independent schools
in the area, Gatehouse School, near Victoria Park, was established in
1948, and follows a Montessori-style curriculum for younger pupils.
Bethnal Green's oldest secondary school is Raine's Foundation School,
with sites on Old
Bethnal Green and Approach roads, a voluntary aided
Anglican school founded in 1719. The school relocated several
times, amalgamating with St. Jude's School  to become
coeducational in 1977.
Bethnal Green Academy, is one of the top
schools and sixth form colleges in London, Other schools in the area
include Oaklands School, and Morpeth School.
The V&A Museum of Childhood on
Cambridge Heath Road houses the
child related objects of the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The Bethnal Park and
Bethnal Green Library provide leisure facilities
Bethnal Green (not to be confused with the London
Underground station of the same name) on the Enfield & Cheshunt
Chingford Lines that opened in 1872 as
Bethnal Green Junction
until 1946: it was also formerly served by trains on the Great
Eastern Main Line (GEML) via Stratford. Whilst the majority of
Shoreditch High Street railway station which opened in 27 April 2010
is situated within
Shoreditch in Hackney, the station entrance on
Braithwaite Street is actually within
Bethnal Green and the London
Borough of Tower Hamlets. The station is served by London Overground's
extended East London Line
Bethnal Green opened on the 4 December 1946 on the
Central Line however construction of the Central line's eastern
extension was started in the 1930s, and the tunnels were largely
complete at the outbreak of the
Second World War
Second World War although rails were
not laid and was a site of a major wartime disaster during the war.
The station is part of the
Night Tube service since 2016.
London Buses: Routes 8, 26, 48, 55, 106, 254, 309, 388, D3, D6, N8,
N26, N55, N253.
Santander Cycles: 14 docking stations presently in Bethnal Green.
Sport and leisure
Non-League football club
Bethnal Green United F.C.
Bethnal Green United F.C. plays at Mile End
Stadium. Now known as Tower Hamlets FC (since 2014-15 season), it
plays in the Essex Senior League. Another locally based team also
Mile End Stadium
Mile End Stadium are Sporting Bengal FC. The boxer Joe
Anderson, 'All England' champion of 1897, was from Bethnal Green.
Bethnal Green is also home to London's only full-time self-defence
school Apolaki Krav Maga & Dirty Boxing
Neighbouring areas of Bethnal Green
Mile End and Bow
Whitechapel and Stepney
List of people from Tower Hamlets
List of schools in Tower Hamlets
Stepney Historical Trust
^ Census Information Scheme (2012). "2011 Census Ward Population
Greater London Authority. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
^ Bethnal Green: Settlement and Building to 1836, A History of the
County of Middlesex: Volume 11: Stepney,
Bethnal Green (1998), pp.
91-95 accessed: 6 December 2007.
^ Blind Beggar of
Bethnal Green (East London History) Archived 30
October 2007 at the Wayback Machine. accessed 3 December 2007
Archived from the original on 13 October 2004. Retrieved 28 January
2017. Missing or empty title= (help)
^ The Green, Land assessments records, Gascoyne's survey of 1703.
^ From 1801 to 1821, the population of
Bethnal Green more than doubled
and by 1831 it had trebled. These incomers were principally weavers.
For further details see: Andrew August Poor Women's Lives: Gender,
Work and Poverty in Late-Victorian London pp 35-6 (Fairleigh Dickinson
University Press, 1999) ISBN 0-8386-3807-4
^ 'Bethnal Green: Building and Social Conditions from 1876 to 1914', A
History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 11: Stepney, Bethnal Green
(1998), pp. 126-32 accessed: 14 November 2006
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 August 2012.
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 January 2012.
Bethnal Green - disaster at the tube, Wednesday 24 September 2003,
19.30 BBC Two Archived 13 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
^ "WW2 Tube tragedy memorial unveiled". BBC News. 2017-12-17.
^ Bethnal Green: Building and Social Conditions from 1915 to 1945, A
History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 11: Stepney, Bethnal Green
(1998), pp. 132-135 accessed: 10 October 2007
^ "Families kept away by World War II bomb". BBC News. 16 May 2007.
Retrieved 16 May 2007.
^ "The History of the London Chest Hospital". Barts and the London NHS
Trust. Archived from the original on 2 April 2013. Retrieved 27 May
^ "The London Chest". Barts Health. n.d. Archived from the original on
23 April 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
^ Tower Hamlets Borough Council Election Maps 1964-2002 accessed 14
^ Services, Good Stuff IT. "Tower Hamlets - UK Census Data 2011". UK
Census Data. Retrieved 2016-05-13.
^ Neighbourhood Statistics. "ONS". Neighbourhood.statistics.gov.uk.
Retrieved 27 November 2011.
^ "St John on Bethnal Green". Archived from the original on 26 July
2012. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
^ "St-Matthews". St-Matthews. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
^ Susan Gane. "
Bethnal Green Churches". Dickens-and-london.com.
Archived from the original on 4 October 2011. Retrieved 27 November
^ EoLFHS Parishes:
Bethnal Green Archived 19 August 2009 at the
^ "Our Lady of the Assumption". Retrieved 13 February 2016.
^ "St Casimir's Lithuanian Church". Official website. Retrieved 24
^ "London Chinese Catholic Centre". Retrieved 13 February 2016.
^ "Good Shepherd Mission". Good Shepherd Mission. Retrieved 13
Bethnal Green Medical Mission".
Bethnal Green Mission Church.
Retrieved 13 February 2016.
^ "Methodist Church in Tower Hamlets,
Bethnal Green Meeting". The
Methodist Church in Tower Hamlets,
Bethnal Green Meeting. Retrieved 13
Bethnal Green Friends".
Bethnal Green Quaker Meeting. Retrieved 13
^ "mosquedirectory.co.uk". Retrieved 13 February 2016.
^ Services of Baitul Aman
Mosque Archived 16 January 2009 at the
^ "Darul Hadis Latifah". Darulhadis.org.uk. Archived from the original
on 6 October 2011. Retrieved 27 November 2011.
Ofsted inspection report for Saint Matthias School". Ofsted.
Retrieved 5 February 2009. [permanent dead link]
^ A-Z Services - Tower Hamlets Archived 26 September 2006 at the
^ "Bangabandhu" (PDF). Ofsted. 16 December 2010. Retrieved 27 November
2011. [permanent dead link]
^ Bell, Walter George (1966).
Unknown London. Spring Books. p. 326.
^ Johnson, Malcolm (2001). Bustling Intermeddler? The Life and Works
of Charles James Blomfield. Gracewing. p. 109.
^ "About us". V&A Museum of Childhood. Retrieved 27 May
^ Forgotten Stations of
Greater London by J.E.Connor and B.Halford
^ "Bare-Knuckle Fighter". Antiques Roadshow Detectives. Series 1.
Episode 3. 8 April 2015. BBC Television. Retrieved 19 April
^ http://www.apolakikravmagalondon.com Archived 5 September 2015 at
the Wayback Machine.
Tower Hamlets London Borough Council
Tower Hamlets London Borough Council information about Bethnal
Green". Archived from the original on 9 November 2005.
Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bethnal Green". Encyclopædia
Britannica. 3 (11th ed.).
Cambridge University Press.
London Borough of Tower Hamlets
Bethnal Green (
Bow (Bow Common, Fish Island)
Isle of Dogs
Isle of Dogs (Canary Wharf, Cubitt Town, Millwall, North Greenwich)
Mile End (Bow Common)
Old Ford (Fish Island)
Poplar (South Bromley)
St Katharine Docks
Christ Church, Spitalfields
Dennis Severs' House
Museum of Childhood
Museum of Immigration and Diversity
Museum in Docklands
Ragged School Museum
Royal London Museum and Archives
St Katharine Docks
Spitalfields City Farm
Stepney City Farm
Tower of London
Whitechapel Art Gallery
London Olympic Park
Parks and open spaces
Altab Ali Park
Mile End Park
Tower Hamlets Cemetery
London borough council
Directly elected mayor
Civic mayor/speaker of council
Bethnal Green and Bow
Poplar and Limehouse
Bridges and tunnels
Greenwich foot tunnel
Tube and rail stations
Canary Wharf (DLR)
Canary Wharf (tube)
Wapping railway station
West India Quay
Grade I and II* listed buildings
Areas of London
Central activities zone
City of London
City of London wards
Holloway Nags Head
Kensington High Street
King's Road East
Elephant and Castle
Isle of Dogs
Lists of areas
Barking and Dagenham
Hammersmith and Fulham
Kensington and Chelsea
Kingston upon Thames
Richmond upon Thames
Canley (borough) (The Bill: TV soap)
Charnham (suburb) (Family Affairs: TV soap)
Gasforth (town) (The Thin Blue Line: TV series)
London Below (magical realm) (Neverwhere: TV series, novel)
Walford (borough) (EastEnders: TV soap)
The London Plan 2011, Annex Two: London's Town Centre Network –