It was my fate to encounter a place in Shoreditch, where children were born and reared in circumstances which gave them no reasonable chance of living decent lives: where they were born fore-damned to a criminal or semi-criminal career.
The quote above is taken from Arthur Morrison’s preface from A Child of the Jago. We learned previously in class, and again in our tour today, that the Jago was based on the slums of Old Nichol. Today, we walked through the streets of the East End, which would have been the poverty center during the Victorian Era; however, today the streets of the East End are very different. Even though the looks of many places were different, it was nice to see where scenes from A Child of the Jago and Oliver Twist occurred. I really enjoyed walking through Shoreditch High Street and what is now known as The Boundary Estate (which was Old Nichol). Even though the streets look different, there were a couple of things that felt the same.
- There is a scene in A Child of the Jago where Dicky Perrott sees a cake shop on Shoreditch High Street where the shop keeper prohibits him from tasting the cake that is on window display; actually, there are many scenes in which Dicky seeks out cake (which makes sense because he is a child, and children oftentimes want sweet treats). I thought this was interesting because as we walked through the East End, we passed many “posh” bakeries with fancy cakes and chocolates (and our tour guide kept pointing them out).
- Spitalfields Market is still functioning as a market, and still very busy during lunch hours! I liked that we were able to spend an hour or two here. I was able to eat and shop around, which is what people would have been coming to the market for in Victorian days as well. I was also able to people watch, and it was obvious that this location in the East End is a multicultural niche. There were people from many different ethnic backgrounds, people that spoke different languages, and places that sold different foods (from different countries).
- In general the East End is still a heavily immigrant-based town. I think this is the clearest connection with the past. The interesting and sort-of-beautiful part of this is that the immigrant culture finds its way into the culture of the East End. Many of these immigrants came to Great Britain for a better life and to be close to the city (during Victorian times, they were not allowed in the city limits/not monetarily able to enter the city). In the tour, we learned that the Huguenots were one of the first immigrants to come into the area. After the Hugeunots, Jewish people settled within the area, and currently the area is primarily inhabited by Bangladeshi people.
- We may or may not have witnessed some sketch drug deal going on in the gazebo (from the picture below).
[T]here the Jago, for one hundred years the blackest pit in London, lay and festered[.]
A Note on the River Thames Cruise
This was fun, because it was my first time completing a river cruise! I really liked that we were able to see many of the famous sites of London from the River Thames (which is an essential part of London itself). Though, I must say, I am glad that we do not live in the Victorian Era because the cruise would certainly not have been so appealing. The River Thames would have been smelly as a result of pollution. Also, it would have probably been associated with trade-jobs which I assume would probably be middle-to-lower class (so probably looked down upon). This would certainly would have been the case with the part of the river that wraps around the East End. The East End docklands would have been a very nasty place.