When I was a smug teenager, idly choosing whether Oxford or Cambridge would be lucky enough to educate me, an even smugger banker said to me, ‘Oh Oxford. To get there, you go through lovely Notting Hill, Holland Park, Chiswick… To get to Cambridge you have to go through the East End!’
Horrid as the banker was, he had a point. Wherever you take as the centre point of London – the City, Apsley House (address, Number One London), Centrepoint – you can move west for ten, twenty miles and your route will be lined with the houses of the rich, and after that, as you pass through Berkshire and Oxfordshire, the fields of the rich.
Go east, and within ten yards of the eastern boundary of the City – Bishopsgate – you are not just in the East End but, more pertinently, in the poor end of London. Cross Bishopsgate and you are in prime Jack-the-Ripper territory, suddenly wandering in a web of old silkworkers'