IN 1901, an intrepid reporter from the Daily Mail set out to uncover ‘the worst street in London’ and found it in Dorset Street, Spitalfields. “Policemen go down it as rule in pairs. Hunger walks prowling in its alleyways, and the criminals of to-morrow are being bred there to-day,” he...
IN 1901, an intrepid reporter from the Daily Mail set out to uncover ‘the worst street in London’ and found it in Dorset Street, Spitalfields.
“Policemen go down it as rule in pairs. Hunger walks prowling in its alleyways, and the criminals of to-morrow are being bred there to-day,” he wrote of the small service road less than a block from Old Spitalfields Market.
It’s difficult to reconcile this former Victorian slum turned mid-century artist colony with the Spitalfields of today; where shiny City towers loom over the lovingly restored merchant terrace houses and converted lofts, and trendy food trucks flock to manicured public squares.
Dorset Street, for its part, has long been swallowed up by the London Wool & Fruit Exchange, a 320,000-square foot commercial/retail development due for completion this spring, though tourists still flock for a glimpse of the spot where Jack the Ripper’s final victim Mary Kelly was brutally murdered.
And it is this rich history, even the most unsavoury chapters, that has helped shape Spitalfields as one of the most sought-after pockets of London for those who like their City conveniences with plenty of character.
What properties are on offer?
Landmark 17th-century terraces line sought-after pockets in Fournier and Folgate Streets, and have mostly been renovated into three and four-bedroom stately homes with price tags between £3million and £4m. Space Station is currently marketing a six-storey, Grade II-listed townhouse in Folgate Street for £3.25m.
Sean Ward from Winkworth estate agents says Commercial Street and areas around Brick Lane are popular for two-bedroom warehouse conversions, which sell for upwards of £700 per square foot. Winkworth are currently marketing a two-bedroom flat in the sought-after Exchange Building for £1.15m. Closer to Columbia Road to the east you will find small two-bedroom cottages and some low-rise post-war former council flats.
New developments nearby include the high-end London Square on Commercial Street, where one-bedroom flats start at close to £700,000 while a sprawling three-bedroom flat with a private winter garden terrace will set you back £1.175m.
Gone are the days that colonies of artists, writers and creatives occupied the five-storey terraces built by Huguenot silk weavers, now it’s strictly City types bidding for a slice of the area’s hipster cafes and boutiques, as well as a prime location for the walk to and from work.
“Since the investors have dropped off a bit we’re seeing a lot more professional couples looking to get into the area,” Sean says.
“City workers love it because they can up and walk to Old Street, Liverpool Street and Bank within 10 minutes, and even London Bridge and Canary Wharf are within easy reach.
“You also get a lot more for your money than in Canary Wharf where you’re looking at around £1,000 per square-foot.”
Dream home: One of Spitalfields’ largest Georgian terraces, this three-bedroom Grade II-listed townhouse in Princelet Street was built by Joseph Truman himself in 1705-06. A recent renovation pairs impeccably maintained period features like wood floors and oak panelling with open-plan living spaces and luxurious modern finishes. It is on the market with Space Station for £4.5m.
Rebecca Littler, sales and marketing director at London Square, says they have seen strong interest in the development from domestic buyers, with a 50-50 split between owner occupiers and investors.
“The Spitalfields area offers unbeatable connectivity, and a culturally rich social scene, appealing to all types of buyers,” she says.
While Spitalfields doesn’t have its own station, the Underground network services the area well from Liverpool Street (Central, Hammersmith & City, and Circle lines) and Aldgate East (District and Hammersmith & City lines).
Shoreditch High Street station is on the popular Overground route through east London that runs weekend all-night services from Highbury & Islington to New Cross as of last week.
And Canary Wharf workers can look forward to a longer lie-in come December with the opening of the Elizabeth line, which puts Liverpool Street within six minutes of Canary Wharf station, compared to the current 21-minute journey.
The shops ringing Old Spitalfields Market are mostly home to high-end fashion and accessories labels like Rag & Bone, Chanel, and Zadig & Voltaire, while recently built market units play host to a mix of traders selling arts and crafts and accessories.
Each Saturday, the Style Market attracts more than 80 independent designers selling original clothing, accessories, homewares and ethical goods, while Sundays are best spent strolling along neighbouring Brick Lane for vintage, antiques and bric-a-brac.
There are fine dining options aplenty hidden away in Spitalfields’ cobblestone streets. The Frog E1 will sort you out with seasonal British small plates, Som Saa is the go-to for creative Thai dishes, while Gunpowder dishes up some of the best Indian food in the Capital, often with a queue snaking down Whites Row to match.
Some traditional boozers have been gussied up to gastropub status (park yourself on the Culpeper’s roof terrace as soon as the weather warms up) but others, like the Ten Bells, wear their peeling wallpaper and beer-stained carpets with pride.
And the market’s culinary credentials went from strength to strength late last year with the launch of The Kitchens, a hub of kitchen units now home toestablished and up-and-coming street food traders like Breddos Tacos, Berber and Q, Dumpling Shack, and Italian supper club Sood Family.
Arts & Leisure
Edgy Whitechapel Gallery is renowned for its groundbreaking exhibitions of contemporary art while the Old Truman Brewery plays host to regular exhibitions, festivals and events. Film buffs can head on over to Curzon cinemas at Aldgate East or Rich Mix in Shoreditch.