A Stepney Area Guide: The History, and Cool Things to Do in Stepney
Home to multiple transient immigrant communities from Eastern Europe, Stepney is a remnant district in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It was a large medieval village covering all of east and north-east London, and parts of north London. The boundaries were however delineated over time as more immigrant and merchant populations moved to East London. Today, it is a small, undefined district with surprisingly plenty to offer. Read on to discover more about the history of Stepney, and some of the fun things to try on your visit.
The History of Stepney
Stepney first appeared in historical records as Stybbanhythe meaning Stybba’s haven in modern english. As noted, it was historically large, and covered most of what would become modern day East London and parts of northern London. The area belonged to the Bishop of London who received it as a land grant to support the establishment of a new diocese.
At the start of the 17th century, Stepney’s boundaries were delineated to include Hackney, East Bromley, West Ham and Shoreditch. As time went by, the boundaries were delineated further to accommodate immigrant populations and by the end of the 19th century, Stepney was largely a slum area. It was then severely damaged during the 1940s Blitz and half of the houses destroyed.
In 1960, mass slum clearance and developments by the City of London helped transform Stepney’s character significantly. Residential tower blocks, modern housing estates, and paved roads now sat where the old slum neighborhoods were, turning Stepney into an important residential area and an economic hub thanks to its proximity to the Thames. Stepney is today a small area centered on Stepney Green, and a remnant of Mile End Green.
Three Fun Things to Do in Stepney
Here are some interesting things to do in Stepney:
Visit Stepney City Farm
Located just a short distance from the Stepney Green Station, Stepney City Farm is a 40-year working farm with over 5000 guests annually. Visit the farm to interact with farm animals, learn how different food is grown or to shop fresh produce at its Saturday’s farmer’s market.
Check Out the Blind Beggar Pub
The Blind Beggar Pub is one of Stepney’s most popular spots. It’s here that the famed Kray Twins ran their organized crime empire and mingled with politicians, and famous entertainers. It is also where Ronnie Kray shot and killed George Cornwell in cold-blood, leading to the arrest of the twins, and the fall of their empire. The Blind Beggar pub is still functional, and opens from 3pm to 11pm daily. Stop by for beer as you take in the pub’s rich history. If time allows, consider trying out the Kray Twins Gangster Walking Tour to learn more about the famous twins.
Explore the Ragged School Museum
The Ragged School Museum is housed in three 19th century canal-side buildings just six minutes from the Stepney Green Station. It was once one of the largest free schools in London, and today features several gallery areas, a recreated Victorian kitchen and classroom to offer visitors a glimpse of life in the 1800s.
Even though Stepney is largely residential today, the district still has a lot to offer especially for first-time visitors. We included a few fun things to get your adventures in Stepney started.