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BETHNAL GREEN
Description and History from 1868 Gazetteer

BETHNAL GREEN, a parish within the borough of the Tower Hamlets, lower division of the hundred of Ossulstone, in the county of Middlesex, 2 miles to the N.E. of St. Paul's, London. It formed part of the parish of Stepney until 1743, when it was severed, and erected into an independent parish.

It lies chiefly on the south and west sides of the Regent's canal, and is divided into four districts, called respectively the Church, Green, Hackneyroad, and Town districts. The Great Eastern railway passes through Bethnal-Green. Within the limits of the parish are the North-East London Cemetery, Globe Town, part of Victoria Park, some large brick fields, and extensive market-gardens. The houses are generally old and poorly built. The district is very thickly peopled, and chiefly by silk-weavers, who carry on their employment at their homes. It is usual for one house to be occupied by several families, so that the official returns for 1861 give only 14,812 houses, inhabited by a population of 104,905. The neighbourhood, however, must be considered healthy, for the increase of population in the decennial period since 1851 has been no less than 14,712, and the excess of registered births over deaths in the same period 15,963, showing a considerable migration to less thickly peopled districts. The parish contains a cotton manufactory, and a factory for waterproof hosiery for the use of brewers and firemen. Bethnal-Green forms a Poor-law Union by itself, and has a Union workhouse. The living is a rectory* in the diocese of London, of the value of 514, in the patronage of the bishop, having recently been reduced 100 per annum, by abolition of intermural burials. The church, a plain brick building, was erected in 1746, and is dedicated to St. Matthew. There are 11 other churches in the parish, 10 of which were founded between 1840 and 1850, chiefly in consequence of the energetic efforts of Bishop Blomfield. The livings are all perpetual curacies in the gift of the Bishop of London, varying in value from 200 to 400. The church dedicated to St. John, is a large and handsome structure in the Grecian style, built in 1828, from designs by Soane. Its cost was nearly 18,000. Here are also an Episcopal chapel connected with the schools of the London Society for promoting Christianity among the Jews, chapels belonging to the Wesleyans, Baptists, Independents, and other religious bodies. The charitable foundations are numerous, and the annual value of their endowments about 650. The principal charity is the free school and almshouse founded and endowed in 1722 by Thomas Parmiter, and further endowed by Elizabeth Carter and others. The income from the endowments has been augmented by judicious management, and now amounts to above 300 per annum. The parochial school, established in 1771 for 90 children of both sexes, has an income of about 140. There is also a National school for 1000 children. There are almshouses founded by Captain Fisher, and by the Drapers' and Dyers' Companies. Trinity Hospital, for the support and residence of masters of ships or their widows, was founded in 1695, and endowed a few years later by Captain Sandes. The building now occupied as a lunatic asylum was formerly a private mansion, and was built in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. According to the old ballad this house was the residence of the "Blind Beggar of Bethnal-Green," the hero of the ballad being, it is said, Henry, the son of the great Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester. The staff of the parish beadle still bears memorial of the legendary adventure. Another important charity of this parish is that called the Green Lands, the produce of which goes to the relief of the poor, and amounts to 154 per annum. Victoria Park is situated between the Regent's canal and the parishes of Hackney and Bow, extending about a mile in length, and comprising an area of nearly 300 acres. The formation of the park was commenced in 1841, and a handsome drinking fountain was erected by Miss Burdett Coutts in 1862. Several men of note have been residents in this parish. Bishop Bonner is said to have lived in a hall called Bishop's Hall, the site of which is near the park-; Sir Richard, father of Sir Thomas Gresham, resided here; Ainsworth, author of the well-known Latin Dictionary, had a school here; and William Caslon, the famous engraver and type-founder, was residing here at the time of his death, in January, 1766. The name of the parish is probably derived from an ancient residence called Bathon Hall, and a large green near Bishop's Hall. A grand social experiment has recently been tried here by Miss Burdett Coutts, in order to show how houses may be provided for the labouring-classes in accordance with the requirements of sanitary science, and at the same time affording a fair remuneration for the capital employed. To solve this difficult social problem, Miss Coutts caused a range of structures, designed by Mr. Darbishire, and forming three sides of a square, to be erected. Each block of buildings is distinct, and rises to five stories, fitted with its own baths, washhouses, club-rooms, shafts for removal of dust, and, in fact, all modern appliances that seem likely to conduce to-the health, cleanliness, and comfort of the class for whom they are designed. These lodgings were eagerly sought after, and are now occupied by about 170 families, who rent from one to three rooms at rates varying from 2s. to 5s. per week. The external appearance of this block of buildings is very pleasing, owing to the unity of architectural design, and the breaking of the sky-line. As evidence of the success of the experiment, it will be remembered that Mr. Peabody presented in 1862 the munificent sum of 150,000, to be employed chiefly for the same purpose.

[Description(s) from "The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland" (1868)
Transcribed by Colin Hinson 2003]
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[Last updated 4 Nov 2003 by David Hawgood. 2003]