From the grim to the skies: East
Asian Voice |12th November 2016
Defined as a part of London east of the ancient city and north of the River Thames, East London has seen a great transformation from the quayside docks on the Thames to the glistening skyscrapers of London’s new business district. We look at the somewhat underrated side of the capital.
ast London comprises of six modern London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest, Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Havering and also part of Hackney, the seventh. This includes Shoreditch, Hoxton and Haggerston. The London Plan of 2011 included an altered ‘East’ region. In addition to the seven boroughs north of the river, the ‘East’ subregion also includes three boroughs to the south of it: Greenwich, Bexley and Lewisham.
London would not be the global city it is today without its port based in east London. The Port of London has been central to the
economy of London since the 1st century and was a major contributor to the growth and success of the city. In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was the busiest port in the world, with wharves extending continuously along the Thames for 11 miles. From the beginning of the 19th century, shipping into London was handled within the Pool of London, a stretch of the River Thames along Billingsgate. Throughout the 19th century, a series of enclosed dock systems were built - surrounded by high walls to protect from river piracy. At the beginning of the 20th century, a combination of competition and strikes led to pressure to amalgamate. The Port of London Authority (PLA) was set up in 1908 with a help of a Royal Commission. The PLA took control of the enclosed docks from Tower Bridge to Tilbury the following year. Due to its size and grandeur, the Port employed many labourers in the late 19th and early 20th century. While a majority of dockers were casual labourers, there were skilled workers loaded ships along with lightermen who unloaded cargo from moored boats via barges. While specific dockhands found regular work, the average dockhand lived from day to day,
hoping to be hired when a ship docked. In addition, the work itself was incredibly dangerous. A docker would suffer a fatal injury from falling cargo almost every week in 1900 while nonfatal injuries happened more often. Despite the risks and no means of steady living, London dockers handled exotic imports such as precious stones, African ivory, Indian spices, and Jamaican rum that they could never dream of purchasing themselves. Hence robberies was a common occurrence in the London docks, with dockers hiding goods under their clothes while leaving or they break into warehouses at night, though this was mostly undertaken by professional robbers. In 1888 the impoverished area in and around Whitechapel was notorious for a spate of killings involving five women. The media named the unidentified serial killer, Jack the Ripper which was coined after a letter written by someone claiming to be the murderer. The letter is now widely believed to be a hoax with a popular theory suggesting journalists may have written the letter to increase their newspapers' circulation. Within the official crime case files, the killer was called "the Whitechapel Murderer" and "Leather Apron”. The legacy of the murders and of the victims drew society’s attention to the poor living conditions in the East End and invigorated public opinion against the overcrowded and unsanitary slums.
Business and Economy
With London built as an amalgamation of smaller villages and-and towns, East London is no different. Among the many, we mention a few in particular. Brick Lane, today is famous for its rows of curry houses earning the title Curry Capital of UK. Yet this claim to fame happened in the second half of the 20th century. For centuries the East End has been a stopover for many immigrants employed working in the docks and shipping. These people mainly from Chittagong port in the Bengal. Their regular stopover paved the way
for food/curry outlets to be opened up catering for an all male workforce as family migration and settlement took place some decades later. An interesting fact remains that Sylheti Bengalis constitute only 10% of all South Asians in Britain; however around 90% of all South Asian restaurants in the UK are Sylheti- or Bengali-owned. The Brick Lane area saw families from countries like Bangladesh especially the Greater Sylhet coming to London looking for work. Some curry houses of Brick Lane do not sell alcohol as the establishments are predominately owned by Muslims. Brick Lane has further been immortalised in popular culture in Monica Ali’s 2003 book Brick Lane, and later the film in 2007. The novel provoked a controversy among some in the local community due to the perceived negative portrayal of them. Green Street is a regional centre for retail in and selling of food, jewellery and fabrics on the street and at the Queens Market. The road has a wide range of shops specialising in primarily South Asian foods, saris, jewellery which cater to those with strong cultural and familial ties to India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Earlier a mainly Pakistani locality, today a very large Bangladeshi population live in the area. While East Ham is mostly residential with Asian households. The area has retransformed to cater for the community thanks to its shops and restaurants which specialise in ethnic tastes. There are also still traditional East End eateries. Furthermore, there are many South Asian restaurants which specialise in traditional South Indian cuisine. These include a branch of the famous Saravanaa Bhavan franchise, now spread across London. The borough of Tower Hamlets hosts the world headquarters of many global financial businesses, employing some of the highest paid workers in London, yet the borough also has high rates of long-term illness and premature death and the second highest unemployment rate in London. With 12,500 commercial shipping movements annually, the Port of London handles 10% of the UK commercial shipping trade and contributes £8.5 billion to the UK economy.
The ‘NEW’ east
Through history, no city has called itself great without its transportation system and London is no different. The London Underground has through its tracks helped London grow, connecting the suburbs to the city. While the District Line was there to connect outer lying suburbs, the key to east London’s regeneration is the Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and the Jubilee Line Extension. Proposals for the DLR were under discussion as early as 1972. However with the creation of the London Docklands Development Corporation (LDDC) in 1981 which looked into the redevelopment of the Docklands needed a transportation solution to connect the newly ‘redeveloping’ east. Costing £77 million, the DLR line was formally opened by HM The Queen on 30
July 1987 with passenger services commencing on 31 August. The initial DLR comprised two routes, from Tower Gateway and Stratford to Island Gardens.The three branches had 15 stations stretching 8 miles. Over the years with three separate extension stages and the final one to Stratford International in 2011. Today the DLR has 45 stations stretching 25 miles. There are six branches: to Lewisham in the south, Stratford and Stratford International in the north, Beckton and Woolwich Arsenal in the east, and Central London in the west, splitting to Bank and Tower Gateway.
The extension of the Jubilee line runs from Green Park to Stratford through south and east London. An eastward extension of the line was first proposed in the 1970s. Construction officially started in December 1993 and was supposed to take 53 months. It opened in stages from May to December 1999. The extension has proved extremely successful, relieving pressure on a congested DLR and providing travel links to parts of east London which were poorly connected.
Canary Wharf and the Docklands
Canary Wharf, London’s second business district is home to the world and European headquarters of numerous major banks, professional services firms and media organisations including Barclays, Citigroup, Clifford Chance, Credit Suisse, Infosys, Fitch Ratings, HSBC, J.P. Morgan, KPMG, MetLife, Morgan Stanley, RBC, Skadden, State Street and Thomson Reuters. Savills, a top-end estate agency recommends that 'extreme luxury' and ultra-modern residential properties are to be found at Canary Riverside, West India Quay, Pan Peninsula and Neo Bankside. Canary Wharf has many of Europe's tallest buildings, including the second-tallest in the UK, One Canada Square. Canary Wharf contains around 16,000,000 square feet of office and retail space. Together the companies based in Canary Wharf employ around 105,000 people. Canary Wharf is named after No. 32 berth of the West Wood Quay of the Import Dock which was built in 1936. When the London docks closed in 1980, the British Government decided to redevelop the area and adopted policies including creating the London Docklands Corporation in 1981 and granting an Urban Enterprise Zone status to the Isle of Dogs in 1982. The Canary Wharf of today began when the former chairman of Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB), Michael von Clemm, had the idea to convert Canary Wharf into a back office. Following discussions with G Ware Travelstead, an American property developer led to proposals to create a new business district. Construction began in 1988 with the first buildings finished in 1991, including One Canada Square, becoming UK's tallest building at the time and spurred the regeneration of Docklands.
Historically an agrarian settlement it was transformed into an industrial suburb after the arrival of the railway in 1839. The late 20th Century was a period of severe economic decline, eventually reversed by regeneration associated with the 2012 Olympics, for
Asian Voice weekly newspaper (Issue 28)