The Tower of London proudly overlooks a meandering River Thames that has witnessed many of the World's most famous Statesmen, Kings, Queens, and Seamen. from here ventured forth Sir Francis Drake, Martin Frobisher, Captain Cook, Admiral Nelson, and many others.
SPIRIT OF EAST LONDON
From 1939 to 1945, this stretch of River played a major role in helping to liberate Europe from Hitler's tyrannical and oppressive regime, in the 1940s Tilbury saw the early construction of huge sections of floating 'Mulberry' harbours without which, the landing of allied Troops on the beaches of Normandy in France could well have ended in total disaster, these cleverly contrived harbours helped to ensure the liberation of Europe and ultimate victory over Hitler fascism.
Despite heavy civilian casualties, the British people stood firm during the Blitz. Under constant enemy air attacks, London and many other British Cities suffered terrible losses, Coventry was almost completely destroyed on one terrible night. Yet the British people never wavered, their brave war effort continued on the River, in the factories, on the land, and at sea.
Meanwhile Britain's brave Merchant Seamen and Royal Navy were exposed to the full might of the German luftwaffe, mines and UBoats caused heavy losses at sea, yet this did not deter them, but made them even more determined to defeat Hitler's Nazi Germany.
During Hitler's prolonged blitz on their City, an indomitable spirit was shown by the people of East London, Her Majesty, the Queen Mother singled out these brave people of East London for special mention after Buckingham Palace was bombed, she praised their qualities of spirit and endurance, and said: 'now I can look the East End straight in the eye'.
The British people endured the long years of War in dingy and darkly lit Air-Raid Shelters, so when it all ended people were exhilerated, happy crowds thronged the streets to greet and embrace each other as the lights came on again after 5 years of darkness.
Public Transport was state controlled under Atlee's Government, Buses and trains were cheap and plentiful and very punctual, this meant reliability and people used it knowing they could turn up on time for an appointment.
CINEMAS and DANCE HALLS cinemas were always packed to capacity, hollywood films were the dominant form of entertainment, with plenty of cinemas and no TV to distract the masses, Buses were plentiful and cheap, and you could 'go up West' with just a few 'bob' in your pocket and a 4d bus ticket in old money, to mingle in the exciting hustle and bustle of post war Oxford Street, Picadilly Circus, Soho, etc. .
BIG BANDS ERA
Youngsters were attracted to the big ballroom dance halls dancing to the rythms of famous Big Bands like Joe Loss at the Hammersmith 'Palais de Dance', Oscar Rabin at the 'Lyceum' in the Strand, and Harry Leader's Orchestra at the 'Astoria', upper and lower classes met and mingled at The famous 'Cafe De Paris' in Piccadilly Circus dancing the night away.
THE 'COFFEE BAR KIDS'
Italian and Continental style coffee bars became very popular with young people after WW2, where else could you spend an entire evening for the price of a cappuchino, young lads bought cheap guitars to woo the girls with, Joe Brown and Tommy Steele were regular visitors at the '2Is', as they strummed away, they little realised they would rise to stardom.
Another star in the making was Harry Webb, he changed his name to 'Cliff Richard' after he met up with Jack Good over a cup of coffee off Regent street, Jack Good, who became his manager, had started his career in East London's Toynbee Hall at evening classes, he joined the drama class run by Marrianne Watson of 'Old Vic' fame, who soon found he had talent, he was to land a plum presenter's job at the BBC and launch Cliff Richard's career and 'Rock and Roll' into Britain.
Jazz clubs around Soho were blossoming, young people danced the night away at the 'Marquee' entertained by Chris Barber, Acka Bilk, etc. the 'Ronnie Scott Club' had become a venue for World famous visiting jazz musicians, and Humphrey Littleton, Johny Dankworth supported by Cleo Laine, played at the '100' Club' in Oxford Street regularly.
ABOUT THE SWINGIN' 60s?
The 50s had started liberating young spirits, it was followed by the 'swingin' sixties', 'mods and rockers' turned on the fashion of Carnaby Street, and soon It was the time of 'Flower Power', 'beatniks' with long hair, the 'Rolling Stones', and all night parties.
The arrival of 'the Beattles' sound from Liverpool excited teenagers even more. the Cafe's and Coffee Bars of Soho and Chelsea's Kings Road were full of young people from all classes and walks of life, and soon romantic affairs shocked the upper classes as pretty young debutants crossed the social barrier to elope with their 'common' partners to Gretna Green to marry, their shocked wealthy parents rushed to prevent this and make them 'wards of court'.
The London docks brought Ships and Sailors from all over the World, East London becamethe trading centre of the World and a popular venue for many, even Royalty. When Tony Armstrong Jones began courting Princess Margaret, they chose to liase in East London to escape prying media attention.
Cable Street became a notorious 'red light' district after dark, its seedy cafe's stayed open until dawn and Prostitution was rife on local streets. Women and girls were allowed to ply their age old trade on the streets, there were no legal restrictions in those days, prostitution was an acceptable part of life in a post-war World.
NEW MIGRANTS AND IMMIGRANTS
By the late 50s, People had begun to move out of the City to new Towns offering attractive low rent homes, as a result many jobs in London became vacant, new immigrants from the West Indies helped to save the day by filling these growing vacancies, but cheap labour was effecting industrial relations which had deteriorated by the time a Labour Government led by Harold Wilson was returned to Power in 1964 by only 4 seats, he faced an immediate revolt from the Unions, strikes were damaging the economy and Jack Dash, the Dockers leader, constantly clashed with his bosses over pay and modernisation of the Docks.
It soon became clear that Harold Wilson needed a much bigger working majority to tackle Union unrest and poor industrial relations, he got this in 1966 when he went to the Country once more, but the race to bring new 'containerisation' to the London Docks was already being lost to Tilbury and Rotterdam.
This final blow signalled the beginning of the end for the London Docks as a major port, and by the early 70s it had ceased to function leaving East London with eight square miles (21 kmē) of derelict wasteland, local unemployment, poverty, and huge social problems to solve.
The diversity of East London comes from its mix of peoples and cultures over many Centuries, immigrants from all over the World have left their mark on the East End of London, Britain remained a beacon of hope for those fleeing persecution, many sought and found solace here.
Immigrants tended to settle the area bordering Spitalfields, Whitechapel and Brick Lane, following in the footsteps of the Hugenots
It was religious persecution that first brought silk weaving French Huguenots to Spitalfields, this was then followed at the turn of the 20th. Century, by Jews fleeing from a wave of pogroms in Russia, many came to these shores with little or nothing, but they brought much sought after skills, trades, and professions with them.
There was a big demand for Skilled people who soon found plenty of work. and as they prospered, moved on to suburbia and further afield. this constant movement of populaion from East London during the 1960s led to a further demand for new immigrants to fill the growing gap of vacancies, soon new arrivals came from the West Indies, followed by immigrants from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Many initially settled around Spitalfields and Whitechapel where previously the Hugenots and Jews had lived and worked.
Today there remains the legacy of fine historic old Churches and Synagogues for the visitors to see, new Mosques are now adding to the remarkable diversity and resilience of East London. Visit the BBC website bbc Religion
ABOUT PLACES OF WORSHIP
The movement of population from East London in the 1960s meant the closure of a majority of Jewish Synagogues, some buildings were converted to mosques Many important old historic Churches still exist but have sadly suffered from neglect over the years.
American President Thomas Jefferon's family came from Shadwell, his Mother lived there with her Mother as a girl, they both worshipped at the St Pauls Church in Shadwell Her Mother then met a wealthy American merchant in Whitechapel, she married and all emigrated to America where they proudly named their home there 'Shadwell'.
St Paul's Churh became known as 'the sea Captains Church' because many were buried there including Captain Cook's son who was baptised there. This fascinating history, diversity, and cultural heritage never ceases to amaze visitors to East London.
SETTING AN EXAMPLE FOR OTHERS TO FOLLOW
In the past many immigrants arriving with little or nothing were welcomed to these shores for their skills and innovation, had Isambard Kingdom Brunel's father fleeing from persecution in France been refused entry, Britain's greatest engineer would never have been, what of the industrial revolution then? The contribution of immigrants is clear, it helped to make East London a leading centre of World trade and Business, the record clearly shows that many not only overcame their difficulties but persevered to establish great British Companies providing thousands of jobs.
Although Britain voted to leave the 'European Union' it still needs to trade with a wider European Market within which people can travel freely to find work, London has always been a popular choice for many immigrants as it remains a leading City in the Global economy, genuine immigrants are needed to fill vacancies with much needed skills.
As long as Britain offers them higher wages than at home, they will want to come, but most are unlikely to stay as their own economies improve. The 'economic migrant' has been a new and challenging phenomena of our time and is likely to shape our Politics for many years to come. The Global economy
The Tower is on the North side of the Thames with Rotherhithe and Southwark on the South side, It is well worth taking a stroll South across Tower Bridge, the breathtaking views from the Bridge are a memorable experience that you will always cherish.
If you want to travel by river make sure you Book early, especially for the Summer season. "City Cruises" of Rotherhithe carry on the fine tradition of Thames little ships led by their Director Gary Beckwith, their impressive fleet of modern little ships run daily services to and from Greenwich, the Tower and Westminster, so book early and enhance your experience of river travel.
Walking East from the Tower through Wapping's cobbled high Street you will find the most famous Pubs in the Country, as well as some of the newest eating houses in London, follow the High Street along the River and you will tread the path of famous historic figures like Samuel Pepys. Captain Cook, Frobisher, Bligh and many others, you may still catch the scent of Cinnamon and spice from old converted warehouses along the route where famous celebrities now live, this part of London which once thrived as a centre for World trade is now a much sought after location.
The 'Captain Kidd' and 'Town of Ramsgate' are historic Pubs well worth a visit, quench your thirst or get a good meal at reasonable prices, "Ye Olde Pub Tour". As for 'teatotalers' new italian Cafes now supply traditional fare along this route, and just past the Metropolitan Wharf on the left is the award winning 'Women's Playhouse' Restaurant, established to conserve the original 'Pump House' building in Wapping, it serves high quality food and drink, just opposite is the oldest of all Public Houses, the famous 'Prospect of Whitby', (see below), once a notorious meeting place for seafarers and old tyme smugglers from across the World who met there to do their nifty trading:
Isambard Kingdom Brunel was recently acclaimed Britain's greatest ever engineer, the son of French immigrant Marc Brunel, also an engineer of repute, he was voted only second to Sir Winston Churchill on TVs 'Greatest Briton'
Wapping East of Tower Bridge boasts a fine variety of top quality eating houses these days, offering an excellent choice of new restuarants for every taste, Crane Wharf', has the "River View" Chinese Restaurant, The chick Italian cafe 'el Bordello, is an outstanding Pizzeria' at 75-81 Wappping High Street, or turn left into 'Wapping Lane', to discover another Italian 'PizzaExpress' at no.70-80, where you can listen to live Jazz while dining, or further along the Lane on the right is a popular Indian Bengali Restuarant serving those who like spicier dishes.
Most are licenced to serve alcohol with food, but if you just desire the simple 'take away' on your travels, Wapping has good old cockney nosh too, Fish and Chip shops are a British tradition which began in London's East End in 1860, you can still find local shops open till late, and if you feel like walking an extra mile from Wapping to Aldgate High street, you will find Tubby Isaacs' famous jellied eel stall on the corner of Goulston street, (pictured below), recognised for serving the best cockles and whelks in Town.
Tobacco Dock is truly unique, two majestic old sailing ships, 'The Three Sisters' and 'Sea Lark', proudly proclaim you've arrived in Captain Bligh's Wapping. The original Tobacco Dock was imaginatively converted in the 80s. by an 'East End' Lad who had made good, he created an impressive new development of modern shops, Restaurants, bars and cafes, similar to 'Covent Garden', but this exciting venture failed to take off at that time, now, with the increasing appeal of Wapping, this part of East London.currently offers a potential investor the remarkable opportunity to share in the growing prosperity of Docklands.
A variety of trades are on offer to attract visitors from across the World, so don't fail to visit the World famous Street market 'Petticoat Lane' adjoining Spitalfields Market. then Experience the delights of the East by taking a stroll down Brick Lane with its spice shops, Tandoori Restaurants and trades of every description. Adjoining is Club Row with its famous Columbia Road Flower Market All these Markets open early every Sunday Morning, you can haggle away there until closing time at 2pm. Visit the Street Markets
Many World famous Entrepreneurs began their careers in the back street poverty of East London, aspiring Fashion designers, Hairdressers, Chefs, Writers, Artists, Actors, Actresses, and Musicians of every kind overcame an adverse start to life, many to reach the top of their trades and professions and become famous throughout the World.
Tower Hamlets has a remarkable history it is a memorable place that you will wish to return to again and again...........