With a rich history and culture, it’s no surprise that the Loom’s neighbourhood has hosted a whole host of fascinating characters. If you’ve ever wondered which famous feet have beaten the cobblestones before you, read on for a glimpse into some of these compelling lives.
Lived in The London Hospital, now known as The Royal London Hospital from 1896 – 1901.
Edith Cavell started life in Norwich, born in 1865 to a vicar and his wife. After her schooling, at 25 Cavell worked as a governess in Brussels before returning swiftly home to care for her severely ill father. Luckily her father survived but the experience instilled Cavell with a passion for caring which led to her first post in nursing that very same year at the London Hospital. Edith spent the next few years working at hospitals around London and Manchester before moving to Belgium in 1907.
Her most remembered act came during the First World War where Edith acted as an intermediary, safely shipping soldiers and those old enough for active service to the safety of the Netherlands. Edith Cavell saved nearly 200 lives, which led to her arrest and execution, by firing squad ordered by the German government. A blue plaque can be found today that commemorates her at the place she lived and studied at The Royal London Hospital.
Lived in the Whitechapel and Mile End area from 1850 – 1936.
Frederick Charrington was born into incredible wealth, being the heir to one of the Charrington Brewery’s partners. After a conversion experience into the Temperance movement during his late teens, Charrington continued with the family business as his interest in religion grew. At 20, he was walking his usual route through Whitechapel when he happened upon a woman and her children outside a pub. The woman was begging her husband for bread for her children, drunken and enraged he threw the woman to the street and began to beat her. The sign above the pub was of his own family brewery. From this point forth, he removed himself from the business, forfeiting a huge inheritance. He then set up the Tower Hamlets Mission, taking over the Great Assembly Hall on Mile End Road for the use of alms for the poor. He was remembered for feeding thousands of the poor.
Spending his years in the East End, he eventually passed away at the London Hospital (now the Royal London Hospital) in 1936.
Joseph Merrick (The Elephant Man)
Lived at the Royal London Hospital 1884- 1890
One of the better known residents of the area, Merrick was born in Leicester in 1862. Born a healthy, normal baby, his parents had no idea that anything in the child’s development was unusual until he reached the age of 5. He found himself in a workhouse in his teens before eventually seeking the assistance of a travelling show, to monetise his disability. He was picked up and toured several cities in the UK before being introduced to Tom Norman, a shop owner who exhibited the poor souls of the area who had, like Merrick been ridiculed throughout their lives. This shop and lodgings was where a doctor who just so happened to be working opposite at the London Hospital first saw him and decided to dedicate his work to discovering and treating Merrick’s condition. He swiftly moved him into the hospital where Joseph was offered his own room.
The Royal London Hospital still holds some of Merrick’s effects which can be requested for viewing.
Lived in Paradise Row, Mile End, worked in the Lord Admiral (299 Whitechapel Road) 1764-1836
Daniel Mendoza was born to immigrant Jewish parents of Portuguese descent in Whitechapel in 1764.He spent most of his life in Paradise Row, Mile End until he moved to a residence in Petticoat Lane later in life. At 16, Mendoza stepped in to take the place of his elderly employer to settle a dispute with a fist fight. Much to the crowd’s surprise, the young man won the rounds, beating his much heavier and older opponent. He continued to fight after this, in fact consecutively winning 29 times, to the amazement of locals. Before he took up the sport, ‘boxing’ was known as a bare Knuckle fight that would simply end at the knock out of one of the participants. His ducking and defence was a first for the sport, which inspired him to write ‘The Modern Art of Boxing’ in 1788. He reached the height of his fame in this time period, even opening a boxing academy that can still be found in Mile End. His original grave site can be visited at Queen Mary University’s Library where he is commemorated with a stone plaque and you can find a blue plaque 3 Paradise Row, Mile End.