The men of early East London garrisoned the Tower of London
East London is a popularly and informally defined part of London, capital of the United Kingdom, lying east of the ancient City and north of the River Thames.
East London might be defined as comprising the whole of six modern London Boroughs: Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest, Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Havering, and the greater part of a seventh, Hackney.
The East End of London is a subset of East London, consisting of areas close to the ancient City of London.
The Eastern (E) Postal District is a different subset of East London; and there is also an "East" sub-region used in the London Plan for planning policy reporting purposes. The most recent (2011) iteration includes seven boroughs north of the Thames, with the addition of three boroughs south of the river.
Limits and extent
The East End is the old core of East London and there are differing views about how much of East London should be considered part of that core area.
By contrast, the extent of East London as a whole can be confidently expressed: lying north of the Thames, stretching from the Roman and medieval walls of the City to the Metropolitan Green Belt, and covering some of the areas that were historically parts of Middlesex and Essex. Aldgate Pump at the edge of the City is a symbolic start of East London; and the East End, and Tower Bridge are sometimes also described in these terms.
East London can be said to consist of two parts: the old Tower Division of Middlesex, and Metropolitan Essex, the latter comprising all of London east of the Lea.
In this way East London is made up of six modern London boroughs and most of a seventh, Hackney.
The parts of Hackney within East London are:
- Shoreditch: including the districts of Hoxton and Haggerston.
- Hackney proper: including the districts of Homerton, Dalston (including Kingsland and Shacklewell), Upper and Lower Clapton, Hackney Central, Hackney Wick, South Hackney, West Hackney, De Beauvoir Town and Stamford Hill - though the last three are not always counted as part of East London.
The north-west part of the borough of Hackney is in North London.
As well as extramural parts of the City
, East London then comprises
Borough Barking and Dagenham Hackney (part) Havering Newham Redbridge Tower Hamlets Waltham Forest
Historic County Essex Middlesex Essex Essex Essex Middlesex Essex
London Assembly constituency City and East North East Havering and Redbridge City and East Havering and Redbridge City and East North East
Inner/Outer London Outer London Inner London Outer London Outer London Outer London Inner London Outer London
Major centres Barking
Canary Wharf Walthamstow
Population (2011) 185,900 246,300 237,200 308,000 279,000 254,100 258,200
E postal district
London Postal Region Map: The 'Eastern' district is a sub-set of East London which excludes central areas, parts of Shoreditch and Hackney proper, and the eastern suburbs.
CC BY-SA 3.0
The E (Eastern) postcode area was introduced in 1857 to facilitate the distribution of mail. The postcode area is a sub-set of East London, with notable exclusions:
- Central areas covered by central London EC postcodes.
- Hoxton in Shoreditch which is part of the N postcode area.
- The West Hackney, De Beauvoir Town and Stamford Hill areas of Hackney proper. These are also part of the N postcode area.
- The eastern suburbs built after the introduction of the E postcode area and which are now mainly in the Ilford and Romford postal areas.
Governance and representation
As described, East London comprises six whole London Boroughs: Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest, Barking and Dagenham, Redbridge, Havering as well as most of the London Borough of Hackney and a small eastern extramural fringe of the City of London.
London currently has 73 parliamentary constituencies, of which 12 are fully and 4 partially in East London. It is anticipated that after 2018 London’s total will be reduced to 68 and the East will have a reduction to 11 full and four part constituencies.
Planning Policy Sub-region
The 2011 iteration of the London Plan included an altered ‘East’ region, to be used for planning, engagement, resource allocation and progress reporting purposes. As well as seven boroughs north of the river, the ‘East’ sub-region also includes three boroughs to the south of it: Greenwich, Bexley and Lewisham. These boroughs are seldom called 'east London' as they are south of the river and are poorly connected to the north.
East London is located in the lower Thames valley. The major rivers of East London are the Thames that forms the southern boundary; the Lea which forms the boundary of Tower Hamlets/Hackney with Newham/Waltham Forest; the Roding which forms the boundary of Newham with Barking and Dagenham/Redbridge; and the Beam which forms the boundary of Barking and Dagenham with Havering. The marshes along the Thames which once stretched from Wapping to Rainham are almost completely gone.
Ogilby & Morgan's 1673 map of London. The East End is developing outside Bishopsgate, Aldgate and along the river - it is separated from the western growth of the city by Moorfields
The East End, the old core of modern East London, began with the medieval growth of London beyond the city walls, along the Roman roads leading from Bishopsgate and Aldgate, and also along the river.
Growth was much slower in the east, and the modest extensions there were separated from the much larger suburbs in the west by the marshy open area of Moorfields adjacent to the wall on the north side, which discouraged development in that direction. Urbanisation accelerated in the 16th century and the area that would later become known as the East End began to take shape.
The first known written record of the East End as a distinct entity, as opposed to its component parts, comes from John Strype's 1720 'Survey of London', where he describes London as consisting of four parts: the City of London, Westminster, Southwark, and That Part beyond the Tower.
The relevance of Strype's reference to the Tower was more than geographical. The East End was the urbanised part of an area called the Tower Division, which had owed military service to the Tower of London since time immemorial. Later, as London grew further, the fully urbanised Tower Division became a byword for wider East London, before East London grew further still, east of the Lea and into Essex.
The westernmost component of the Tower Division was the ancient parish of Shoreditch which would become fully urbanised as part of the East End/East London. Shoreditch's boundary with the parish of St Luke's (and its predecessor St Giles-without-Cripplegate) ran through the Moorfields countryside, and became, on urbanisation, the boundary between east and north London. That line, with very slight modifications, has also become the boundary between the modern London Boroughs of Hackney and Islington.
Moorfields remained largely open until 1812, and the longstanding presence of that open space separating the emerging East End from the western urban expansion of London must have helped shape the varying economic character of the two parts and perceptions of their distinct identity (see map below).
Until about 1700, London did not extend far beyond the walled boundaries of the City of London. However, the population in the parishes to the east of the City was rising and this led to a need to break up the large ancient parish of Stepney into smaller units to provide adequate religious and civil administration. It was the industries associated with the River Thames, such as shipbuilding and the docks, that encouraged growth in the east, and by 1650, Shadwell was a developed maritime settlement. The docks in Tower Hamlets started to reach capacity in the early 19th century, and in 1855 the Royal Victoria Dock was opened in Newham.
These industries declined in the later part of the 20th century (and earlier), but East London is now an area of regeneration. In the London Docklands, this has reached an advanced stage, but in the sections of East London that are within the Thames Gateway it is continuing, such as the redevelopment in Stratford associated with the 2012 Summer Olympics.
Areas further east developed in the Victorian and Edwardian eras after the expansion of the railways in the 19th century. Development of suburban houses for private sale was later matched by the provision of large-scale social housing at Becontree in the 1920s and Harold Hill after the Second World War. However, the urban footprint was constrained in 1878 by the protection of Epping Forest and later the implementation of the Metropolitan Green Belt. The density of development increased during the interwar period, and new industries developed, such as Ford at Dagenham. In Tower Hamlets, the population peaked in 1891 and growth was restricted to the outer boroughs. By 1971, the population had peaked in every borough and the population was declining throughout the entire area. By the time of the 2011 UK Census, this had reversed and every borough had undergone some growth in population.
The population change between 1801 and 2001 was as follows:
Borough Barking and Dagenham Hackney Havering Newham Redbridge Tower Hamlets Waltham Forest
Population (2001) 165,700 207,200 224,700 249,500 241,900 201,100 222,000
Population (1901) 25,080 374,132 24,853 338,506 77,621 578,143 154,146
Population (1801) 1,937 14,609 6,370 8,875 4,909 130,871 6,500
Population peak 168,724 (1951) 379,120 (1911) 248,107 (1971) 454,096 (1931) 270,876 (1951) 584,936 (1891) 280,094 (1931)
The etymology of London is uncertain, but is known to be an ancient name. The concept of East London as a distinct area is a relatively recent innovation. John Strype's map of 1720 describes London as consisting of four parts: The City of London, Westminster, Southwark and "That Part Beyond the Tower". From the late 19th century the term East End of London was used to describe areas immediately adjacent to the City in the Tower division of Middlesex. Charles Booth in 1889 defined East London as the County of London between the City and the River Lea. In 1902 he now considered this area to be the "true East End", and his attention had been drawn eastward over the Lea into the Borough of West Ham, which was then outside London, and geographically in Essex, but under the authority of neither; in 1857 Charles Dickens termed it "London-over-the-Border". Walter Besant described East London as an area north of the Thames and east of the City that stretched as far as Chingford and Epping Forest, which was similar to the definition used by Robert Sinclair in 1950 that stretched east to include Barking and Dagenham. This broadly matched the Metropolitan Police District east of the city and north of the Thames at that time, and now corresponds to the boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest in Greater London.
The area adjacent to the City of London is known as the East End of London. It does not have clearly defined boundaries, but is usually taken to be north of the River Thames, east of the City and west of the River Lea.
2013 saw the formation of a new "not for profit" radio station – East London Radio, which for the first time gave the whole area its own radio station for the whole community, broadcasting online at www.eastlondonradio.org.uk and run by East London Radio C.I.C. An important part of their activity is training people of all ages, from all backgrounds, in making radio programmes. In the first 12 months they trained around 60 people from the area in making talk radio programmes, and produced over 300 recorded programmes. They plan to grow from an initial community base in Hackney to have local studios in each of the East London boroughs, making volunteering and training very accessible and local for the whole community. A key aim is to give East London a voice in the post-Olympics world.