Whitechapel – a generation earlier, about 1795

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May 29, 2013 by auntkatefirmin

Let’s follow the family of William Kinning, possible father of Sarah.

Old London Bridge.

Old London Bridge by Edward William Cooke.
© National Maritime Museum, London

By 1794, the Kinnings had moved across the river from Southwark, crossing old London Bridge on their way to Whitechapel.  Some 30 years before, all the houses on the bridge had been torn down in a effort to improve traffic on the bridge.  This bridge would stand until 1831 – well into the lifetimes of the Kinning children.

Suppose for a moment that their route took them through the City to the gap in the wall at Aldgate.  Just before they left the city they would pass the Aldgate Pump, the point from which distances are measured going to the east.  Once the site of a well that may date back to King John’s era, it’s a reminder that many houses in this era would not have their own water.

Aldgate Pump.  Photo: Paul Collins via Wikipedia.org.

Aldgate Pump.
Photo: Paul Collins via Wikipedia.org.

This modern photo of the pump will have to stand in for what the Kinnings might have seen.  The pump was moved across the street in 1876 and I’ve not seen a reference to a drawing of the old pump.

Passing through the site of Aldgate (torn down to improve traffic in 1760) and down Aldgate High Street, St. Botolph’s would be visible on the left.

St Botolph's  Aldgate.

St Botolph’s Aldgate.
© Trustees of the British Museum

Built in 1744 on the site of an earlier church, the location near the City gate was deliberate as St. Botolph was the patron saint of travelers and it was customary to stop and pray and at the beginning of a journey.  At one time there were four gates with churches dedicated to St Botolph:  Aldgate, Aldersgate, Billingsgate and Bishopsgate.

If the family were to continue for a mile along the road from the Aldgate pump to Mile End, after passing St. Mary’s church, among other landmarks they would pass the Whitechapel Bell Foundry (the building dates back to 1670),

Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Whitechapel Bell Foundry and sign showing Fieldgate Street.
Photo: Grim23 at en. Wikipedia

the Whitechapel Mount, and the London Hospital (built in 1758)

Royal London Hospital

Modern view of Royal London Hospital’s original building. Photo: Wikipedia.

before reaching the toll gate.

Mile End turnpike gate in 1798.

Mile End turnpike gate in 1798.
© The Trustees of the British Museum

On this trip, less than half-way to Mile End, they would turn south off the High Street just before St Mary’s, and follow Church Lane to the turning for Morgan Street.  After 1797, the family is also found on Charlotte Street, an extension of Fieldgate Street to the east, marked as “rope walk” on this 1795 map.  The large building above the 31 on the map is the London Hospital, with the Whitechapel Mount on its west side.  Mile End turnpike is a bit farther east on the Whitechapel Road.

The Kinning's Whitechapel from Cary's 1795 map, via mapco.com.   1. St Mary, Whitechapel 2. St Botolph, Aldgate Marked in orange; White Horse Lane - now Commercial Road. Morgan Street -

The Kinning’s Whitechapel from Cary’s 1795 map,
via mapco.com.
1. St Mary, Whitechapel – now Altab Ali Park
2. St Botolph, Aldgate
Marked in orange;
White Horse Lane – now Commercial Road.
Morgan Street – now Hessel street
Charlotte Street marked as “rope walk” – now the eastern end of Fieldgate Street

How did William earn his living?  He had been supporting the family in Southwark for many years before making the move across the river.  Here are what I see as some of the clues.   He stays within walking distance of the Thames.  He doesn’t appear to have served a formal apprenticeship.  He rents a building valuable enough to be subject to taxes which implies to me that he stores some type of bulky goods for manufacturing or redistribution.  In 1794 he is described as a laborer.  By 1797 he is still paying taxes on the Morgan Street building but apparently living nearby in Charlotte Street.

Currently my best guess is that William had something to do with rope works or building supplies.  A supplier of maritime goods might have lived closer to the docks. If he were a carpenter or other craftsman it seems likely that term would have been used instead of laborer – but perhaps not, he was a newcomer in 1794.  Certainly plenty of buildings were being put up in Whitechapel at this time and plenty of building materials would be needed. It’s all speculation at this point!

In any event, by 1794 Whitechapel was a lively place but right next to very rural areas.

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