London Day 2: People and Places of the East End
After a (much needed) night of sleep, our second day in London began with another walking tour by Angus Lockyer. While Angus’s previous lesson focused on themes of wealth and power, our tours of Whitechapel and Spitalfields in London’s East End demonstrated to us the potential for understanding the impacts of immigration and social reform movements through architecture.
Beginning our tour in Whitechapel, we saw the remnants of wealthy Victorian Londoners’ responses to immigration. These patrons, for example, might construct buildings meant to ‘uplift’ the civic virtues of these newcomers. Below are the Passmore Edwards library building and art gallery. Taking inspiration from social reform movements, these institutions were meant to instill a certain ‘English-ness in immigrants through education and culture.
Across the street from the Passmore Edwards art gallery (left) and library (right). The library’s contents have moved several blocks away, and it now acts as an extension of the gallery.
Moving deeper into Whitechapel, we saw other areas shaped by immigration and Londoners’ attempts to accommodate newcomers. Toynbee Hall, seen below, was essentially a bit of Oxford transplanted to Whitechapel during the Victorian period! Students would even board there to help with education programs!
A segment of Toynbee Hall, another section of Whitechapel influenced by attempts to enact social reform. Toynbee Hall acts today as a center of local education and culture.
After examining the landscape of social reform in Whitechapel, we followed Angus into Spitalfields. Itself influenced by French Huguenots, Spitalfields was a great area to marvel at the layering of old and new in London. Turning the corner might lead one to ultra-modern Bishopsgate…
The futuristic center of London’s financial district, Bishopsgate stands in stark contrast with many of London’s older buildings.
Or to a pub housed in a late 17th century building!
‘The English Restaurant.’ A rather appropriate name for a restaurant housed in a building that purports to blend nearly 400 years of English architectural elements.
Unfortunately, our time with Angus soon came to a close. Next, we walked to the Geffrye Museum, London’s parallel to Winterthur. Furniture historian Adam Bowett led us through many of the Geffrye’s period rooms as he answered questions about the challenges of furnishing these spaces. Afterwards, the curators at the Geffrye showed us several of their most interesting objects!
Several fellows gather in front of one of the Geffrye’s London plane trees!
Curators at the Geffrye Museum allow us to examine their objects.
Although many of the Geffrye’s rooms were familiar from our studies at Winterthur, several surprised us. We found their carefully researched middle class interiors fascinating, and similar to upper class interiors in North America. But the 1990’s period room took us aback–it was historically accurate, but not what we had grown up with. A valuable lesson for thinking about historic rooms!
By Trevor Brandt, WPAMC Class of 2017