Today we ventured out as a class on our second-to-the-last tour trip with Andrew. It is definitely bittersweet – on one hand, we are all really tired and a bit homesick (plus excited for Spring Break and Italy), but on the other hand I will definitely miss London and being in a class with someone as genuinely excited and interesting as Andrew.
The start of the class was spent walking through the streets of East London, with Andrew pointing out specific sites and detailing their importance in history. One of the first places we visited was Old Spitalfields Market, a covered market just outside the city of London. According to Wikipedia, “There has been a market on the site since 1638 when Charles I of England gave a licence for flesh, fowl and roots to be sold on Spittle Fields – which was then a rural area on the eastern outskirts of London. After the rights to a market had seemingly lapsed during the time of the Commonwealth, the market was refounded in 1682 by Charles II in order to feed the burgeoning population of a new suburb of London“.
The next location on our list was actually a set of streets, including the famous Brick Lane. Since we were walking (more like meandering) at a slow pace, I took the time to stop and take photos of the graffiti art lining the walls of buildings and stores. Some were really symbolic while others were just artwork on a different canvas. During the walk we even passed by an adorable Scottish Terrier!
After walking through Brick Lane, we entered Altab Ali Park, an important historical site. Formerly known as St. Mary’s Park, it is the site of the old 14th Century white chapel, St. Mary Matfelon, hence the name of the area: “Whitechapel”. According to Wikipedia, “having been destroyed in The Blitz in 1940, all that remains of the old church is the floor plan and a few graves. The park was renamed Altab Ali Park in 1998 in memory of Altab Ali, a 25-year-old Bangladeshi clothing worker, who was murdered on 4 May 1978 in Adler Street by three teenage boys as he walked home from work. At the entrance to the park is an arch created by David Peterson, developed as a memorial to Altab Ali and other victims of racist attacks. The arch incorporates a complex Bengali-style pattern, meant to show the merging of different cultures in East London“.
The walk through the park was technically our last location on our tour itinerary, so on the way back to the tube station Andrew had us walk by several important monuments, including the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, and the East London Mosque. The visit to Altab Ali Park (and seeing the places of worship) really emphasized how many different cultures are represented in East London.
When our class tour of East London was finished for the day, we then left for our final visit: The Museum of Childhood!