Goulston Street, E1

Road in/near Spitalfields, existing between the 1730s and now

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Road · Spitalfields · E1 ·
MARCH
30
2017

Goulston Street is a thoroughfare running north-south from Wentworth Street to Whitechapel High Street.

Goulston Street looking north, c.1900. Wentworth Dwellings are in the background.
Goulston Street first appeared as a small passage in the 1730s, but within ten years had been widened and extended as far as Goulston Square, a former garden which sat half way between Wentworth and Whitechapel High Streets. The street was extended further north between 1800 and 1830, this part initially being called New Goulston Street. The ’New’ prefix was soon dropped.

The northern half of the street came under the scrutiny of the Metropolitan Board of Works when the Cross Act of 1875 earmarked it for demolition on account of its dangerous slum tenements. At the same time, properties in George Yard and the Flower and Dean Street area were also suggested for redevelopment. The resulting changes in Goulston Street meant that unsanitary dwellings in Three Tun Alley (on the west side) and Goulston Court (on the east) were wiped out, along with much of the west side of Goulston Street itself.

In 1886/7, Brunswick Buildings were built on the west side of Goulston Street (as far as New Goulston Street) and Wentworth Dwellings were constructed on both Wentworth Street corners.

Most of Brunswick Buildings were destroyed during the Second World War (by a V2 Rocket) but those abutting on New Goulston Street survived.

Conditions in Wentworth Dwellings and the remaining tenements of Brunswick Buildings deteriorated over the course of the 20th century and both were earmarked for demolition in 1967.

Conditions at Brunswick were particularly poor - walls were collapsing and postmen refused to deliver because they had to negotiate piles of rubbish from overflowing bins. Brunswick Buildings were eventually demolished in 1976, although their name is commemorated in Brunswick House which now partly covers the site.

Goulston Street is now one of many streets which take on the overflow from Petticoat Lane and Wentworth Street markets. It is also the site of a number of buildings belonging to London Metropolitan University (59-63 Whitechapel High Street) as well as the location of the famous ’Tubby Isaacs’ seafood stall.

The Aldgate Exchange pub on the eastern corner with Whitechapel High Street is the venue for meetings of the Whitechapel Society 1888, held in the downstairs ’Goulston Dive Bar’.


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Goulston Street looking north, c.1900. Wentworth Dwellings are in the background.
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Spitalfields

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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