Tim: London April 24 2016
24.04.2016 - 24.04.2016
While in London we stayed at the very cool Hoxton Shoreditch Hotel, just adjacent to Hackney in the East End of London. These days it’s hipsters at 20 paces, cool coffee joints, restaurants and designers. But back in the day this was Jewish London, where my grandfather Samuel Chiatt lived with his uncle Hirsch Grunstein. Sam eventually took his uncle’s name, which later morphed into Greenstein and eventually Green.
On my morning run one Sunday, I set out to rediscover Sam’s neighbourhood. Grandpa told my father that he lived at ‘Florideen’ Street. Turns out he meant Flower and Dean Street. This was home to one of London’s most notorious slums and to Jack the Ripper and most of his victims. In 1883 it was described as "perhaps the foulest and most dangerous street in the whole metropolis".
The slum was cleared with the help of the benevolent Nathaniel Rothschild (of the banking family) and my grandfather ended up living in the Nathaniel Building on Flower and Dean.
Ever the capitalist Nathan Rothschild financed his social housing projects by offering shares, and promised investors 4% annual return.
I’m not sure how much of an improvement this was on the old slum, but it was at the heart of the Jewish East End, back in the day. Now most of the local population are of East Asian Islamic origin, and this was the stamping ground of the newly elected London major Sadiq Khan. Much of the Rothschild development was destroyed during the Blitz, although the Nathaniel building survived into the 1970s when it was replaced by another (bleak) council housing project, that obliterated the original Flower and Dean Street which was remembered as Flower and Dean Walk.
Flower and Dean Social Housing circa 1974 built on the site of the original Rothschild housing project
Not surprising that Sam looked to brighter prospects in Australia. But first he acquired his trade as a tailor and met his wife, my grandmother Yetta Joffe, who was also a resident at Flower and Dean. I ran up Brick Lane, past the old bagel shop that was probably trading when Sam and Yetta traced the same path to the East London Synagogue in Hackney where they were married in 1911.
Running to the Synagogue I passed some cool Sunday markets, including the wonderful Columbia Street Flower Market. The East London Synagogue is still there in an otherwise residential street, identified only by Google Maps and some subtle Jewish script. There was no signage, no signs of life…It was the third day of Pesach, but no evidence of any recent celebrations. I wonder if there is any community left here?
East London Synagogue
So here it was that on 2 July 1911 that Sam and Yetta were married. What an inauspicious place to begin a dynasty that would produce 6 children (one, Leah, still alive) 17 grandchildren (of which I am one), 46 great grandchildren (including my Isobel and Meg) and 39 great great grandchildren including the latest edition Huntley, my brother Jamie’s grandson). That’s at least 108 Greens that blossomed from Flower and Dean.
Quite a run!