Wentworth Street, E1

Road in/near Spitalfields, existing between 1560 and now

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Road · Spitalfields · E1 ·
APRIL
30
2017

Wentworth Street runs east-west from the junction of Brick Lane, Osborn Street and Old Montague Street to Middlesex Street, forming part of the boundary between Spitalfields and St Mary’s Whitechapel.

Wentworth Street from Middlesex Street, c.1920s
The earliest depiction of Wentworth Street appears c.1560, bounded by hedges. However the area immediately east of Petticoat Lane (Middlesex Street) was built up by the 1640s with substantial houses divided by yards and gardens. The southern side of Wentworth Street had properties whereas the northern side formed the boundary of the Tenter Ground, an open space used for stretching and drying silk (there were several ’tenter grounds’ in the immediate area). The northern side east of Brick Lane formed the southern boundary of the Fossan Estate.

The street was so named after Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Cleveland who owned much land in the area in the 1630s and 1640s, although early maps call it ’Wentford Street’ and ’Winford Street’, probably both unintentional errors.

The entire length of Wentworth Street from Petticoat Lane to Brick Lane was strongly defined by buildings by the 1740s. By the 19th century, much of the street had fallen on hard times, despite being part of the thriving Petticoat Lane Market. Gustave Dore portrayed it as a slum in an evocative illustration in 1872. The western half of the street was notable for its Jewish inhabitants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and has long been a part of Petticoat Lane market which, unlike its more famous neighbour, is open every day except Saturdays. The eastern half was of poorer character and was part of the slum district defined by places such as George Yard, George Street and Thrawl Street.


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Wentworth Street from Middlesex Street, c.1920s
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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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