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The Worst Street In London

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  242 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
Halfway along Commercial Street in London, close to Spitalfields Market, is an anonymous service road, which was once Dorset Street, known as the worst street in the Capital. It was once notorious for the haunt of thieves, con-men, pimps, prostitutes and murderers, most notably Jack the Ripper. This publication chronicles the rise and fall of this remarkable street, from i ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published September 4th 2008 by Ian Allan Ltd (first published July 17th 2008)
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Feb 25, 2017 Susan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is a biography with a difference – it looks at the rise and fall of Dorset Street in Spitalfields. Despite its mixed history, the location is actually excellent for business; being close to both the City and the docks. It began life as the Priory of Saint Mary Spital, a priory and hospital which was not spared the dissolution.

Like all of London, the area regularly absorbed large groups of refugees. These began with Huguenots – Protestants fleeing Catholic France in the 1600’s. Many we
Mar 09, 2010 Kay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was gripped by this book that gives such a wonderful view of small area of London and its changes through the centuries. From its fashionable beginnings to the weaving industry and then the slide in reputation and the notoriety brought about Jack the Ripper this area shows the effect the events of the world and how they shaped population.
Well written, it will have you wanting to know more about London's history and have a better understanding of it.
Sep 20, 2012 Stacey rated it it was amazing
This book takes us on a fascinating trip through the ages by Fiona Rule. We witness the birth, rise and ultimate fall of the Common Lodging Houses, where the honest poor mixed - sometimes through no choice of their own - with thieves, beggars, con-men, and violent murderers. The landlords made their money, and whilst they themselves lived relatively well, their lodgers endured terrible horrifying living conditions which lasted well into the 20th century. Others who had a bit more money to spare ...more
Mar 22, 2011 Ruth rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants to understand how the poor lived in London in Victorian era
I really enjoyed this book, and even though the subject is grim, depressing and deals with some of the worst parts of London's history, it didn't leave me feeling horrified or wishing I hadn't started it, but rather enlightened with a better understanding of London. It's well-written in a factual, but fluid style, and, although it doesn't gush, it deals sympathetically with the horrific lives and deaths of the inhabitants of Spitalfields.

When I lived in London some years ago, the area around the
Jane Walker
Dec 03, 2011 Jane Walker rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Researching history is one skill, writing it up in readable form is quite another. Fiona Rule has certainly done the research, but there are problems with the book. Most importantly, there is not really enough material for a book, so it's padded out with pages on such topics as the penal system, the history of criminal transportation, the Irish potato famine and the history of music halls. She makes the most of the Ripper murders, and is very interesting and informative on common lodging houses. ...more
Melissa McHugh
Mar 28, 2012 Melissa McHugh rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this. A lot of it was interesting, and it was jam-packed with information. However, it was not really about the worst street. It's really about the neighborhood of Spitalfields and it's a thinly veiled attempt to write about Jack the Ripper, which was really the worst part in the history in the neighborhood. Rule spends the majority of the book giving history about everything but the neighborhood and street that is supposed to be the star. The organization of the book was ...more
Jessica Powell
May 09, 2015 Jessica Powell rated it really liked it
An informative look at the notorious Dorset Street in London's East End, with plenty of background history to explain why, for instance, the various groups of immigrants left their home countries and settled in the area. As a general release it is unsurprising that some of the detail is glossed over, but I would have liked to see more - and more in depth - case studies of those who made Dorset Street their home.
Sep 25, 2012 Sue rated it it was amazing
Shelves: factual
An excellent book with some fascinating history in it. Who would have thought such a small area of London could have such a lurid history yet have started out so nice, almost idyllic. I bet those poor silk weavers are spinning in their graves.

If you live in London and have any interest in the place, consider reading this book.
Jan 28, 2013 Penny rated it liked it
Shelves: victorians
Easy, quick read - divided up into lots of chapters that sometimes feel like they are mini essays about different subjects. Quite a lot of repetition of the same facts scattered throughout the book too. Good for an introduction to the subject, but doesn't really go into anything in real depth.
Rachella Sinclair
Jan 13, 2013 Rachella Sinclair rated it really liked it
CleggCam should read a book like this, about the bad old days before continuing to make cuts to social welfare systems in Britain.
Feb 27, 2017 Val rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author has written a history of the Spitalfields area from the founding of a priory and hospital on the site in 1197 up to the present day. Some parts of this history are very brief, while others are given much more detail. The longest chapter covers the Whitechapel murders, but in comparison with the sensationalism and inaccuracy of much of the coverage which has dogged these events since they happened, her treatment sticks to the few known facts. The only jarring note is her tendency towar ...more
Ant Harrison
Apr 02, 2014 Ant Harrison rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
This was an easy read; a relatively short and very digestible history of Dorset and Duval Streets in the East End of London from the 17th Century onwards. It’s an area near Spitafields Market, and many of its characters have become infamous outside of this small locale; Jack the Ripper and the Kray twins, being just two of the notorious residents.
Fiona Rule clearly loves her subject, but the shortish chapters jumped about a bit too much for my liking, and in all honesty, I got a bit bored with r
Aug 20, 2013 Roisin rated it really liked it
This book is definitely worth reading and focuses on a street called Dorset Street in Spitalfields, where one of the Ripper victims was found, which had a name change and now does not exist. A car park resides on what was part of the street. The history of the street and the surrounding area is fascinating and packed with information. A magnate for the wealthy, immigrants fleeing persecution and a better life, silk weavers, and criminals, and a street that succumbed to the demolition men. At the ...more
Mari Biella
Feb 23, 2011 Mari Biella rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
An excellent overview of Dorset Street, once dubbed 'the worst street in London', and the surrounding Spitalfields area. Rule traces the area's history, from its beginnings as a rural retreat to its acme as a wealthy silk-weaving district and its slow slide into poverty and violence.

This is something of an antidote to most books on Jack the Ripper, which tend to focus almost exclusively on the murders and the suspects. This is an exploration of the lives the people of Spitalfields and Whitechap
Icy Sedgwick
Aug 14, 2011 Icy Sedgwick rated it really liked it
This is an absolutely fascinating read, detailing the history of Dorset Street, and the surrounding Spitalfields area. It would be easy for such a history to become bogged down by the sensationalism surrounding Jack the Ripper, and while Rule devotes a sizeable section to the 1888 murders, she manages to approach them with a rational head, and from the point of view of the community, as opposed to the rabid press or frustrated police. It follows a highly readable narrative, and really brings the ...more
D.E. Meredith
May 17, 2011 D.E. Meredith rated it really liked it
Little gem of a book.The story of one street's history, very poignantly told. The suggested walk at the end is a must. Amazing illustrations as well, of the horror of London's worst lodging houses. Will resonate for a long time and made me so glad I live in the C21st but also wishing I could go back to the 1880s maybe just for a few choice days, sneaking into ale houses, or one of the Music Halls, Fiona Rule describes so enticingly, or just maybe having a chat with some of the locals about their ...more
Derek Baldwin
An easy read with mostly very short chapters and it's a book of which I think it can be said that it wears its scholarship rather lightly. Interesting, but not really all that educational in terms of the broad sweep of English/European history, though the local stuff is quite a revelation sometimes. Inevitably there's rather an emphasis on the Jack The Ripper murders. It's an easy book to pick up and put down at regular intervals and the chapters more or less stand-alone, so good for a dip too.
Mar 02, 2016 Cockneylen rated it really liked it
As an east end boy, I could really relate to the area and the history of the place. Whilst quite soul destroying in the way the poorest had to live, it charts the development and decline of an area, together with how the people's lives were influenced through world events. It covers over three centuries of history, finishing with the start of the Krays. It gets four stars because I lived very near to the area before I married and moved out to the wilds of Essex.
Steve Parcell
Dec 10, 2014 Steve Parcell rated it liked it
Shelves: uk-history
A fascinating insight on how a part of Spitalfields became a no go zone. Dorset street becomes the epicentre on crime and indeed is the focus of Jack the Ripper. Yes the book links in to that period but I believe the link is written nicely and is done well. Very informative and entertaining. I for one did not know that Thomas Wedgewood of Wedgewood Pottery retired and died in Bengeo Lodge in Bengeo where I live. An old house I walk past every morning.
Adam Johnson
Jul 18, 2011 Adam Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
paints a picture of an area, a time, and a group of poeple so alien to everything we understand today, that it could not be fiction. This really brings into focus what the social housing of the 30's,40's and 50's really did for many poeple, secure hygenic housing, away from a form of saqualor unseen in the developed world any more.
The Literary Expedition
Oct 16, 2013 The Literary Expedition rated it really liked it
Shelves: katie, non-fiction
A good book for anyone who's looking to start research on the Victorian east end. A great overview.

Read Katie's full review here
Laura S
Feb 22, 2015 Laura S rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting and accessible read. While the section on Jack The Ripper gives us nothing new, the other sections, particularly on early immigration and the rise of the lodging house, gives a great insight into this notorious area of London
Robin Lynn
Jun 05, 2015 Robin Lynn rated it really liked it
A fascinating historical account for anyone who is interested in Victorian London beyond JTR. It paints a vivid and full picture of what life was like during the notorious murders and adds so much additional perspective to the story before and after.
Becca Haynes
Jan 01, 2013 Becca Haynes rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book, it was very well researched and carried the history right through from when London was largely rural to the early 20th century
Lucy Nichol
Oct 25, 2012 Lucy Nichol rated it it was amazing
Music hall, murders, silk and gin palaces. Couldn't be a more perfect book. But I still haven't been to Dorset Street...
Mar 05, 2014 Kim rated it really liked it
Een hele fijne microgeschiedenis over het beruchte Spitalfields en in het bijzonder Dorset street. Een aanrader voor elke Londen fan.
Jun 19, 2011 Sheila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating account of the history of part of London's east end, with lots of period detail. Well worth reading.
May 20, 2014 Andy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting and historical read which has been researched very well by the Author.
Well worth reading for fans of London History.
Dorset Street, The Worst Street in London.
Gregory Vigrass
Gregory Vigrass rated it really liked it
Mar 17, 2017
Katie Woodward
Katie Woodward rated it liked it
May 21, 2011
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