Monday, 2 July 2012
IN THE HEART OF THE CITY
I found myself in the heart of London the other day just a stones throw away from Liverpool Street Station. I had a lovely cup of tea at Jeanette Winterson's cafe and grocers, Verde, admiring the way she has preserved this beautiful Georgian shop. I was struck by how there is a real mixture of old and new in the area and I was encouraged to observe this with more attention, inspired the wonderful BBC-2 series The Secret Life of London Streets. The series draws on the fascinating maps created by Charles Booth. Starting in 1886 his ambitious plan was to visit every one of London's streets to record the social conditions of the residents. His project took him 17 years and once he had finished he created a series of maps colour coding each class. Yellow for keeping a servant to black for the vicious and semi-criminal. Years ago I used to travel very late at night though Commercial Road, returning from work, past the Ten Bells Pub in Spitalfields on my home to the very edge of East London. It was not a place to linger. Poverty was there for all to see as the ladies of the night plied their trade openly all along the dirty road. Today it could not look more different with trendy bars, restaurants and up market shops. Modern Booth's map would look totally different from the old one!