Living in Whitechapel: area guide to homes, schools and transport links

The lively east London suburb of Whitechapel has been a sanctuary down the centuries. And now it has property for every taste and budget, discovers Anthea Masey
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Whitechapel Art Gallery
© Pictures by Graham Hussey
The contemporary Whitechapel Art Gallery is the jewel in the local art scene's crown and has a proud history of major exhibitions
Property area guide on Whitechapel with average property prices, current houses and flats for sale, best streets, up-and-coming areas and commuting times

Goodman's Fields, Cityscape and One Commercial Street.

Best-rated schools: Whitechapel and the surrounding areas offer a good choice of primary and secondary schools, as well as two new free schools

Renting guide to Whitechapel: Like Shoreditch and Hoxton, Whitechapel is where hipsters in the media, fashion, art and music industries mix it with young city professionals.

Like all of the City’s eastern fringe, Whitechapel is hip, with Young British Artists such as Tracey Emin’s studio in nearby Tenter Ground, Dinos Chapman, of Chapman Brothers fame, in Fashion Street and Gilbert and George in Fournier Street. The jewel in the local art scene’s crown is the leading contemporary Whitechapel Gallery. Tourists looking for the off-beat lap up the guided bike rides taking in local graffiti sites, curry restaurants or Jack the Ripper murder locations.

Whitechapel’s business heart still beats to the sound of racks of schmutter. Bangladeshi wholesale clothing shops line Whitechapel Road, Commercial Road and Brick Lane where the street signs are in Bengali script as well as English.
Whitechapel map
via our Zoopla SmartMaps
Houses and flats for sale in Whitechapel
Whitechapel and its surrounding areas have a real mix of properties. There are streets of fine early 17th-century terrace houses, quiet early Victorian Squares, warehouse conversions, new flats and large concentrations of social housing.

With the wealth of the City a short walk away, the price range is wide. The best houses and apartments sell for millions while modest “right-to-buy” flats on council estates remain relatively affordable.

The most expensive property currently for sale is a three-bedroom penthouse at Goodman’s Fields (020 3284 1425), a new Berkeley Homes development on Leman Street, close to Aldgate East Tube station. It is being marketed off-plan for £3.2 million and the price per square foot is about £1,360.

Contrast this with a one-bedroom, second-floor flat in need of renovation on a council estate in Old Montague Street, close to Brick Lane, on the market through Foxtons (020 7033 1414) for £194,999 with a price per square foot of £378.
£579,995: a four-bedroom split-level flat within a Victorian conversion in Settles Street, in the heart of Whitechapel, E1
Estate agent Leon Stone from the City branch of Hamptons commented that the regeneration of Spitalfields has led to the shifting of boundaries within the area. “People want to say they live in Spitalfields whereas previously they might have said they lived in Whitechapel.”

READ MORE: new homes in nearby Aldgate

Travel and commuting: Whitechapel is walking distance from the City. Aldgate East and Whitechapel are on the District and Hammersmith and City Tube lines, and Whitechapel is getting a station on Crossrail. All stations are in Zone 1 and an annual travel card costs £1,216.

The area attracts: like Shoreditch and Hoxton, Whitechapel is where hipsters in the media, fashion, art and music industries mix it with young City professionals. Leon Stone sells houses in the Spitalfields conservation area.

This enclave of fine early 17th-century terrace houses built for Huguenot silk weavers was rescued from demolition by the Spitalfields Trust in the Sixties. Princelet Street, Wilkes Street and Fournier Street now have the capital’s best-preserved houses of their era, but according to Stone they can be difficult to sell.
Commercial Street, E1
£635,000: a two-bedroom Commercial Road penthouse within an easy walk of the City
“They are a niche market,” he said. “They only sell to people with an interest in architecture and history. Such people tend to be aged over 50 and work in the art world or the law, with the occasional top business executive. They don’t have much outside space so they don’t suit families.”

Hamptons (020 7236 8398) is currently selling two homes in the conservation area: a five-storey, four-bedroom house in Wilkes Street for £2.75 million and a three-bedroom house in Princelet Street for £2  million.

READ MORE: Whitechapel renting guide

Staying power: a lack of gardens and a shortage of open space is fine for the young and fancy-free, but once couples start thinking about bringing up children, their thoughts usually turn to areas that have more of these family-friendly characteristics.

Up-and-coming areas: there are early Victorian terraces and squares between Whitechapel Road and Commercial Road behind the Royal London Hospital that remain relatively undiscovered and undervalued. For example, two early Victorian, straight-off-the-street houses with unusual external shutters in Sidney Square sold recently for about £650,000.
Brushfield Street has a wealth of great shops, Old Spitalfields Market and thriving delis and cafes
READ MORE: Whitechapel's best-rated schools

Shops and restaurants: Brick Lane, the Old Truman Brewery and the old and new Spitalfields markets come alive at the weekends when visitors pour into the area to shop for something unique or hand-made or vintage and eat at one of the many street food outlets.

Brick Lane is famous for its Indian restaurants and many of the chain restaurants such as Carluccio’s, Patisserie Valerie and Giraffe are now established at the new Spitalfields market. Fergus Henderson’s St John’s Bread and Wine on Commercial Street is open for breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner from 9am to 11pm.

La Chapelle in St Botoph’s Hall is the Galvin brothers, Chris and Jeff’s, Michelin one-star brasserie. The are also a restaurant and café at the Whitechapel gallery.
Idea Store
© Alamy
Whitechapel's flagship library, the Idea Store, opened in 2005
Leisure and the arts: The Whitechapel Gallery occupies a fine early Edwardian building. It has a proud history of displaying the leading artists of the day and exhibited Picasso’s Guernica during the Spanish Civil War. It is currently showing a major exhibition by leading Young British Artist Sarah Lucas.

Visitors to Dennis Severs’s house in Folgate Street experience life as it was lived nearly 300 years ago by the Huguenot silk weavers who once lived there. And at 19 Princelet Street, a house which contains a secret synagogue is occasionally opened up as a museum of immigration.

The nearest council-owned swimming pool is at the Whitechapel Sports Centre on Durward Street, while private gym Fitness First has a pool in the Spitalfields Tower in Frying Pan Alley.
For more local restaurants, pubs, bars, theatres, cinemas or attractions; or to book a table or tickets for a night out, visit

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Council: Tower Hamlets council is Labour-controlled, and Band D council tax for the 2013/2014 year is £1,188.52.
Christ church in Whitechapel
History: A small, early 14th-century chapel, St Mary Matfelon, built of sparkling white clunch, a chalky stone probably from Kent, is how the East End district of Whitechapel got its name.

The site of both the chapel and a later church flattened in the Blitz is now home to Altab Ali Park, named in memory of a 25-year-old clothing factory worker, victim of a racist murder in 1978. It illustrates the great arc of history that is evident at every turn in Whitechapel and the surrounding areas of Spitalfields and Aldgate.

From the time of the great medieval priory hospital of St Mary Spital, to the late 17th-century influx of French Huguenots who fled persecution in France and brought their skills as silk weavers with them; to the Jews who fled the pogroms of central Europe at the end of the 19th century, to the Bangladeshis who arrived in the last 40 years, Whitechapel has always been a place of sanctuary.

How did a contested will nearly put paid to an educational foundation?
Sir John Cass was born in 1661. He was an Alderman, a Sheriff and MP for the City. He opened two schools, one for boys, the other for girls, in buildings in the churchyard of St Botolph-without-Aldgate but when he died in 1718 his will bequeathing money to the schools was contested.

It took 30 years for the case to be resolved in favour of his will and in 1748 the Sir John Cass’s Foundation was formed. It now supports a primary school, a secondary school, a university art, media and design department and a business school, all bearing his name.

Who links Whitechapel with Forest Hill in south east London?
Charles Harrison Townsend was the architect who designed the Whitechapel Gallery. He also designed the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, as well as the Bishopsgate Institute. All buildings are listed and defy classification.

Why does Whitechapel have an entry in the Guinness Book of Records?
The Whitechapel Bell Foundry still casts bells and has been doing so since 1750 which the Guinness Book of Records reckons makes it the oldest continuous manufacturing company in the country. It has cast some of the world’s most famous bells including Big Ben and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia although this was faulty and cracked the first time it was rung.

Average prices: Buying flats and houses in Whitechapel

One-bedroom flat: £392,000
Two-bedroom flat: £628,000
Two-bedroom house: £673,000
Three-bedroom house: £902,000
Four-bedroom house: £1.4 million

Pictures by Graham Hussey

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