Bethnal Green

Bethnal Green is an area in the East End of London which lies 3.3 miles (5.3 km) northeast of Charing Cross. It is an electoral ward of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, though the wider area stretches across both Bethnal Green Ward and St Peter's ward.[2][3] Part of the area has been designated by the council as a conservation area which includes a number of important listed buildings.[4] The area emerged from the hamlet which developed around the Green,[5] much of which survives today as Bethnal Green Gardens, located on Canbridge Heath Road.

Bethnal Green

Stairway to Heaven, also seen is Bethnal Green tube station, CoE St John Church and Salmon and Ball public house.
Bethnal Green
Location within Greater London
Population27,849 (Bethnal Green North and Bethnal Green South wards 2011)[1]
OS grid referenceTQ345825
 Charing Cross3.3 mi (5.3 km) SW
London borough
Ceremonial countyGreater London
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townLONDON
Postcode districtE1, E2
Dialling code020
EU ParliamentLondon
UK Parliament
London Assembly

The hamlet was part of the ancient parish of Stepney, but adopted its definition as a wider district when, following population increases caused by the expansion of London in the 18th century, it was split off from Stepney as the parish of Bethnal Green in 1743. It became part of the metropolis in 1855 and the County of London in 1889. The parish became the Metropolitan Borough of Bethnal Green in 1900. In 1965 it was abolished and became a district in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

The economic history of Bethnal Green is characterised by a shift away from agricultural provision for the City of London to market gardening, weaving and light industry, which has now all but disappeared. The quality of the built environment had deteriorated by the turn of the 20th century and was radically altered by aerial bombardment in the Second World War and the subsequent social housing developments. In 1943, 173 people were killed at a single incident at Bethnal Green Underground station. Bethnal Green has formed part of Greater London since 1965 and is connected to the London Underground and London Overground. In 2005 the area along with neighbouring Haggerston suffered a terrorist attack on a London Buses route 26 bus in the 21 July 2005 London bombings on Hackney Road.


The topographer Daniel Lysons suggested in the late 18th century that Bethnal was a corruption of the name Bathon-Hall which would have been the residence of a notable Bathon family who owned large areas of Stepney, the parish of which Bethnal Green was once a part. "Green" related to an area which lay "about half a mile beyond the suburbs".[6]

More recently it has been suggested that the name could be a derivation of the Anglo-Saxon Blithehale or Blythenhale from the 13th century. healh would have meant "angle, nook, or corner" and blithe would have been the word for "happy, blithe", or come from a personal name Blitha. Over time, the name became Bethan Hall Green, which, because of local pronunciation as Beth'n 'all Green, would eventually change to Bethnal Green.[7]



In what would become northern Bethnal Green (known as Cambridge Heath) a tract of common land, which stretched to the east and west, belonged to the old Stepney Manor to the south. The heath was used as pasture where people grazed their sheep in the 13th century, though 1275 records suggest at least one house stood there.[8]

A Tudor ballad, the Blind Beggar of Bethnal Green, tells the story of an ostensibly poor man who gave a surprisingly generous dowry for his daughter's wedding. The tale furnishes the parish of Bethnal Green's coat of arms. According to one version of the legend, found in Thomas Percy's Reliques of Ancient English Poetry published in 1765, the beggar was said to be Henry, the son of Simon de Montfort, but Percy himself declared that this version was not genuine.[9] The Blind Beggar public house in Whitechapel is reputed to be the site of his begging.


The Green and Poor's Land is the area of open land now occupied by Bethnal Green Library, the V&A Museum of Childhood and St John's Church, designed by John Soane. In Stow's Survey of London (1598) the hamlet was called Blethenal Green. It was one of the hamlets included in the Manor of Stepney and Hackney. Hackney later became separated. In 1678 the owners of houses surrounding the Green purchased the land to save it from being built on and in 1690 the land was conveyed to a trust under which it was to be kept open and rent from it used for the benefit of poor people living in the vicinity. From that date, the trust has administered the land and its minute books are kept in the London Metropolitan Archives. Bethnal House, or Kirby's Castle, was the principal house on the Green. One of its owners was Sir Hugh Platt (1552–1608), author of books on gardening and practical science. Under its next owner it was visited by Samuel Pepys. In 1727 it was leased to Matthew Wright and for almost two centuries it was an asylum. Its two most distinguished inmates were Alexander Cruden, compiler of the Concordance to the Bible, and the poet Christopher Smart. Cruden recorded his experience in The London Citizen Grievously Injured (1739) and Smart's stay there is recorded by his daughter. Records of the asylum are kept in the annual reports of the Commissioner in Lunacy. Even today, the park where the library stands is known locally as "Barmy Park". The original mansion, the White House, was supplemented by other buildings. In 1891 the Trust lost the use of Poor's Land to the London County Council. The asylum reorganised its buildings, demolishing the historic White House and erecting a new block in 1896. This building became the present Bethnal Green Library. A history of Poor's Land and Bethnal House is included in The Green, written by A.J. Robinson and D.H.B. Chesshyre.

Boxing has a long association with Bethnal Green. Daniel Mendoza, who was champion of England from 1792 to 1795 though born in Aldgate, lived in Paradise Row on the western side of Bethnal Green for 30 years.

The north end of the Green is associated with the Natt family. During the 18th century they owned many of its houses. Netteswell House is the residence of the curator of the Bethnal Green Museum. It is almost certainly named after the village of Netteswell, near Harlow, whose rector was the Reverend Anthony Natt. A few of its houses have become University settlements. In Victoria Park Square, on the east side of the Green, No. 18 has a Tudor well in its cellar.[10]

The silk-weaving trade spread eastwards from Spitalfields throughout the 18th century. This attracted many Huguenot and Irish weavers to the district. Large estates of small two-storey cottages were developed in the west of the area to house them. A downturn in the trade in 1769 led to the Spitalfield Riots, and on 6 December 1769, two weavers accused of "cutting" were hanged in front of the Salmon and Ball public house.

Bethnal Green Road Market on the road of the same name, founded in the 18th century, grew and grew and became more full with stalls. By 1959 stalls were choking the streets and the council attempted to relocate the market but had no success. In 1986 there had been many shop closures but the stalls were still trading. The street market is now today recognised as a major local shopping area.[11]

Victorian era

In the 19th century, Bethnal Green remained characterised by its market gardens and by weaving. Having been an area of large houses and gardens as late as the 18th century, by about 1860 Bethnal Green was mainly full of tumbledown old buildings with many families living in each house. By the end of the century, Bethnal Green was one of the poorest slums in London. Jack the Ripper operated at the western end of Bethnal Green and in neighbouring Whitechapel. In 1900, the Old Nichol Street rookery was demolished, and the Boundary Estate opened on the site near the boundary with Shoreditch. This was the world's first council housing, and brothers Lew Grade and Bernard Delfont were brought up here.[12] In 1909, the Bethnal Green Estate was built with money left by the philanthropist William Richard Sutton which he left for "modern dwellings and houses for occupation by the poor of London and other towns and populous places in England".[13][14]

The Regent's Canal opened in 1820, for horse drawn canal barges to carry cargo from the River Thames to the Grand Union Canal. These supplied local coal merchants and several gas houses built along its banks including Bethnal Green.[15]

The London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews built Palestine Place as Cambridge Heath began to be fully developed during the first half of the 19th century, although a windmill survived until at least 1836. However most of the local residents were poor, especially in the streets around the railway line and the Regent's Canal, as well as on Russia Lane. It was during this time the Peabody Trust built the Bethnal Green Estate in 1910.[16]

In 1841, the Anglo-Catholic Nathaniel Woodard, who was to become a highly influential educationalist in the later part of the 19th century, became the curate of the newly created St. Bartholomew's in Bethnal Green. He was a capable pastoral visitor and established a parochial school. In 1843, he got into trouble for preaching a sermon in which he argued that The Book of Common Prayer should have additional material to provide for confession and absolution and in which he criticised the "inefficient and Godless clergy" of the Church of England. After examining the text of the sermon, the Bishop of London condemned it as containing "erroneous and dangerous notions". As a result, the bishop sent Woodard to be a curate in Clapton.

Globe Town was established from 1800 to provide for the expanding population of weavers around Bethnal Green attracted by improving prospects in silk weaving. The population of Bethnal Green trebled between 1801 and 1831, operating 20,000 looms in their own homes. By 1824, with restrictions on importation of French silks relaxed, up to half these looms became idle and prices were driven down. With many importing warehouses already established in the district, the abundance of cheap labour was turned to boot, furniture and clothing manufacture. Globe Town continued its expansion into the 1860s, long after the decline of the silk industry.[17]

Columbia Road Flower Market is on the street of the same name which has a number of Victorian shops along the roadside and was established as Columbia Market in 1869 as a covered food market which closed in 1886 but was revived as a Sunday flower market years later.[18][19]

Bethnal Green Junction, now just Bethnal Green from 1946 (not to be confused with the much later London Underground station of the same name) and Cambridge Heath railway station are both on the London Overground network and were both opened by the Great Eastern Railway (GER) on the Lea Valley Lines in 1872 as part of a more direct route to Enfield Town. The GER opened two additional tracks now known as the Fast Lines that allow longer distance trains to bypass the stations.[20][21][22] Bethnal Green was also formerly served by trains on the Great Eastern Main Line (GEML) via Stratford and has had two derailments in the later 20th century due to its role as a junction.[23][24]

In 1855 Bethnal Green was included within the area of the Metropolitan Board of Works to which it nominated one member and the various local government bodies were replaced by a single incorporated vestry which consisted of 48 elected vestrymen.[25]

Under the Metropolis Management Act 1855 any parish that exceeded 2,000 ratepayers was to be divided into wards; as such the incorporated vestry of St Matthew Bethnal Green was divided into four wards (electing vestrymen): No. 1 or East (9), No. 2 or North (9), No. 3 or West (15) and No. 4 or South (15).[25][26][27]

Mowlem Primary School, which opened in 1887 and was called Mowlem Street School. As the population grew, the school was enlarged in 1898 and changed once again in 1902 for 410 boys and 410 girls. A new single-storey building catering for a total of 280 children was opened in 1971 when it was renamed Mowlem Primary School.[28]

Early 20th century

St Casimir's was founded in 1901, with a church on the corner of Christian Street and Cable Street. Fr Boleslas Szlamas had his quarters at 197 Whitechapel Road. The present church dates from ten years later, during the rectorate of Fr Casimir G. Matulaitis. It was opened by Cardinal Bourne on 10 March 1912. The Mass on this occasion was said by Fr Benedict Williamson, who was the architect of the church.[29]

The internationally renowned York Hall opened in 1929 with a capacity of 1,200.[30]

The warehouse buildings rose from the Regent's Canal without a towpath to interrupt development, giving direct access to the canal. A row of Victorian workshops was built on Wadeson Street in what was a historically Jewish precinct. This became very overcrowded with 572 inhabitants living in 125 houses by the 1930s.[4] The stretch was then redeveloped into warehouses and factories by 1937.

Second World War

The Blitz

During the Second World War the Luftwaffe began The Blitz on 7 September 1940. Bethnal Green was in "Target Area A" along with the rest of the East End of London.[31]

Bethnal Green Library was bombed on the very first night of the Blitz. This forced the temporary relocation of the library into the unopened Bethnal Green Underground Station in order to provide continuity of lending services. The library was rebuilt and opened a few months later for the public.[32] Oxford House also had a major role, with some local residents fleeing into the house off Bethnal Green Road seeking shelter, this location was more attractive than the stables under the nearby Great Eastern Main Line arches. The Chief Shelter Welfare Officer at the time, Jane Leverson said "people came to Oxford House not because it was an air raid shelter but because there they found happiness and a true spirit of fellowship".[33]

It is estimated that during the Second World War, 80 tons of bombs fell on the Metropolitan Borough of Bethnal Green, affecting 21,700 houses, destroying 2,233 and making a further 893 uninhabitable. There were a total of 555 people killed and 400 seriously injured.[34] Many unexploded bombs remain in the area, and on 14 May 2007, builders discovered a Second World War 1 m long 500 lb (230 kg) bomb.[35]

Bethnal Green tube disaster

On 3 March 1943, the air-raid Civil defence siren sounded at 8:17 pm, causing a flow of people down the staircase which had no lights on from the street level into the incomplete Bethnal Green tube station, which had been requisitioned in 1940 by the Metropolitan Borough of Bethnal Green under the supervision of the Regional Commissioners. The panic itself began at 8:27 coinciding with the sound of an anti-aircraft battery (possibly the recently installed Z battery) being fired at nearby Victoria Park. In the wet, dark conditions the crowd was surging forward towards the shelter when a woman tripped on the stairs, causing many others to fall. Within a few seconds 300 people were crushed into the tiny stairwell, resulting in the deaths of 173 people (most of whom were women and children) who were crushed and asphyxiated. Although a report was filed by Eric Linden with the Daily Mail, who witnessed it, it was never published. Very little information was provided at the time.[36][37][38] The results of the official investigation were not released until 1946.[39]


Bethnal Green tube station opened on 4 December 1946 on the Central Line and is between Liverpool Street and Mile End on the London Underground, however construction of the Central line's eastern extension into then-Essex was started in the 1930s, and the tunnels were largely complete at the outbreak of the Second World War although rails were not laid. It is still the site of the largest loss of life in a single incident on the London Underground network.[40]

The book Family and Kinship in East London (1957) shows an improvement in working class life. Husbands in the sample population no longer went out to drink but spent time with the family. As a result, both birth rate and infant death rate fell drastically and local prosperity increased.

Bethnal Green, being the cultural heart of the East End, has long been a hotbed of organised crime. Its most famous criminals were the Kray twins, known as Ronald "Ronnie" Kray and Reginald "Reggie" Kray who were identical twin brothers and were active during the 1950s and 1960s with a gang known as The Firm.[41]

In the 1970s, Tower Hamlets Council decided to fence the area that would become Bethnal Green Nature Reserve, and lock it up to protect it from fly tipping. In the late 1990s the local Teesdale and Hollybush Tenants and Residents Association became the site custodians and, with the support of Tower Hamlets Council, took responsibility for St Jude's as it was still called locally.[42]



The former Bethnal Green Infirmary, later the London County Council Bethnal Green Hospital, stood opposite Cambridge Heath railway station. The hospital closed as a public hospital in the 1970s and was a geriatric hospital under the NHS until the 1980s. Much of the site was developed for housing in the 1990s but the hospital entrance and administration block remains as a listed building. The Albion Rooms are located in Bethnal Green where Pete Doherty and Carl Barât of the Libertines used to live when the band was together. It became part of music history as the band would hold Guerilla Gigs in the flat that would be packed with people.

The 26 bus route was introduced in 1992 to replace the withdrawn section of route 6 between Hackney Wick and Aldwych and included a new night counterpart to Chingford from Hackney Wick, the N26.[43]

On 25 September 1993, route 309 started running between Bethnal Green and Poplar. It was intended to start from the London Chest Hospital but this was delayed due to speed hump problems and it therefore started and ended at Three Colts Lane instead. It was finally extended from Bethnal Green Station to Chest Hospital in 1995.[44]

Chris Gollon gained a major commission from the Church of England for fourteen Stations of the Cross paintings for the St John church.[45] Gollon was a controversial choice, since he is not a practising Christian. In order to carry out the commission, and for consultation theological matters, he collaborated with Fr Alan Green, Rector of the church.[46]

In 2005, Bethnal Green had become a hub of the East London art scene, centred around Vyner Street.[47][48] During this period the 26 bus route was targeted during the 21 July 2005 London bombings by would-be bomber Muktar Said Ibrahim who attempted to explode a device while the bus was on Hackney Road from Waterloo which caused a small explosion but not as intended and there was no significant damage and no loss of life.[49]


Between 2005 and 2008, the EEL (East End Life) established the Vyner Street Festival with the local Victory Pub as a family festival with local bands, artists and market traders, this has a different theme every year, with the Red Arrows performing flyover in 2008.[50] By 2012, however, many artists had moved out due to the effects of the Great Recession as well as the 2012 Olympics.[48] A documentary film was released in the same year titled Vyner Street: this was a short observational piece about two different worlds living inconspicuously and side-by-side in the same place.[51]

As part of "TUBE" Art Installation in November 2013, sound artist Kim Zip[52] created an installation[53] commemorating the Bethnal Green Tube Disaster. The work was backed by the Whitechapel Gallery and promoted as part of the organisation's "First Thursdays" initiative for popular art.[54] "TUBE" exhibited over a period of four weeks in the belfry of Sir John Soane's St John on Bethnal Green Church.[55] The Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium was the first cat café in London, which was opened in 2013.[56][57]

In 2015, Tower Hamlets Council took the owners of Al Amin Tandoori Restaurant to court after a routine inspection, which found mouse droppings throughout the kitchen. The owner Abdul Noor, pleaded guilty at Thames Magistrates' Court to six charges including inadequate control of pests, contamination of equipment and contamination of food.[58] 2015 also saw three children Amira Abase, Shamima Begum, and Kadiza Sultana, referred to in the press as the Bethnal Green trio[59] who were attending the Bethnal Green Academy before leaving home to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).[60]

In April 2016 the London Borough of Tower Hamlets approved and designated the Spitalfields Neighbourhood Planning Forum to monitor and enhance local planning policies, this included apart of Brick Lane Market into the forum.[61] Bethnal Green has also been part of the Night Tube service since 2016.[62]

A plaque was placed at the entrance to the tube station in the 1970s and commemorates it as the site of the worst civilian disaster of the Second World War; and a larger memorial, "Stairway to Heaven", stands in nearby Bethnal Green Gardens. This memorial was unveiled in December 2017 at a ceremony attended by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Bethnal Green and Bow MP Rushanara Ali.[63]


Bethnal Green hosted London's first catfest in the Oval Space in 2018, with guests having the chance to take photos with felines as well as sample street food and meet shelter kittens.[64][65] In the same year, 2018, Cambridge Heath station was chosen for a trial with a pay-by-face system that may end the need for station barriers, due to its low passenger volumes and having no gates.[66] Early in 2018 Frank Wang, who had sold coffee to commuters from his van at the northern exit of Bethnal Green underground station lost his business when the electricity supply from the station was cut off as a result of the nearby site of a disused public lavatory behind his stall being converted into a beach bar called Chiringuito.[67] Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs, one of Frank's long-standing customers came out in support along with the local community, the Chinese community and commuters who protested.[68]

An ex-Truman establishment, now a free house,[69][70] The Hare was cited as the epitome of a ‘good, honest pub’ by the Evening Standard and was listed as one of the 50 best pubs in London in 2019.[71] During the May bank holiday, the redeveloped railway arches off Cambridge Heath Road into an eating and drinking quarter opened.[72] Tower Hamlets Council had turned down plans for the Cambridge Heath Road development because of concerns over its affordable housing mix and design quality.[73] The Better Streets for Tower Hamlets had turned the car park spot in Bethnal Green Road into a mini park for a day to draw people's attention to the need for more healthier public spaces.[74] Meanwhile, Laura Sheehan, a local resident took on the 54 mile cycling challenge from Brighton to London in the memory of her aunt in 2019, Carmel, who died suddenly of a heart attack in her 50s.[75]

A mural of David Attenborough had appeared on a side of a tropical fish store on St Matthew's Row.[76] Sainsbury's in the same year opened what it claims was the county first meat-free butchers, it was in the form of a traditional style butchers was open for three days from Friday 21 June to mark World Meat Free Week, where it offered customers an array of cuts and joints derived from plant-based alternatives, such as mushroom, jackfruit and pea protein.[77] Bethnal Green is also since 2019 Sustrans new London HQ, during the move from Farringdon, they used electric cargo bikes rather than hiring a haulage lorry.[78] During the 2019 redecorating of the Carpenters Arms on Cheshire Street, an old safe was found in the cellar when a wall was torn down, thought it was boarded up before the previous owners had the pub.[79]


Bethnal Green (including Cambridge Heath) is in the constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow, represented in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament since 2010 by Rushanara Ali of the Labour Party.[80]

London overall has a directly elected executive Mayor of London, currently Sadiq Khan and the City and East seat in the London Assembly is held by the Labour Party member, Unmesh Desai.

The ward of Bethnal Green as a ward of Tower Hamlets has three elected councilors all are members of the Labour Party. They are presently Mohammed Ahbab Hossain, Sirajul Islam (who is Statutory Deputy Mayor for Housing under Mayor of Tower Hamlets.[81]


Between 1986 and 1992, the name Bethnal Green was applied to one of seven neighbourhoods to which power was devolved from the council. This resulted in replacement of much of the street signage in the area that remains in place.[82]

Bethnal Green Gardens is located in the eastern Bethnal Green, which holds a war memorial, known as the Stairway To Heaven,[83] and Weavers' Fields, which is a 15.6 acres park and is the 6th largest open space in Tower Hamlets that lies south of Bethnal Green Road.[84]

Bethnal Green has a number of conservation areas set up by Tower Hamlets Council due to its historic history and landscape, including the Bethnal Green Gardens Conservation Area which was designated in July 1969 and then extended in October 2008 to the south west of the tube station due to significant buildings located in and around the junction of Bethnal Green Road, Roman Road and Cambridge Heath Road, which ensures these landmarks will be preserved.[4]

A part of the Hackney Road Conservation Area was designated on 8 October 2008. It is intended to protect the special architectural and historic character of buildings and areas adjoining the road which are composed of a dense concentration of modest sized properties.[85] The Victoria Park Conservation Area was designated in March 1977, altered October 2008 to make way for the Regent's Canal Conservation Area and to expand Driffield Road Conservation Area and now includes the listed park itself, the formal axial road pattern to the south west and the many Victorian terraces.[86]

It is also part of the wider Regents Canal Conservation Area that was established in 2008, the streetside buildings seem neglected but form part of the industrial heritage and character of Vyner Street and also Wadeson Street, which contains a row of three storey Victorian workshops mostly converted to residential use. Both types contribute to the character of the area.[87]

To the north-west in Bethnal Green is the Old Bethnal Green Road Conservation Area, which was established in October 2008 and focuses around the roads of the Winkley Estate, which has a very cohesive character and little scope exists for change. The buildings contained within the area being considered form an important group worthy of protection and enhancement.[88]

In the Boundary Estate, Arnold Circus is a mark point on several ley alignments, such as for example the Alfred Watkins' "Strand Ley"[89] and "The Coronation Line".[90]

Both Brick Lane and Boundary Estate areas of Bethnal Green have been branded as Shoreditch[91] due to its large scale gentrification and close proximity to Shoreditch.[92][93]


Bethnal Green had a total population of 27,849 at the 2011 census, based on the north and south wards of Bethnal Green.[94] The largest single ethnic group is people of Bangladeshi descent, which constitute 38 percent of the area's population. Every year since 1999 the Baishakhi Mela is celebrated in Weavers' Fields, Bethnal Green which celebrates the Bengali New Year.[95] The second largest is the White British, constituting 30 percent of the area's population. Other ethnic groups include Black Africans and Black Caribbeans.[96]

According to the UK census of 2011, the population as a whole has fewer younger persons than the national average but also has a higher proportion of older people than the national average, thus making Bethnal Green an older persons' location. Bethnal Green also has a lower level of residents born in the UK than the national average and a higher rate of residents either born in other European Union member states or outside the EU, and therefore has a significant immigrant population.[97]


Bethnal Green two main faiths of the people are Islam and Christianity, with the local area is about 50 percent Muslim and 34 percent Christian.[98]

There are many historical churches in Bethnal Green. Notable Church of England churches include St John on Bethnal Green,[99] located near Bethnal Green Underground station, on Bethnal Green Road and Roman Road. The church was built from 1826 to 1828 by the architect John Soane. Other notable churches include St Matthew – built by George Dance the Elder in 1746. St Matthew is the mother church of Bethnal Green; the church's opening coincided with a vast population increase in the former village of Stepney, resulting in the need to separate the area around Bethnal Green from the mother Parish of St Dunstan's, Stepney. All but the bell tower, still standing today, was destroyed by fire and the church again suffered devastating damage during the bombing campaigns of the Second World War, resulting in the installation of a temporary church within the bombed-out building. St. Matthew's remains a major beacon of the local East End community and is frequented on Sundays and other religious occasions by a mixture of established locals and more recent migrants to the area.[100] Other churches include St Peter's (1841) and St James-the-Less (1842), both by Lewis Vulliamy, St James the Great by Edward Blore (1843) and St Bartholomew by William Railton (1844). The church attendance in Bethnal Green was 1 in 8 people since 1900 (only 10% attend regularly in the UK). Baptisms, marriages and burials have been deposited nearly at all churches in Bethnal Green.[101][102]

There is one major Roman Catholic church, the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption,[103] in Bethnal Green. The Church of Our Lady of the Assumption hosts the London Chinese Catholic Centre and Chinese mass is held weekly.[104] Other Christian churches include The Good Shepherd Mission,[105] The Bethnal Green Medical Mission,[106] The Bethnal Green Methodist Church.[107] The Quakers hold regular meetings in Old Ford Road.[108] Opened and named after the parish of Bethnal Green, in 1868, the Bethnal Green Methodist Church became tied in with the founding of the National Children's Home and Orphanage (known now as the Action for Children.) This was established next to the church on Bonner Road.[109]

St. Casimir's Lithuanian Church serves London's Lithuanian community and masses are held in both Lithuanian and English.[29][110]

There are at least eight Islamic mosques or places of worship in Bethnal Green for the Muslim community.[111] These include the Baitul Aman Mosque and Cultural Centre,[112] Darul Hadis Latifiah,[113] the Senegambian Islamic Cultural Centre and the Globe Town Mosque and Cultural Centre.

The London Buddhist Centre works with those affected by alcohol dependency,[114] the centre also runs courses and retreats using mindfulness based cognitive therapy approaches. Its courses for depression, based on the mindfulness-based cognitive behavioral therapy methodology of Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, featured in the Financial Times in 2008.[115] It is the focus of a large Buddhist residential and business community in the area.[116]


Bethnal Green is in the heart of the East End of London. It has long been a destination for people from across Tower Hamlets and beyond.[117] Along with the communities of Poplar, Mile End and Bow it is known for its shared vibrancy and cultural activity, its history and people. Together they form a wider association of communities that make up the heart of London's East End with a rich history.[31][118]

The Oxford House is an proactive community centre that has its roots in helping the local community. Founded in 1884 as one of the first "settlements" by Oxford University,[119] it has helped alleviate or remove the impact of poverty and today still remains a focus point by providing a programme of community classes, events and weekly activities.[120]

The Approach Gardens, once an unused space, has been developed into a thriving community food garden, a shared fruit orchard and an award-winning wildlife area which brings together many diverse local groups, such as families from the Approach Estate, school and daycare centre.[121]

The Nomadic Community Gardens, once an area fenced off and overgrown, is now occupied by a temporary project or "meanwhile use" run by a private limited company[122] on behalf of the property developer Londonewcastle, which leases the site to the garden operator for a peppercorn rent and provided start-up funding.[123] The space has been filled with temporary buildings and installations made up of found materials, street art, sculpture and allotments.[124] Londonewcastle gained planning consent for a development of "affordable housing, townhouses and apartments"[125] on the site in November 2015.[126] Construction on the Fleet Street Hill Project was intended to commence in 2016[123] but, as of June 2019, no work has begun on the site.

The Gallery Cafe in St. Margaret's House reopened as a vegetarian not-for-profit, community café in 2006, and became a fully vegan café in December 2017.[127] The café offers low-cost vegan dishes, desserts, locally-ground coffee, and juices and is also a community centre, which runs different art exhibitions each month, and hosts events including live music, spoken-word nights and comedy performances.[128] It has won Best Café in Bethnal Green at the Time Out Love London Awards in 2014, 2015,[129] and 2016.[130]

Bethnal Green and Globe Town Community Mental Health Team (CMHT) is a community based multidisciplinary team, they provide a health and social care for service users with severe and enduring mental health problems run by East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT).[131]


Bethnal Green has numerous primary schools serving children aged three to 11. St. Matthias School on Bacon Street,[132] off Brick Lane, is over a century old and uses the Seal of the old Metropolitan Borough of Bethnal Green as its badge and emblem. The school is linked with the nearby 18th-century St. Matthew's Church on St. Matthew's Row. The Bangabandhu Primary School, named after the father of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujib, a non-selective state community school,[133] was opened in January 1989, moved to a new building in November 1991, and has over 450 pupils. 70% of the school's pupils speak English as a second language, with a majority speaking Sylheti, a dialect of Bengali, at home.

Bethnal Green's oldest secondary school is Raine's Foundation School, with sites on Old Bethnal Green, a voluntary aided Anglican school founded in 1719.[134] The school relocated several times, amalgamating with St. Jude's School [135] to become coeducational in 1977. Bethnal Green Academy is one of the top schools and sixth form colleges in London. Other schools in the area include Oaklands School.

Bethnal Green Gardens and Bethnal Green Library provide leisure facilities and information.


Bethnal Green tube station is on the London Underground Central line, which connect Bethnal Green directly to the Stratford in the east and London's West End and the City.

The area is also linked to the British railway system at two stations on the London Overground network, Bethnal Green and Cambridge Heath railway stations, both stations are on the Lea Valley lines.[136][137]

Bethnal Green is served by London Buses, including route 8, 26, 55, 254 and 388 to Central London, and also routes 309, 388, D3, D6 and night routes N8, N26, N55 and N243.


Bethnal Green is well known as an art quarter, with Clare Street having many art works. The art is a mixture of pure graff and permissioned murals.[138]


Non-League football club Bethnal Green United F.C. plays at Mile End Stadium. Now known as Tower Hamlets FC (since the 2014–15 season), it plays in the Essex Senior League. Another locally based team also based at Mile End Stadium are Sporting Bengal FC. The boxer Joe Anderson, 'All England' champion of 1897, was from Bethnal Green.[139]


See also


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