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Wapping, Limehouse & the Isle of Dogs

There are many theories about how Wapping got its name. Some say it comes from the Old English word ‘wapol’, which means ‘marsh’. Others think it is named after a Saxon chieftain called Waeppa and means ‘Waeppa’s people’. Limehouse was named after the limekilns of ‘oasts’ which burned chalk from Kent to make builder’s lime. […]

Bow & Bromley-by-Bow

The area of Bow got its name from the bow shaped bridge which was built here in the 12th Century after Queen Mathilda – King Henry I’s wife – almost drowned trying to cross the River Lea. Bromley was named after the bramble bushes which grew in the area. In the 11th Century its name […]

Bethnal Green

In 1341, the name of this area appeared in a document as ‘Blithenhale’, which probably meant ‘Blida’s Corner’. Blida was a Saxon name. By 1550, the name had altered to ‘Blethenhale Grene’ and had become Bethnal Green by the 17th Century. The ‘Green’ at the heart of this settlement is now Bethnal Green Gardens. Boxing […]

Stepney & Mile End

Stepney appeared in the Domesday Book in the 11th Century as ‘Stibenhede’, and by 1300 was called ‘Stybenhithe’. The name probably means ‘hithe’ (landing place) of Stybba, a Saxon leader. Mile End marked the point one mile east of the City of London from Aldgate. Two Stepney notables and contemporaries of Barnardo were: William Booth […]

Whitechapel & Spitalfields

Whitechapel was named after the Chapel of St. Mary Matfelon, a white building which stood on what is now Whitechapel Road. Spitalfields got its name from the area around St. Mary Spital, a religious house founded by Walter and Rosina Brune in 1197. It became a hospital (‘spittle’) in 1235. The Whitechapel and Spitalfields area […]

Tower Beach

Did you know there was once a beach by the Tower of London?! It’s true! In 1934 King George V (who loved a seaside holiday) decreed that a beach should be created for the children of Stepney and all of London. It was very popular and well-used until it closed in 1971. Our volunteer Martha […]

The Tower of London

The Tower of London dates back to the reign of William I (1066-1087). It was built as a royal base in London but has also been a fortres, a prison and a place of execution, an arsenal, a jewel house, a zoo and a Royal Mint. The Tower has a remarkable history and is a […]

What is Tower Hamlets?

The name Tower Hamlets was used in the 16th Century to refer to the hamlets (small settlements) east of the Tower of London. The men of these hamlets defended the Tower in times of crisis. The area was larger than the London Borough of Tower Hamlets today – the modern borough replaced the Metropolitan Boroughs […]