St George-in-the-East

St George-in-the-East, Tower Hamlets

This quaint parish name for the northern part of Wapping has dropped out of use although it is still shown on some 21st-century maps

Graffiti de la batalla de Cable Street

The parish was cre­at­ed in 1729, the year of the church’s com­ple­tion on Can­non Street Road. St George-in-the-East was one of three East End church­es designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, the oth­ers being at Spi­tal­fields and Lime­house.

There was nev­er a recog­nis­able set­tle­ment called St George-in-the-East, but the parish name pro­vid­ed a use­ful iden­ti­ty for the for­mer­ly anony­mous area north of the docks. The cen­tral thor­ough­fare was Cable Street, so called for its rope­yards. Two squares and a hand­ful of streets were laid out but mar­ket gar­dens occu­pied much of the parish until the end of the 18th cen­tu­ry.

With the con­struc­tion of the Com­mer­cial Road and the com­ing of rail­ways and heavy indus­try to the East End, St George-in-the-East became a solid­ly urban and extreme­ly poor parish over the course of the 19th cen­tu­ry.

St George-in-the-East church
The parish church of St George-in-the-East*

The Prince of Den­mark pub was enlarged in the 1850s to become Wilton’s Music Hall, which sur­vives today as a rare exam­ple of its kind.

Jew­ish immi­gra­tion changed the char­ac­ter of the area from the end of the cen­tu­ry, cre­at­ing a gar­ment dis­trict in the north of the parish.

After the First World War the munic­i­pal author­i­ties began to build blocks of flats and to pro­vide pub­lic health ameni­ties.

In the 1930s Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fas­cists attempt­ed to divide Chris­tians and Jews in the East End. Mosley organ­ised a march of 3,000 of his black­shirt­ed fol­low­ers in Octo­ber 1936, which was blocked by pro­test­ers’ bar­ri­cades at the junc­tion of Cable Street and Leman Street.

A mur­al paint­ed on the side of the for­mer St George’s vestry hall depicts this ‘Bat­tle of Cable Street’ in hero­ic fash­ion. Part of the mur­al is shown in the pho­to­graph at the top of the page.*

Fol­low­ing dev­as­tat­ing bomb dam­age in the Sec­ond World War, St George-in-the-East was rede­vel­oped as an almost entire­ly res­i­den­tial area, includ­ing high-rise flats in the 1970s. Sub­se­quent­ly, Dock­lands regen­er­a­tion has impinged on the parish, with­out trans­form­ing it.

After decades of patch­work repairs and tire­less cam­paign­ing, Wilton’s Music Hall Trust secured suf­fi­cient fund­ing to ful­ly restore the Grand Hall in 2013 and the rest of the work was com­plet­ed in Sep­tem­ber 2015.

Since August 2015 Cable Street has (inap­pro­pri­ate­ly and con­tro­ver­sial­ly) been home to the Jack the Rip­per Muse­um.

The Men They Couldn’t Hang’s rock-folk song ‘Ghosts of Cable Street’ recalls the events of 1936.

Ensign Street and Grace’s Alley were used as locations for the 1994 film Interview with the Vampire, starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt.

Postal district: E1
* The picture entitled Graffiti de la ‘batalla’ de Cable Street at the top of this page is slightly modified from an original photograph, copyright Joan Sorolla, formerly at Flickr, where it was made available under the Attribution 2.0 generic licence. The picture of the parish church of St George-in-the-East is adapted from an original photograph, copyright Stephen Richards, made available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 generic licence. Any subsequent reuse of either image is hereby freely permitted under the terms of the relevant licence.