Friday 19 May 2017

Gunthorpe Street, Whitechapel

Realising the Edwardo Paolozzi exhibition at The Whitechapel Gallery was ending, I hurried up there last Saturday and got the bonus of serendipity.

Having taken the wrong exit from Aldgate East, I glanced Christ Church Spitalfields through the archwayed entry to Gunthorpe Street and felt the sketcher’s urge. Originally George Yard, the street was one of many alleys along Whitechapel High Street, itself a revealing mix of signs, symbols, shops and solicitors' offices. Knowing nothing of its history, I dug about to find what I suspected. The joy of today’s sneak view masked an earthy past. Its claustrophobic mixture of lodging houses, stables and narrow courts gave it a mean reputation. In 1822 it was described as a "notorious rendezvous of thieves" and went on to be the scene of every conceivable crime, including inevitably a bit of Jack the Ripper’s work. 
George Yard was renamed Gunthorpe Street in 1912, after John Gunthorpe who was rector of St Mary's Whitechapel in 1471.

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