Whitechapel is best known in history for scenes of violence, crime and poverty: from Jack the Ripper in the Victorian era to the Kray twins in the 1960s. Founded in the twelfth century, Whitechapel was historically a poor and working-class neighbourhood where the less salubrious businesses in the city found their homes; tanneries, breweries and slaughterhouses. Today, its population is of largely Bangladeshi origin.
One of Whitechapel’s most famous residents in the 19th century was Joseph Casey Merrick, also known as “The Elephant Man”. The house in which he was exhibited (his own idea) was at 259 Whitechapel Road, now a sari shop catering to the local population. Merrick later moved to rooms in the original London Hospital building across the road before his death at the age of 27, where there is a small museum to his memory. His skeleton remains in the hospital’s Medical School archive.