“Decline is also a form of voluptuousness, just like growth.”
― Iwan Goll
Yesterday in Spitalfields I ran into the most gloriously dilapidated house. Welcome to 4 Princelet Street!
Delightful, isn’t it? Spitalfields has an amazing history deeply tied with religious minority immigration and the textile industries. This is one of a row of houses dating to the 18th century where silk merchants and designers largely lived, an industry brought to the area by French Huguenots. Irish linen workers also made this area their home. Later the area drew large Jewish populations (there is also an old synagogue, somewhat hidden on the street that was left disused for many years, but is preserved in a fragile state, that I hope to visit. It’s only open a few days a year to protect the site from wear and tear). Then – like every other area in London – in the 19th century it turned into a horrible rookery and slum. One of the Jack the Ripper murders took place just around the corner, all of his victims were actually from the area, and it was also one of the areas photographed for Jack London’s 1902 book, The People of the Abyss, which not only exposed the plight of London’s urban poor through a popular and successful author of the time, but allowed photography to visually capture the miserable state of one of London’s worst districts.
Now of course the area is home to that thriving market and is fairly trendy, but I like that the architecture of the surrounding areas is intact from time past. Most of the homes and period shops I passed still retain their half shutters and indoor wooden window blinds that fold out from the walls, there are doors still marked for “Tradesmen,” and Edwardian and Victorian era doorbells and knockers abound.
This crumbling toy in the window is what first caught my eye. I immediately pressed my nose up to the panes and even more glorious decay was revealed.
The blue and white tiling in the fireplace and the rickety stairs just get me. You can’t see it but there’s also an early 20th century light switch in the wall. Apparently this house is used largely for filming (no surprise there) but has been left mostly untouched and the architecture is all original. From the Georgians to now, elements of design have been added without the history being too taken away.
Here’s another post with more artistic shots of the interiors, and here’s a youtube video (the internet, I tell you, ask and you shall receive!) I found of a film maker who got access to the house for a project and decided to take an impromptu tour.