Halfway up Commercial Street, one block away from Spitalfields Market, lies an anonymous service road. The average pedestrian wouldn’t even notice it existed. But unlikely though it may seem, this characterless, 400ft strip of tarmac was once Dorset Street – the most notorious thoroughfare in the Capital; the worst street in London and the resort of Protestant fire-brands, thieves, con-men, pimps, prostitutes and murderers, most notably Jack the Ripper.
Spitalfields as a whole is now a vibrant and fashionable place to live, work and play; the home of artists and artisans, just as it was when the Huguenots settled there. However, as dusk falls, the seemingly indelible, sordid side of this fascinating part of London begins to emerge once again as the unknowing descendants of Mary Kelly, Mary Ann Austin and Kitty Ronan and others begin to ply their trade around the hallowed walls of Christ Church. All signs of Dorset Street, ‘ the worst street in London’, may all but have disappeared from the map but its legacy is too powerful to ever be entirely erased.
This book chronicles the rise and fall of this remarkable street, from its promising beginnings at the centre of the 17th Century silk weaving industry through its gradual descent into iniquity, vice and violence to its final demise at the hands of the demolition men. Its remarkable history gives a fascinating insight into an area of London that has, from its initial development, been a cultural melting pot – the place where many thousands of immigrants became Londoners. It also tells the story of a part of London that, until quite recently, was largely left to fend for itself, with truly horrifying results.
‘Fascinating micro-history of the life and grimes of a long forgotten place…’ Leo Hills, The Independent
‘…an entertaining and most competent social history of an area and extremely well-researched.’ Internet Book Law Reviews