Many thanks to Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives for drawing my attention to this extract of Morden and Lea’s map of London from c. 1700, showing the area south of Whitechapel in East London. The reader may readily recognise the lie of the land, with White Chapel and the Tower of London the most obvious landmarks. What is here called White Horse Street and White Horse Lane will become Commercial Road. Similarly ‘Knock Fergus’ may be better known to contemporary readers as Cable Street, etc. The path of what will become Fieldgate Street is marked by a dotted line running across the fields; hence the name.
Other significant landmarks are absent. Dating as it does from around 1690 or 1700, this map does not show Hawksmoor’s church of St George in the East, which was not yet built; construction would begin in 1714.
I was particularly interested to see a Cannon Street on Morden and Lea’s map (south of Knock Fergus, roughly in the centre of the lower right-hand quarter of the map) running down the west side of the plot that St George in the East would come to occupy. Here perhaps is the origin of the current and oddly named Cannon Street Road, i.e. the road to Cannon Street. If you continue the line of Morden and Lea’s Cannon Street north across the fields to Whitehorse Lane/Commercial Road you will get an idea of its current location, intersecting as it does with Commercial Road roughly in the area of the word ‘White’, on the north edge of the field numbered ‘16’.
The reason for my particular interest of course is that Cannon Street Road forms the location for my 2003 novel Foxy-T, which is set in a fictional internet shop, roughly where the ‘1’ is marked on this sketch (which was drawn in case a map was needed for the Croatian edition of the novel, but never used).
The numbered locations from the novel are as follows:
- E-Z CALL
- SHADWELL DLR STATION
- SHABBAZ’S FATHER’S RAILWAY ARCH
- GOLDEN LION SOCIAL CLUB
- TAYYABS RESTAURANT AND TAKEAWAY
- WHITECHAPEL MOSQUE
- WHITECHAPEL UNDERGROUND STATION
- KEEN STUDENT CENTRE
- HSBC BANK
- DERELICT FLATS
Foxy-T was written in what has subsequently become known and studied as Multicultural London English (MLE), and the novel was recently included in the grammar text book Mastering Practical Grammar by Sara Thorne (Palgrave).
You can read more about Foxy-T and Cannon Street Road in this article on publisher Faber and Faber’s blog, which was published on the tenth anniversary of publication.
I understand that parts of Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives are currently closed for building renovation, but you can browse their catalogue here. They are also on Twitter, where in recent weeks they have been posting recently digitised archive photographs from the 1960s and 1970s, which are equally fascinating.
A ‘zoomable’ (though less detailed) later edition of Morden and Lea’s entire map is available to view on the British Library website.