Monday, May 30, 2016

Bethnal Green

Bethnal Green is the 23rd station that I have visited on the Central Line, but the first one that has the same colour tiles decorating the walls as the colour representing the line on the underground map, which is this case is red.

 Construction of the station began in the 1930s as part of the Central Line extension. The tunnels were complete but no rails had been fitted and so the station became an air-raid shelter. Being a subterranean station  entrance is via staircases. On March 3rd 1943, 173 people were killed in a rush whilst trying to enter the shelter. A woman and child fell over near the bottom of the steps and others fell on top of them. It is estimated that hundreds of people fell within just 15 secs. Unaware of what was going on in front of them people continued to surge forward to reach the safety of the shelter. 173 mainly women and children died of asphyxiation. It was the worst civilian disaster of the war and for propaganda reasons the tragedy was not publicised at the time or after the war.

It was 50 years before this small memorial plaque was erected above the stairwell.

For many years relatives of the deceased and local people campaigned for funding to have  a more prominent and suitable memorial. On March 3rd 2013, 70 years after the disaster, the Stairway to Heaven memorial was officially finally opened.

Jewellery and flowers left at the memorial.

Although this is a densely populated area there are still green spaces to be found. This small park is just a short walk from the station and as today was a warm sunny day many people were enjoying their lunchbreak in the pleasant surroundings.

In a corner of the park is this drinking fountain with an interesting inscription. I wonder how many people have walked passed and never noticed.

The inscription reads: Memorial to Alice  Maud Denman and Peter Regelous who lost their lives in attempting to save others at a fire at 423 Hackney Road on 20th April 1902.
When the fire started in Alice's house, her six children were sleeping inside, Alice and Arthur, a passer by tried to rescue them but sadly both adults and four of the children died. This memorial fountain was erected by public donation.

Next to the park is the  Museum of Childhood. Part of the Victoria and Albert Museum, it houses a huge collection of childhood related objects.

The purpose built Museum was originally part of the main V and A Museum in South Kensington but when that was extended in 1872, the building was dismantled and reassembled in Bethnal Green.

York Hall is on Old Ford Road close to the Museum of Childhood. It is a health and leisure centre and one of Britain's best known boxing venues. It opened in 1929 with a swimming pool, gym and boxing arenas and facilities. In the basement it also had Turkish Baths with traditional Russian and Turkish steam rooms, sauna and relaxation room. In 2007 the council closed the facility and rebranded it as a Spa with various treatments much to the annoyance of local users.

Behind the Museum of Childhood is Netteswell House, the oldest house in Bethnal Green. A stone tablet above the entrance has the inscription 'Parts of the basement date back to 1553 but the rest of the house was partly rebuilt in 1705 and then again in 1862.'It was in a house close to this one that Samuel Pepys brought his belongings including his diaries to escape destruction during the fire of London.

Around the corner from Netteswell house are these two houses which were built in 1690. They are now used as offices for a charity.

Attached to the houses is this old Victorian chapel

On the side of the chapel is this plaque dedicated to Sir Wyndham Deedes. He was sent to Palestine in !920 as an administrator. Returning to the East End in 1923, he devoted his life to social work.

A short walk from the tube station is Globe town, established in 1800 to provide accommodation for the expanding population of silk weavers in the area. Between 1801 and 1831 the population trebled
with weavers operating the looms in their own homes. Shortly afterwards regulations on importing French silk were relaxed and as the price of silk decreased so did the number of weavers. Nowadays this area is home to a large Bangladeshi community. It is easy to spot with its three globe structures on the edge of the area.

This  is Bethnal Green Library which stands on the site of Bethnal House which later became a lunitic asylum. The park next to the library is still called Barmy Park by some of the older residents

This disused fire station on Roman Road is now home to the London Buddhist Centre

Around the corner on Globe Road at the back of the Buddhist centre is a large mural of lotus flowers.

This was my lunch stop for today. A delicatessen serving freshly made vegetarian dishes as well as a range of pastries.  I was fortunate to arrive at the beginning of the lunch time as all the seats were taken in no time. The food was very good.

Globe Road was not what I expected to see with its individual unusual shops and a flower clad pub.
Above the pub can be seen the Watney Combe Reid brewery sign. In 1898 the Watney family brewery merged with Combe Delafield and Co and with Reid and Co to form the largest brewery in London. It had an annual output of 39.5 million imperial gallons. It ceased to trade under this name in 1958 when it merged with other companies so it is unusual to come across this signage.

The outside walls of Globe primary school was adorned with a number of  colourful mosaics. The work was in collaboration with Artyface workshops using the theme animals around the globe to reflect the wide range of nationalities of the school.children. They brightened up what would otherwise be a dull brick wall.

Walking back onto Roman Road I passed this statue and fountain outside a group of bungalows. It is a bronze sculpture by Elizabeth Frink of the Blind Beggar. Images of The Blind Beggar can be found in a number of places around Bethnal Green. It appears on the seal of Bethnal Green

It is also found on the front of Tower Hamlets Council buildings in Patriot Square which used to be Bethnal Green Town Hall. The connection of the Blind Beggar to Bethnal Green seems to stem from a Ballad written in Tudor Times. It is very long  but here are a couple of verses:

'My father' quoth she, 'is soon to be seen:
The silly blind beggar of Bednall Green,
That daily sits begging for charity
He is the kind father of pretty Bessee.

His marks and his token are knowen full well,
He always is led by a dog and a bell;
A poor silly old man, God knoweth, is he,
Yet he's the true father of pretty Bessee

I crossed over Roman Road and through Meath Gardens. This arch is the entrance to Meath Gardens which opened in 1893. Prior to that this was a cemetery which closed in 1874. The cemetery was only open for 30 years when it ran out of space due to the high number of deaths during the 19th cent.

The London Chest hospital on Bonner Road was founded in 1848 and closed on 17th April 2015. Originally opened to cope with pulmonary tuberculosis which was responsible for 20% of all deaths during the mid 19th cent. Services moved from here to Barts Heart Centre in April 2015. Local campaigners fought against its closure  but Barts Health announce that the 'hospital is no longer up to the demands of rigorous specialised 21st medicine'. The building and land has been sold to a housing company for redevelopment.

Just across the road from the hospital is Victoria Park. This park was commissioned by Queen Victoria in 1840 in response to public demand for a park in the East End. It was opened to the public in 1845 and is now the largest and most popular park in East London.  The gates shown here were installed in 1991. The original iron gates were removed in 1940 along with iron railings as part of the war effort and were used for scrap metal to make weapons and ammunition.
Regent's Canal runs round the edge of the park.

Returning to the tube station I walked passed  Bethnal Green Police station displaying another British icon 'The Blue Lamp'.

 The lamps first appeared outside London police stations in 1861 before spreading throughout the UK and the British Empire.

Back at the station I travelled down the space themed escalators


  1. Loved this post! Reading about Bethnal Green was absolutely fascinating, you told me things I never knew about before and made me want to go there! Love Barmy Park!

  2. enjoyed your post very much.

  3. Another really interesting post. Some of it because it's close to home.

  4. Sad beginning ~ but wonderful post and magnificent photography ~ great tour ~ thanks ~ ^_^

    Happy Week to you ~ ^_^

  5. What an interesting area and so full of history. I really enjoyed the investigation of Bethnal Green. I can understand why the name of Barmy Park might be discouraged, but the name will keep history alive.

  6. This time last week I was in London - catching busses trains and of course the Tube. Generally I found the stations extremely well kept but of course very busy ! What a terrible tragedy that all those people died in the stair-well at Bethnal Green - I guess in war-times there were a lot of sad incidents that were untold.

  7. The architecture is wonderful!

  8. I like the way you explore London off the beaten track to see hidden treasures, which the tourists don't see usually. Bethnal Green is certainly worth visiting.
    Thanks for all the work you did to write this post.
    Wil, ABCWTeam

  9. You certainly search out detail for your story's. I didnt even know of the subway disaster during the war they now have a really nice memorial. very interesting.

  10. Thank you for the lovely virtual tour and interesting information!

  11. I really love your tube station project. Such a totally cool idea. When I was a child my Dad would often take me to the 'Dolly's Museum' as we called it. It was a regular weekend haunt for us and so Bethnal Green always reminds me of that


  12. There was a drama in the 1980s which depicted the wartime disaster
    It scared me silly

    Thank you for this post


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