Commercial Road, E1

Road, existing between 1803 and now

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Road · The Underground Map · E1 ·

Commercial Road is a major thoroughfare (the A13) running east-west from the junction of Burdett Road and East India Dock Road to Braham Street.

In 1802, the East India Company secured an Act of Parliament for the building of a new road beginning at the new West India Dock Gate and terminating at Church Lane, Whitechapel. The line of the new road more or less followed the path of an existing one called White Horse Lane. This pre-existent pathway through fields can be seen on maps of the time with the line of the new road already marked in. This first stage of the road was constructed in 1803.

The development of the road into a residential neighbourhood began with the establishment of sugar refineries in St. George’s-in-the-East, which led to the erection of small houses for the accommodation of the workers employed in that industry. On the Stepney stretch, an attractive residential district for the well-to-do was built, forming ’Terraces’ and ’Places’ and for a while at least, the Commercial Road had an air of prosperity about it, reinforced by the appearance of shops.

The increase in heavy traffic along the road during the 1820s and 1830s gradually saw this attractiveness begin to dwindle in the eyes of those who lived there and at this time it also became a toll road. Charles Dickens described the Commercial Road before it was paved in 1855:

"Pleasantly wallowing in the abundant mud of that thoroughfare and greatly enjoying the huge piles of buildings belonging to the sugar refiners, the little masts and vanes in small back gardens in back streets, the neighbouring canals and docks, the India vans lumbering along their stone tramway, and the pawnbrokers’ shops where hard-up mates had pawned so many sextants and quadrants that I should have bought a few cheap if I had the least notion how to use them."

Commercial Road was extended west to meet Whitechapel High Street at ’Gardiner’s Corner’ in 1870; in 1874 it was renumbered.


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