Fashion Street, E1

Road in/near Spitalfields, existing between 1655 and now

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Road · Spitalfields · E1 ·

Fashion Street is a thoroughfare running east-west from Brick Lane to Commercial Street.

Fashion Street marks the northern boundary of the original Fossan Estate, owned by brothers Thomas and Lewis Fossan. The southern side was laid out c.1655 and it was originally known as Fossan Street, which was later corrupted to Fashion. The northern side was built by trustees of the Wheler estate in about 1669. White’s Row was at one time depicted as a natural continuation of the street and was known as New Fashion Street in the 17th century.

By the late-Victorian era, Fashion Street had fallen into decline alongside other streets on the estate and was considered part of the area’s worst slums, especially the south side which was connected to notorious Flower and Dean Street by a number of squalid courts and passages. There were also pubs at each end of the street; the Queen’s Head on the northern corner with Commercial Street, the ’George and Guy’ on the northern corner with Brick Lane and the ’Three Cranes’ opposite - none of these premises are now pubs. It was also home to the Fashion Street Sphardish Synagogue in New Court which had around 80 members and closed c.1906.

In 1905, builder Abraham Davis took a lease of a site which comprised most of the south side of the street and built what became known as the Fashion Street Arcade. He had intended to build two covered arcades with cross-passages, to provide 250 small lock-up shops, a reading-room and bathrooms, but the finished building only comprised of 63 shops. The scheme proved a failure, and by 1909 Davis had been ejected for non-payment of rent. In the same year a part of the arcade was reconstructed as a factory. It has had many uses since, although a small part of the building has been demolished.

Much of Fashion Street retains its older buildings, most notably the arcade and a row of dwellings (built c.1900) on the north side. Many have been redeveloped internally and serve as apartments, office space or art galleries.

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Spitalfields is near to Liverpool Street station and Brick Lane.

The area straddles Commercial Street and is home to several markets, including the historic Old Spitalfields Market, and various Brick Lane Markets on Brick Lane and Cheshire Street. Petticoat Lane Market lies on the area's south-western boundaries.

The name Spitalfields appears in the form Spittellond in 1399; as The spitel Fyeld on the 16th-century Civitas Londinium map associated with Ralph Agas. The land belonged to St Mary Spital, a priory or hospital erected on the east side of the Bishopsgate thoroughfare in 1197, and the name is thought to derive from this. An alternative, and possibly earlier, name for the area was Lolsworth.

After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, Spitalfields was inhabited by prosperous French Huguenot silk weavers. In the early 19th century their descendants were reduced to a deplorable condition due to the competition of the Manchester textile factories and the area began to deteriorate into crime-infested slums. The spacious and handsome Huguenot houses were divided up into tiny dwellings which were rented by poor families of labourers, who sought employment in the nearby docks.

The area has recently attracted a IT-literate younger population.
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