Eerie East London

James_H

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#1
Hi

I've recently moved to Hackney, in East London. Following a mention of the Bear of Hackney Marshes on another thread, I've been intrigued to find out a bit more about any Fortean/gruesome local history of this and surrounding areas. Murder certainly seems popular; the first railway murder was commited in Hackney Wick, and its victim lived over the road from me.

I guess I'm interested in hearing a bit of 'psychogeography', so anything is interesting.

Iain Sinclair has a new book out about just that, though it's got some heavily negative reviews on Amazon.

Anyway, has anyone got any clues to why this area is so odd? Is it just because it's suffering from a plague of hipsters?
 
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#2
James_H2 said:
...Anyway, has anyone got any clues to why this area is so odd? Is it just because it's suffering from a plague of hipsters?
I suspect it's something to do with the sheer weight of history - so many people, over such a long period of time. The hipsters are just the latest wave of settlers and they'll leave ghosts, just as the rest have. At one time or another I've stayed in Bow, Hackney, Bethnal Green and Leyton and I worked at a (haunted) workshop at pudding Mill Lane. I always had the feeling in all of those places that you could peel the layers off.

I'd recommend walking everywhere as often as possible and - as I used to do on long weekend yomps into the City or around the East-End - getting deliberately lost every now and again. It's amazing what you come across.

I didn't much rate Sinclair's latest, but I have to be in the right mood for him. Ed Glinert's, East-End Chronicles, is a good read though. And Ackroyd's, London - The Biography, goes without saying.

I started a psychogeography thread once. No-one came. :(
 

James_H

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#3
I'm on a bike (public transport - pah!) and last night managed to make it over to Camden at one in the morning, as I was so bored... Met a lot of drunk people :roll: . Anyway, cycling is a bit of an eye-opener, you see so much more.

My Grandmother (90 odd) is originally from the area, and she had a few memories, though mainly of the lido in Victoria Park (not there any more, of course).

Anyway, thanks for the recommendations. I've been plotting a walk into the city for a little while, I may have a go tomorrow.
 
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#4
James_H2 said:
I'm on a bike...
Not at this minute, I hope. :shock:

Another recommendation and another book by Ed Glinert: The London Compendium - 'A street by street exploration of the hidden metropolis.' As Iain Sinclair writes - 'One of those books, destined to be read until they fall apart, that map the unmappable and make it live.' Couldn't improve on that recommendation.

It's a kind of gazetteer and ideal for someone who wants to wander around with access to an immediate source of information. It was a little hard to find a while back - I had to hunt around a bit to get hold of one for a friend, in the end it was either Stanfords on Long Acre or Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street (and if you haven't been there yet you should - it's what bookshops look like in heaven) where I found a copy. I'd put it at the top of the list. Seriously, have a look at a copy - I suspect you'll be hooked from the start.
 

Yithian

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#5
Spookdaddy said:
James_H2 said:
I'm on a bike...
Not at this minute, I hope. :shock:

Another recommendation and another book by Ed Glinert: The London Compendium - 'A street by street exploration of the hidden metropolis.' As Iain Sinclair writes - 'One of those books, destined to be read until they fall apart, that map the unmappable and make it live.' Couldn't improve on that recommendation.

It's a kind of gazetteer and ideal for someone who wants to wander around with access to an immediate source of information. It was a little hard to find a while back - I had to hunt around a bit to get hold of one for a friend, in the end it was either Stanfords on Long Acre or Daunt Books on Marylebone High Street (and if you haven't been there yet you should - it's what bookshops look like in heaven) where I found a copy. I'd put it at the top of the list. Seriously, have a look at a copy - I suspect you'll be hooked from the start.
It's good.

But I must say, unlike some other books you have mentioned, it relies upon a the reader already having a working knowledge of London geography to get the most out of it. Fascinating to dip into, nonetheless.
 

James_H

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#6
Thanks again.

Does anyone have any more info on the Hackney Bear?
 
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#7
theyithian said:
It's good.

But I must say, unlike some other books you have mentioned, it relies upon a the reader already having a working knowledge of London geography to get the most out of it. Fascinating to dip into, nonetheless.
You're right, you can get a bit lost reading it cold and away from the scene of action, but I think for James_H2's purposes (and mine, when riding Shanks's pony around London) it's probably ideal - being geographically organised means that you don't have to trawl through indexes to see if there are any references to wherever it is you've ended up. It's a travellers reference - as an armchair read it is, as you say, best for dipping.
 

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#8
Spookdaddy said:
theyithian said:
It's good.

But I must say, unlike some other books you have mentioned, it relies upon a the reader already having a working knowledge of London geography to get the most out of it. Fascinating to dip into, nonetheless.
You're right, you can get a bit lost reading it cold and away from the scene of action, but I think for James_H2's purposes (and mine, when riding Shanks's pony around London) it's probably ideal - being geographically organised means that you don't have to trawl through indexes to see if there are any references to wherever it is you've ended up. It's a travellers reference - as an armchair read it is, as you say, best for dipping.
Agreed on all counts. Anyway, it's certainly a good book.

IIRC I got a hardback copy very cheaply in Sussex Stationers (Is that a minor chain, or a local thing? Does it still exist?)
 

James_H

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#9
I only ever saw Sussex Stationers in and around Sussex, strangely enough... A bit like Harvey's beer, which really needs to be in the wider world.
 

CarlosTheDJ

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#10
theyithian said:
....Sussex Stationers (Is that a minor chain, or a local thing? Does it still exist?)
It definitely still exists in Sussex! There is one here in Lewes anyway.
 

James_H

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#11
The sort of thing that seems a bit fortean but probably isn't happened to me yesterday/today.
A friend and I went to Abney Park cemetary in Stoke Newington, and the astonishing chapel (which I wasn't expecting) really loomed out at us. It's an extraordinary building, but half in ruins, with no doors and all plants growing inside. We started drawing it, and a tramp came over to offer us a bit of art criticism. He turned out to be very knowledgeable, and knew a fair bit about the history of the building, cemetary etc.

Anyway, today I was watching a music video (Amy Winehouse, for my sins), and the very same church featured pretty prominently in it. I thought that was odd because I'd never seen the chapel or the video before.

The cemetary is well worth visiting for any fans of overgrown victorian gothic.
 
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#12
I know I was going to relate the following some time back, but I don't think I ever did - possibly because, for a ghost story, it seems a totally mundane and utterly undramatic one (in a way, I suppose that's partly why it's stayed with me). Anyway, as it has a certain relevance to this thread, here it is.

I was working in a friend's workshop on an industrial estate in Stratford, very close to the Pudding Mill Lane DLR station. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon and we were the only unit occupied. There were three of us: me, the guy I was working with and Andy, the owner, sitting in his little office about five metres from us. Me and the other guy are working on different ends of the same piece, maybe three metres apart and we're doing so directly in front of the open security shutters from where we can see the entire yard entrance including the security guard - who constitutes the only other living being in the entire complex on that particular afternoon - sitting in his little office on the other side.

Anyway, both me and the guy I'm working with hear a shuffling sound and then a voice coming from the area of the unshuttered entrance say, very clearly, 'Ullo', in what is almost a parody of a cockney accent a la Arthur Mullard (for those who remember him). In less than a second we've looked at each other, looked out of the shutters and I'm up and out the door and checking out the yard. Just as I get back and am asking my oppo if he really heard what I heard Andy pops his head out the office door and asks who it was just said hello.

There's really a kind of prologue to the event. Anyone who has worked in a workshop or large industrial building knows that they can at times be quite unnerving - chains clank, stuff falls off benches, shutters creak in the wind etc. Also they will be familiar with the tendency for stuff to go missing - which common-sense tells us is the result of having used dozens of tools while working in the clutter of a busy workshop, but which is often blamed on a 'shop 'ghost' (normally so you can deny the otherwise ready suspicion that you are an untidy sod, or you're going mad).

Anyway, we christened our scape-ghost 'George' in memory of the cheery cockney geezer who had run a courier company we used at the time and who had been shot dead one morning by persons unknown when opening up his yard. (I'm not making this up - rumour has it something to do with someone tidying loose ends long after most of us have forgotten about the Brinks Mat robbery way back in the 80's). Needless to say, the voice that said 'Ullo' was a ringer for the real George.

Sorry, I know that's a long post for a one word haunting. I've had more unnerving experiences but I'm a borderline sceptic (although I'd say I was open to suggestions rather than hardline) and as such I am not so convinced of the infallibility of my own senses as to believe that those experiences might not be explicable in perfectly logical ways. But, undramatic as it is, this is the only time I simply cannot explain away what happened.
 
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escargot

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#13
Spook, what be this psychogeography of which you speak? :D

I have J.A. Brooks' Ghosts of London here.
Its East End section mentions lots of haunted pubs. One could plan a bicycle tour of these locations, for serious research purposes, of course. ;)
 
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#14
escargot1 said:
Spook, what be this psychogeography of which you speak? :D
It's hard to come up with a decent definition that doesn't come over as completely pretentious. Basically, I'd describe it as almost another dimension - one created not by the history or the geography of the place you are passing through, or the influence both have had on the psychology of those who have passed the same way, but all of those things rolled into one.

The best description I can find on the net at short notice is -
Psychogeography is the hidden landscape of atmospheres, histories, actions and characters which charge environments.
(here)

I quite like that.

I came to it through urban walking. I walk everywhere and you can't do that for long in a city like, for example, London without noticing how layered, physically and psychologically, the landscape is.
 

escargot

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#15
Oh yep, know what you mean.

I think an aspect of this is seen in popular TV archaeology/history programmes, like Time Team and that one where they trace the sites of vanished buildings such as Henry VIII's huge palace.

While these aren't about any psychic elements of the place they feature, the feeling of peeling back layers of the land and looking at the places from the past hidden beneath is certainly there. :D
 

James_H

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#18
I think Will Self actually used to do a column called psychogeography (or something similar?) in one of the broadsheets, with illustrations by Ralph Steadman.
 

Ulalume

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#19
Spookdaddy said:
escargot1 said:
Spook, what be this psychogeography of which you speak? :D
It's hard to come up with a decent definition that doesn't come over as completely pretentious. Basically, I'd describe it as almost another dimension - one created not by the history or the geography of the place you are passing through, or the influence both have had on the psychology of those who have passed the same way, but all of those things rolled into one.

The best description I can find on the net at short notice is -
Psychogeography is the hidden landscape of atmospheres, histories, actions and characters which charge environments.
(here)

I quite like that.

I came to it through urban walking. I walk everywhere and you can't do that for long in a city like, for example, London without noticing how layered, physically and psychologically, the landscape is.
I find this utterly fascinating. I have an acute sense of this even though the area where I live has not been populated much more than a hundred years, though some European visitors - also, one of my friends from East London in fact - find the atmosphere here to be curiously "weightless" compared to their home countries.
Very interesting that history could be perceived as a weight, somehow.
 

PeniG

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#20
Actually, Ms. Kitt, since I understand you to live somewhere on the Gulf Coastal Plain of Texas, the area has been populated for a lot longer than that. The individual who has found the largest number of Clovis point (dated roughly between 13,000-11,000 YBP) is a child who lives near a beach in South Texas where points regularly wash up from a cache buried during the Ice Age and inundated when the waterline rose. This continent has been populated for a long time, possibly for 40,000 years (if the Mexican footprints work out) or so.

It's true that only the last couple of hundred years or so have left large visible surface traces, but in another 11,000 years even that footprint may have washed out. We have a truncated sense of history and the popular idea of "old" is laughable. Pyramids are johnny-come-lately in the human story.


I'll now ride my hobby horse into the sunset, thank you for your patience.
 

Ulalume

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#21
PeniG said:
Actually, Ms. Kitt, since I understand you to live somewhere on the Gulf Coastal Plain of Texas, the area has been populated for a lot longer than that. The individual who has found the largest number of Clovis point (dated roughly between 13,000-11,000 YBP) is a child who lives near a beach in South Texas where points regularly wash up from a cache buried during the Ice Age and inundated when the waterline rose. This continent has been populated for a long time, possibly for 40,000 years (if the Mexican footprints work out) or so.

It's true that only the last couple of hundred years or so have left large visible surface traces, but in another 11,000 years even that footprint may have washed out. We have a truncated sense of history and the popular idea of "old" is laughable. Pyramids are johnny-come-lately in the human story.



I'll now ride my hobby horse into the sunset, thank you for your patience.
My bad. I forgot to say densely populated.
 
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#22
Leyton/Leytonstone are are of interest as they are a convergence point for ley lines.

Also, there was once a bear called "Charlie Brown" (I assume he was a brown bear) at a pub in South Woodford E18, so he could of made his way to the marshes?
 

James_H

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#23
Hexebus said:
Leyton/Leytonstone are are of interest as they are a convergence point for ley lines.
That sounds interesting, do you have any more info?
 
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#25
Hexebus said:
There's a bit on here, and I remember a thread on FT somewhere, ill try and dig it out

http://justinstephens.blogspot.com/2008 ... -plan.html
I doubt though that there's a single square mile (and you could probably go a lot smaller than that) of London where you couldn't find similar patterns, if you were as selective in your choice of data and as prone to imaginative road-name interpretation.

Coincidentally, the story I related earlier on in this thread took place only a few hundred yards further south from where the map ends.
 

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#26
I've been in to psychogeography for many years now, ever since I read Alan Moore's writings in my youth.

I used it as a framework around which to build my exploration of London when I moved here, and found it helped me enjoy wandering around the ugly areas of town just as much as the pretty ones.

Used to take regular dérives around town with like-minded friends and built up a superb knowledge of many aspects of London whilst doing it, ending up often in the strangest of places. Once ended up walking the entire northern outfall sewer on one occasion and found 2 Harry Potter night buses parked in the Guildhall on another:
http://entertainment.webshots.com/album ... ertainment
 

Fats_Tuesday

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#28
It was very weird - one of the joys of a psychogeographical derive is the fact when you find cool stuff, it's totally unexpected and you find yourself building your own personal links between different encountered elements; e.g. in my head, the Guildhall will always be a London extension of Hogwarts.
 

CodenameThrow

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#30
I spent a couple of years living in East London, for my sins (as close in as Bethnal Green and as far out as Walthamstow) and it IS a strange place, although the twin factors of urban decay and hipsterness rub uncomfortably against each other a bit too much and take the edge off any real psychogeographical air, IMO. Shame, really. Anyway, one of the more interesting things to do is walk the length of the road that goes from Aldgate East to, well, Romford or something - not the whole way, obviously. You can stroll down from Hackney to Whitechapel (maybe taking in Spitalfields, although the air has been sucked out of that place), turn left up the road towards Mile End - and then walk to Stratford. This takes in all sorts of really interesting sights - you go past some interesting and historical pubs (The Blind Beggar, The Grave Maurice), some interesting squares and gardens (the area around Mile End and Queen Mary's, with the landscaped nature garden and the lovely housing squares), some interesting developments, (that arts trust up in Bow, near the church) and end up at the Olypmic developments. Doing this you get a real sense for the way that one road can connect a lot of parts of the city: the area by Bow Church in particular makes you feel as if you're stuck in between two very distinct zones, the really noisy and busy parts of Whitechapel, Mile End, Stepney Green and the developing sections of Stratford and Newham. It's also really interesting to see how they're adapting the waterways (the Bow canals, Fish Island and so on) for the Games.

Little pockets of Hackney are good to explore - like the village near Victoria Park, which is now quite swanky, and the park itself - with the pavilion and lurking pubs. There's also a completely barmy pub in a park next to Grove Road (just about where it joins with the Roman Road) which isn't weird in itself, it just sticks out of the landscape like a rotten tooth. It's always full of interesting characters with a couple of stories to tell too, and it's called the Palm Tree. It's fitting that pubs shape a lot of the landscape of this part of London, I reckon, given that they play such a huge part in the community and have done for centuries.

The liberal scattering of tabernacles, Orthodox churches, candle factories, playhouses, steam baths, music halls, crime scenes, listed public toilets and mosques also gives the area a very unusual and fascinating character.

There's a pub on Bow Road called the Bow Bells (I think) which has a sign above the gents reading "Beware of the ghost" but I never found out what that was about.

And on yet another pub theme, try The Ten Bells down near Brick Lane, if you haven't already: a couple of Jack The Ripper's victims used to drink in there. In fact, if you feel like exploring Whitechapel and Aldgate a bit more, have a read of Donald Rumbelow's Jack The Ripper book, and Slow Chocolate Autopsy by Ian Sinclair. Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd also fictionalises the supposedly Satanic influence on a lot of the area's churches.
 
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