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lived, it was common for the poor to reside in the suburbs and the rich in the center of London. It has been written that “what is more, London’s suburbs were especially afflicted with disease, poverty, and slum housing. Mortality rates where higher there. Poverty was greater, too … Housing was terrible in these slums. Landlords divided houses for multiple occupation, crammed people into cellars, and threw up hovels in alleys.”33


John Stow, in his classic work, A Survey of


London, written in 1598, described slums springing up in Whitechapel and the East End. In further consideration for James and


William Spurgeon being brothers is the fact of the proximity of the two parishes of Stepney and Whitechapel, and it should be noted that St. Mary’s Matfellon was considered a ‘chapel of ease’ to Stepney parish.34


Indeed, after carefully


examining maps of the time period one sees that each of these parishes “melted” into one another and were hardly seen as distinct to the people of the time. Therefore, the two parishes and parish churches were closely connected, and it would be no problem for the two brothers to move within the two parish boundaries in interaction with one another. In 1994, I walked from St. Dunstan’s, Stepney, to St. Mary’s. It took me approximately twenty minutes at a normal pace


to go from one site to the other. The above rough map shows the relationship of St. Dunstan’s to St. Mary’s (St. Mary’s is marked by the black space at Whitechapel; St. Dunstan’s is marked by the black area at Stepney. Area marked by white cross in black area is the Tower of London. The winding area below Tower of London is the River Thames:


This area comprised roughly the seven parishes of Stepney, Whitechapel, Shoreditch,


Aldgate, Bow, Bromley, and Holy Trinity, Minories. This area is called the Tower Hamlets and was comprised of the hamlets of Mile End Old Town and New Town, Limehouse, Ratcliff, Spitalfields, Wapping/Stepney, Poplar, and Bethnal Green.


It also makes sense that as the two brothers were caught with stolen clothes, they were


probably selling them through the ancient marketplace of Petticoat Lane in Whitechapel. I have visited the Petticoat Lane market on several occasions and they sell everything under the sun! Second hand clothing then, as today has a ready market for sale at such flea markets. An old description of the market paints an accurate picture in many ways still true today: “Petticoat Lane is essentially the old clothes’ district. Embracing the streets and alleys adjacent to Petticoat Lane, and including the rows of old boots and shoes on the ground, there is, perhaps, between two and three miles of old clothes … Whitechapel may not be the worst of the many districts of this quarter, but it is bad enough. Taking the broad road from Aldgate Church to Old Whitechapel Church … you may pass on either side about twenty narrow avenues, leading to thousands of


33 A. L. Beier, “Social Problems in Elizabethan London,” in “The Tudor and Stuart Town 1530-1688,” Ed. Jonathan Barry, (London, 1990), Longman, pp. 126f. 34Walter Thornbury, “Old London; The Tower and East End,” (London, 1986), Alderman Press, p. 142.


© 1993 Spurgeon Family History by Dr. Gary Alan Dickey, 1546 Devonshire Avenue, Westlake Village, CA 91361 • p. 16


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