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The Silk District: Weaving The History of E1 Into a Modern Setting

Picture this – the year is 1665, and 50,000 French Huguenots (Protestants) have escaped persecution in France and have made it on to the shores of England. Many of these found their way into East London, notably Whitechapel, The City, Soho, Clerkenwell, Spitalfields and further afield into Wandsworth.

These areas have since undergone a huge amount of regeneration, offering luxurious new homes whilst retaining the history and the character of the area. One of these developments is The Silk District, which is located in the heart of Whitechapel. Read on for the fascinating history of the area and then delve into what this development has to offer, and how you can call it home.

A Huguenot History

The immigration of these Huguenots was an important factor in the growth and expansion of Bethnal Green, with 15-20% of all registered names in the areas having French origin. The main product that they brought with them was silk, and lots of it. Their assimilation with the wealthy English elite meant that silk and silk weaving boomed in East London in the late 17th century. This didn’t slow down into the 18th century, and instead rapidly rose to become one of London’s largest industries, dominated by Spitalfields and Bethnal Green. The raw silk was imported, then thrown and dyed before sending out into the local areas for weaving. This process was carried out in large houses that were created in response to the boom, largely by occupation of the weavers and their families, with many homes having silk looms alongside living quarters.

covent garden market

Their homes were certainly not squalor, but definitely cramped, with often three or four families living alongside each other. Many of these families would be working well into the night to fulfil orders. However, despite the cramped conditions, an interesting feature of these weaver homes began to emerge – the abundance and need for natural light. The weavers needed as much light as possible for the intricate work they were doing, and as such the windows in these homes were replaced with much larger ones to allow for extra light. These cramped conditions improved during the 18th century when living standards improved and there were new cottages built where families could live in single-family occupation.

The last flourish of Spitalfield’s silk industry took place in the early 19th century and was associated with a new distinct change in housing in the formation of Weaver’s Cottages. These cottages were entirely of brick, in uniform rows and rising only two storeys with excellent natural light. There are only mere traces left by the silk industry, however organisations like the Huguenots of Spitalfields have done much to raise the awareness of this fascinating industry. Join one of their walking tours and visit houses in Wilkes Street, Princelet Street, Fournier Street and visit La Patente – a French Huguenot chapel granted by James II. In Christ Church, Spitalfields, you can also visit one of the finest baroque churches in England, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor.

woman in front of green tiles

The New Silk District

Alongside the remnants of the 18th century silk empire now stands a luxurious new London development, comprised of tall towers, low-lying buildings and landscaped gardens. Homes here have been designed to the highest standard, with brushed gold brassware, contemporary appliances, a mixture of light and dark furnishings and an enviable comfortable living space that offers longevity.

Ranging from studio apartments to three bedrooms with views of the twinkling lights of Canary Wharf and the London skyline, residents have access to a state-of-the-art gym, spin studio, café, cinema room, flexible workspaces, an expansive roof terrace, 24hr concierge and secure parking.

Location

Whitechapel sits equidistant between London’s largest financial districts, The City of London and Canary Wharf. This Zone 2 station offers the District, Hammersmith and City Line and the London Overground, creating a transport hub from which you can travel to most of the capital.

Whitechapel will also have a Crossrail/Elizabeth Line station, meaning that you can be on a direct train to Heathrow Terminal 5 in under 45 minutes, Paddington in 13 minutes and Bond Street in 10 minutes.

Whitechapel itself has undergone a lot of regeneration over the last 10 years, meaning there is now an eclectic mix of old and new merged together, with a plethora of independent bars, restaurants, cafes and bars. Only a short walk to vibrant Shoreditch, Whitechapel is the perfect location for those looking to enjoy green spaces and quiet lanes, but equally have the buzz of London’s nightlife on your doorstep.

Want to make The Silk District your new home? Contact us now to arrange a viewing, but act quick, homes here are selling fast.