Spitalfields Locations: 2
This is the second part of a short tour round Spitalfields in London’s East End.
Opposite Christ Church is Spitalfields Market (6). There has been a market on the site since the 17th century, and up until the 1820s it developed into a major centre for the trading of fruit and vegetables. Later in the 19th century the market declined, and was redeveloped with a new building that opened in 1893.
These days the market is home to fashion, homewares and food outlets rather than fruit and veg. The buildings around the edge of the central space house trendy independent stores. In Rogue Agent, Gedge first meets the man known as Smiler outside the building shown above (OK, he would have done if that structure had been built a few years previously :-) ).
Heading back onto Commercial Street and turning north, you will come to Folgate Street on your left (7). This was called White Lion Street in the 19th century. Looking down to the end of this street you will see the huge steel and glass towers of the Liverpool Street / Bishopsgate business area. The juxtaposition with the 18th century buildings that are so characteristic of Spitalfields provides a striking contrast.
This part of Spitalfields was the site of the Priory and Hospital of St Mary in the Middle Ages (hence “(ho)spital fields”) at a time when the built-up city of London was miles to the southwest.
Walking down Folgate Street, you will come to a pub on the right hand side. It’s now The Water Poet, but in Gedge’s day I’ve called it The Blue Boar. In Rogue Agent, Gedge discovers a deception by his nemesis Amon Dressler, in the rooms above the pub.
Opposite the pub is number 18, which has a black front door and prominent red shutters (8). This is my model for what I call number 14 White Lion Street, the home of Claude Rondeau in Blood Tribute, and later his daughter Polly. The Persian Darius also stayed there, and Gedge himself moved in as well. The kitchen is often the location for characters chewing over the events, in all three novels.
In reality, number 18 used to be owned by an American called Dennis Severs, who created a time capsule in the house, each room representing a different time period from the 1700s to the beginning of the 20th century. The house can be visited at specific times; see the website.