Commercial Street is a road in Tower Hamlets, East London that runs north to south from Shoreditch to Aldgate through the East End district of Spitalfields. The road is on the London Inner Ring Road and as such forms part of the boundary of the London congestion charge zone.
As the name implies, Commercial Street has historically been dominated by industrial and commercial activity. It is on the City fringes, and much industry that was seen as too noisome for the City was once exiled to such fringe areas as this.
The road was created as part of a slum clearance programme in the area 1843-5. This entailed the demolition of some 250 sub-standard properties in Whitechapel and Spitalfields. The road was built along the approximate line of former Essex Street, Rose Lane and Red Lion Street. Initially it ended in a tangle of streets just past Christ Church Spitalfields and was only extended north to Shoreditch High street in 1858 (White 2007: 33-4).
The top of the road is dominated by the sprawling Exchange Building, an old Art Deco tobacco works and the former Commercial Street Police Station that are both now residential, but the street's main features, further south, are Hawksmoor's grand Christ Church, on the corner of Fournier Street, almost facing Spitalfields Market, the latter an old fruit and vegetable market that is now bustling again after a long period of uncertainty. Both it and Christ Church are lucky survivors, as demolition has loomed for both of them at one point or another.
Also of note, on the other corner with Fournier Street, is the Ten Bells, a pub that is intimately associated with Jack the Ripper, as it is recorded that some of his female prostitute victims frequented the establishment. Many Ripper tours (a thriving industry) start out nearby. Although the pub has long been refurbished, it still retains some fine original tilework. Prostitution is still a feature of Commercial Street to this day (Taylor 2001: 61).
Mainline railway stations:
White, J. (2007) London in the Nineteenth Century. London: Vintage.
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