The Garden Guide

Book: London and Its Environs, 1927
Chapter: 31 Whitechapel and Bethnal Green

Bethnal Green

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BETHNAL GREEN, the district to the east of Shoreditch and north of Stepney (and Whitechapel), is a metropolitan and parliamentary borough, with 117,238 inhabitants, mainly cabinet-makers, boot-makers, dock-labourers, and carmen. A busy Sunday morning market for dogs, birds, musical instruments, etc., is held at the east end of Bethnal Green Road. Bethnal Green Museum, opened in 1872, is a branch of the Victoria and Albert Museum and occupies a plain brick building in Cambridge Road. It is open free daily: Sunday 2.30-5; Monday & Thursday 10-9, other days 10 to 4 or 5; Saturday always 10-5. The interior of the museum, which is of iron, consists of a large hall surrounded by two tiers of galleries. The mosaic flooring was made from waste chips of marble by female convicts from Woking Prison. The hall is usually occupied by Loan Collections. The LOWER GALLERIES. The north Gallery contains a large and interesting permanent Collection of Articles used for Food. In the south Gallery is the permanent Collection of Animal Products, in various stages of manufacture (wool, silk, cotton, etc.). On the west wall are some fine specimens of tusks and horns. The chief feature in the UPPER GALLERIES is the Dixon Collection of Pictures, bequeathed to the museum in 1886. The most noteworthy of these are the water-colours, shown on the screens, including examples of Cattermole, Copley Fielding, P. de Wint (7); David Cox, Penley. Prout (8); Sidney Cooper, T. M. Richardson (9); Fripp. Gilbert (10); Carl Haag and Birket Foster (11). The oil-paintings are hung on the walls. The north gallery contains also some paintings of St. Peter's, by Louis Haghe, a loan collection of pottery and porcelain, and an 18th century room from Damascus. In the south gallery are furniture of the 16-19th century; drawings by Cruikshank; a Japanese reception room; proof engravings; a doll's house (early 18th century), etc. From the museum we may now follow Old Ford Road and Approach Road to (+ mile) Victoria Park, passing the City of London Hospital for Diseases of the Heart and Lungs. Victoria Park, opened in 1845 and enlarged in 1872, covers an area of 217 acres and is the principal playground of East London and a favourite haunt of Sunday lecturers. The south-west half is diversified with flower-beds, shrubberies, walks, and boating and bathing lakes, while the north-east end is reserved for cricket and other games. Among other points in (or on the edge of) Bethnal Green may be mentioned the handsome French Protestant Hospital, in Victoria Park Road, a home for the aged, founded in 1718 and available for French Protestants residing in Great Britain; the Oxford University Settlement, in Mape St.; and the Queen's Hospital for Children, in Hackney Road. The name of Banner Road commemorates the belief that Bishop Bonner (circa 1500-69) once lived here. To the north of Bethnal Green lies the metropolitan borough of HACKNEY, with 222,159 inhabitants. Once a fashionable suburb, this is now a somewhat unattractive district, the most noteworthy feature of which is the Hackney Marshes, a low-lying raea of flat meadow-land (338 acres in extent), intersected by the river Lea, and opened as a public park in 1894. The large parish church of St. John was rebuilt about a century ago, but contains a few monuments, from the earlier church. The 16th century tower of the old church is still standing in the churchyard. St. John's Institute, at No. 2 High St., Homerton, a Tudor building with linen-fold panelling, was once occupied by Sir Thomas Picton, who fell at Waterloo. The Hackney Technical Institute, controlled and maintained by the London County Council, has two branches, one in Dalston Lane and the Sir John Cass Branch, established with the aid of a grant of �5000 from the Cass Bequest in Cassland Road. The district between London and Hackney was formerly infested by highwaymen, and the White Horse Inn, at the old Lea ferry, wae once a reputed haunt of Dick Turpin.