Facts about Spitalfields
Spitalfields General Info
Spitalfields is a district in the East End of London and within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The area is formed around Commercial Street and includes the locale around Brick Lane, Christ Church, Toynbee Hall and Commercial Tavern. It has several markets, including Spitalfields Market, the historic Old Spitalfields Market, Brick Lane Market and Petticoat Lane Market.
It was part of the ancient parish of Stepney in the county of Middlesex and was split off as a separate parish in 1729. Just outside the City of London, the parish became part of the Metropolitan Board of Works area in 1855 as part of the Whitechapel District.
The area that is Spitalfields was covered with fields and nursery gardens until late in the 17th century when streets were laid out for Irish and Huguenot silk weavers. The Romans had a cemetery to the east of the Bishopsgate thoroughfare, which roughly follows the line of Ermine Street: the main highway to the north from Londinium. The cemetery was noticed by the antiquarian John Stow in 1576 and was the focus of a major archaeological excavation in the 1990s.
In 1197, a priory, “The New Hospital of St Mary without Bishopsgate”, latterly known as St Mary Spital, founded by Walter Brunus and his wife Roisia, was built on the site of the cemetery. It was one of the biggest hospitals in medieval England and had a large medieval cemetery with a stone charnel house and mortuary chapel. The chapel has been uncovered by archaeologists and preserved for public viewing. The priory and hospital were dissolved in 1539 under Henry VIII.