In Spitalfields: Dorset Street was “the Worst Street in London”

Past In The Present

For the Daily Mail in 1901 Dorset Street was “the Worst Street” in London.” The notorious stretch in Spitalfields was somewhere that “boasts a murder on average once a month, of a murder in every house, and one house at least, a murder in every room,” it wrote.

The authorities left the inhabitants by and large to their own devices. “Policemen go down it as a rule in pairs,” the Mail added. “Hunger walks prowling in its alleyways, and the criminals of to-morrow are being bred there to-day.”

Laid out in 1674 as Spitalfields expanded as London’s premier silk weaving district, Dorset Street was already starting to look ramshackle by the 18th century. And in the 19th century – when the trade was starting to fade away – is was dominated by sprawling, grimy common lodging houses that even covered former gardens so that landlords could squeeze even more people…

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