The dark side of East London

Slums and alleyways, with Jack the Ripper appearing from the mist, sinister pubs whith the Kray twins and haunted spots with paranormal activity. The East End of London has a terrifying and lesser-known dark history.

One of the most infamous murderers in the East End was Jack the Ripper who killed at least five London female prostitutes and mutilated their bodies in 1888 in Whitechapel district. Never captured, his identity is one an unsolved mystery which has even pointed to the grandson of Queen Victoria. Even though the main suspect is believed to be Severin Klosowski, a polish immigrant who used to work as a barber in the basement of The White Heart Pub, on Whitechapel High Street.

Jack the Ripper Illustration

Jack the Ripper Illustration

Notorious, epic, scandalous, the Kray twins ruled the East End of London, building a criminal empire that rocked the 50’s and 60’s. Not after their 1968 arrest but way back in 1952, the famous gangsters were held at the Tower of London for a few days. They were among the last prisoners ever to be held there.

The Kray Twins

The Kray Twins

Legendary and controversial Hackney Road also hides creepy stories in its pavement. Sometimes referred as the Murder Mile, Hackney used to have one of the highest rate of criminality in London. Not many years ago, it was normal to see junkies smoking crack in the corners. It was also commented the ecstasy pill you would get with your drink at The Joiner Arms in the time when the pool table existed. In recent years, Hackney Road has begun to experience the gentrification of nearby Columbia Road or Broadway Market.

Lots of fabulous venues such as The Nelson’s Head have already closed its doors and derelict buildings that made the area so special are being demolished. This is the case of the abandoned Queen Elizabeth Children’s Hospital, a Victorian building with 150 years of history where some sinister stories took place. Despite this, striptease venues, a bingo hall, fast-food outlets and building sites still remain in the area to keep its essence.

Original b&w photo at Queen Elizabeth Children Hospital

Original b&w photo at Queen Elizabeth Children Hospital

Last intriguing story is the shelter disaster occurred at Bethnal Green tube station during Hitler´s bombing in World War Two. A fatal accident took place in 1943 where 173 people died in a terrifying crush as panic spread through the crowds of people trying to enter the station’s bomb shelter. However, no bomb struck and not a single casualty was the direct result of military aggression, making it the deadliest civilian incident of WW2. Investigations have confirmed that 126 women and children were among the 173 people killed. The haunting sounds of women and children screaming have been heard by countless witnesses since the tragedy took place.

Bethnal Green tube station

Bethnal Green tube station

Jump on the street and explore by yourself the dark side of East London. Are you traveling to London soon? Check out the Golden Tours website for a wide variety of high-quality tours and exciting attractions.

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  1. Thank you for drawing attention to the loss of important buildings in the East End. As a local resident and tour guide, I’m saddened by how much physical evidence of our story we’re losing. I teach guiding in the East End and am developing a guiding workshop to try and raise more awareness of important buildings and locations.

  2. Thank you so much for your comment David. I hope this article works to raise awareness of the importance of historic buildings in the East End.