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London's East End

May 16, 2008
Of course most people know of London because of the Queen, who lives at Buckingham Palace and has a number of other properties around the city. There is much more to London than the Queen and the usual tourist attractions of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and the likes. As the largest city in Europe the city is one of the most cosmopolitan in England and each sector of the city has it's own uniqueness. To experience the quintessential London it is best to spend some time in the area known as the East End.

The East End of London is, really, most of the area found east of the city centre. Although most of the most famous tourist attractions of London are found in the centre the, often overlooked, East End has a number of incredibly popular attractions and places of interest. One place that is well worth a visit is the fantastic Bethnal Green Museum which has one of the finest collections of antique dolls houses to be seen anywhere with examples dating as far back as 1673.

When you mention the East End of London, a great many people automatically think of the word "Cockney" or "Cockneys". A Cockney is a person who was born in the East End of London within hearing distance of the bells at Bow Church (Bow Bells). You may wonder about the origins of such a strange word and you may be surprised to learn that it came from an old middle English word for a misshapen egg (or cock's egg) - "cokeney".

Sadly, during the dark times of the plague (1348-50), there were so many men, women and children killed that the dead had to be disposed of in large pits rather than individual graves. Archaeologists, digging in the area around Tower Bridge, found the remains of more than 700 bodies.

Between the years 1788 and 1960 London's East End port was, by far, the largest in the world. At one time (in the 1930's) the were about one hundred thousand men working in the port and the amount of cargo handled was incredible, around thirty five million tons. London had a number of important docks, the earliest being the West India Dock completed in 1802 (the East India Dock was built in 1806).

The East End of London has been home to many famous & infamous characters. The famous explorer Captain Cook married the daughter of the landlord of an East End public house in which Cook often visited. Another famous person closely associated with the East End is Joseph Merrick because he had been appearing in a freak show at the Mile End Road billed as "The Elephant Man", sadly a name to which he remains most widely known as to this day.

During the 1960's the East End became famous for the gangster operations of the "Krays". The Kray twins (Ronnie and Reggie) ruled an incredibly lucrative criminal empire which became headline news when they were finally brought to justice. One infamous East End criminal who famously evaded capture was "Jack the Ripper". In 1888 Jack the Ripper brutally murdered five women then ceased much to the annoyance of the police. There were many suspects but little hard evidence and the debate continues to this day as to who really was the Ripper.

The East End of London has always been the place in which new settlers set up home. At different times the area has been dominated by various cultures (during the time of Jack the Ripper it was predominantly Jewish. This led to many folk automatically assuming that he would also be a Jew) and today we have an East End that is incredibly vibrant with an amazingly diverse population incorporating many different races, cultures and creeds.
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