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The Worst Street in London [Paperback]

Fiona Rule
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
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Book Description

7 Jan 2010
Halfway up Commercial Street, one block away from Spitalfields Market, lies an anonymous service road. The average pedestrian wouldn't even notice it existed. But unlikely though it may seem, this characterless, 400ft strip of tarmac was once Dorset Street - the most notorious thoroughfare in the Capital; the worst street in London and the resort of Protestant fire-brands, thieves, con-men, pimps, prostitutes and murderers, most notably Jack the Ripper. Spitalfields as a whole is now a vibrant and fashionable place to live, work and play; the home of artists and artisans, just as it was when the Huguenots settled there. However, as dusk falls, the seemingly indelible, sordid side of this fascinating part of London begins to emerge once again as the unknowing descendants of Mary Kelly, Mary Ann Austin and Kitty Ronan and others begin to ply their trade around the hallowed walls of Christ Church. All signs of Dorset Street, ' the worst street in London', may all but have disappeared from the map but its legacy is too powerful to ever be entirely erased. This book chronicles the rise and fall of this remarkable street, from its promising beginnings at the centre of the 17th Century silk weaving industry through its gradual descent into iniquity, vice and violence to its final demise at the hands of the demolition men. Its remarkable history gives a fascinating insight into an area of London that has, from its initial development, been a cultural melting pot - the place where many thousands of immigrants became Londoners. It also tells the story of a part of London that, until quite recently, was largely left to fend for itself, with truly horrifying results.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Ian Allan Ltd (7 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0711033633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0711033634
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 12.5 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 126,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
68 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book on worst street 11 Sep 2008
This book will appeal to historians and Ripperologists alike, it is choc-full of interesting facts about the Spitafields area from its earliest days and sheds new light on some of the most notorious individuals to emerge from its streets. The author has adopted a compelling story-telling style which makes the book a real page-turner and not at all text-bookish. If you are interested in Jack The Ripper or the origins of the East End gangs then this is a must for your collection.
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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So so book about Spitalfields 19 July 2009
This book is about Spitalfields with a focus on Dorset Street rather than being about Dorset Street per se. If you have never read anything about Spitalfields this is quite a good introduction but if you are looking for a specialist study of Dorset Street this is not the book for you.

At times the book feels padded. That an inhabitant of Dorset Street might be involved in criminality leads to a lengthy description of 18th century justice, Newgate, the Hulks and Transportation to Australia.

Its best when describing actualities, real Dorset Street residents, actual lodging houses and the murderous crimes associated with the area.

Its generally well written, quite interesting and reasonably well researched but adds little if you have read other books on the area or Jack the Ripper.

I was amused that another reviewer described it as an academic work. It is not (nor does it claim to be) but instead its a fairly good introduction to the area and a reasonably entertaining read. That it has an introduction by Peter Ackroyd might mislead some in to thinking its on similar level to his own work. However compared to his high standard this falls somewhat short.

Recommended provided you don't set your expectations too high.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating study 1 July 2009
No, it's not about the traffic around Victoria Station.

This is an excellent approach to exploring the colourful history of a single area of London. In a city where every cobblestone and brick has a tale to tell, THE WORST STREET IN LONDON does a ripping job (sorry, Jack) of detailing the sordid and informative legacy of what would otherwise be considered an "ordinary" street. Anything but! The only thing I missed was perhaps a few more maps or illustrations of the area then... and then... and then... and now.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The worst street in London 1 Feb 2009
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Fiona Rule's detailed account of Dorset the street from it beginning to late 1950 is a masterpiece of not just academic research but entertaining accounts the people living there. Dorset street was made famous, or should that be infamous, as it was site of Jack the Ripper's most gory murder of Mary Kelly. I brought the book to use to research my historical novels that are set in Victorian East London and found myself drawn in by the real-life stories and characters. I would not hesitate in recommending this book to anyone who is has an interest in the East End of London and Whitechapel in particular.

Jean Fullerton No Cure for Love
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very entertaining 12 July 2009
I read this book cover to cover over a few days. The style is easy to read whilst being informative about this fascinating area of London. I enjoyed the suggested walk at the back of the book, even though I am familiar with the area Fiona Rule had provided information that I had not previously known, so I looked at the area through "fresh eyes".
Some text books can leave me cold in their style & I tend to dip in & out, but this book managed to keep me rivetted.
Another book to be recommended about this area is 18 Folgate Street by Dennis Severs.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unable to put down 30 Mar 2009
I read this book in 24 hours as i could not put it down. I wasn't that interested when about Jack the Ripper, but bought this to try and provide some insight into why my family were back and forth to Spitalfields many years ago.

The whole book was fascinating and gave a good insight into social history and the treatment of the poor. Also an insight into early gang culture - perhaps little has changed today. This gave me far more interest that my original intention. It has a walk round modern Spitalfields in the back and would love to try and get down there soon to look round.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Worst Street in London 22 Mar 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The tragic history of Dorset Street in London's East End. Very sad lives of the people in the days before benefits. Also was the street where two of Jack the Ripper's victims lived. Very well written and illustrated by Fiona. Please buy it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book 8 Dec 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Brilliant book which captures the life of Dorset st Whitechapel. I would recommend this book to others for a history of Whitechapel.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very interesting, well written
Published 1 day ago by Kathy Comerford
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Informative read
An extremely well researched and overall well written account of a small part of the East-End of London. Read more
Published 1 month ago by cornish history
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
This book told the story of the East End in a very interesting way. Learnt a lot that i didn't know before.
Published 1 month ago by London Girl
5.0 out of 5 stars Thde worst street in the best area in London
The book is excellent as it is based on the area where I was born, bred and hunted. I learnt a great deal about the area and intend to return to explore more fully my home area.
Published 2 months ago by Sidney Hearne
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book
Truly loved this book it was so informative. I would recommend to anyone who is interested in London. I have read it twice.
Published 3 months ago by Janet Kelly
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant factual book
I thought the author's approach made this a very readable and informative book. Some of the facts were amazing and she brought the characters to life.
Published 5 months ago by Penny Coult
5.0 out of 5 stars Much enjoyed
This book gave a vivid account of our capital's worst area. Made me want to read more about the characters. I even began to feel a little sorry for Jack McCarthy! Read more
Published 5 months ago by Miss J. F. Long
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like ripper street ?
You'll love this. Gory and grime and fascinating, history of the area and of London, BRILLAINT book and good gift
Published 6 months ago by Miss Steph Bower
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting & Informative
I liked all the historical background about the waves of immigration, the Huguenots who brought their silk-weaving skills, followed by the Irish escaping from the Potato Famine,... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Maev B. Gallagher Kelly
5.0 out of 5 stars Worste Street in London
A well written book on life in and around Spitlefields, we though we have it bad how people survived is amazing.
Published 7 months ago by I Gillies
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