This photo is not mine but copied from a page called Spitalfields Life and shows the main road of Bethnal Green in the sixties, when I still lived there. It is not very impresive.
The photo shows the remains of Bishopsgate Goods Station on the right which was destroyed by a fire. I would walk this road every morning and evening to my school which was in the middle of Spitalfields fruit and vegetable market. Neither my school or the market is now there, but moved to make room for modern London with it new markets and stores.
In the middle of the picture is a building standing on its own: a remainder as the empty space behind the building was caused by the bombs from World War Two and this building was the only one left standing. The buildings were destroyed and not replaced when I was still living in London in the fifties and sixties. Interesting is the empty space. It was not really so empty and the cellars of the destroyed buidings, mainly stores and factories, were still there, but not empty.
As I walked this way I would cast a glance over to the destroyed remains and they were alive with rats. Hundreds of rats had found their home in the cellar ruins. They were not really a danger as they kept themselves to themselves but would be scattering everywhere.. On Sunday morning this area bordered on the famous Petticoat Lane Market. Otherwise it was left to the rats.
There was a well known horror/ghost writer, James Herbert, whose family came from Bethnal Green and his relations even had a vegetable stall in the daily market. James Herbert has now passed on, but one of his most successful books was “The Rats” telling of a rat tribe that lived in this area. He got the idea from watching the antics of the rats. I, of course, read the book and recognised many places that he mentions and I remember the rats.
I left London in 1966 for Switzerland where I have now been living for the past 52 years. I would visit my dad one a year in London and sometimes pay a visit to my old haunts. There is now no trace of the empty wasteland, It has now been replaced by modern buildings. . I often wonder what happened to the rats.
Both images are not mine, but seen in the Daily Telegraph where they are to be found on the Spitalfields Life website.