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By the time of the 1901 Census, the area around Flower and Dean Street
in Spitalfields contained a wide range of dwellings, from slum properties
and cheap lodging houses to newly-built model housing for the poor.
Connecting to Brick Lane in the east and to Commercial Street in the
west, Flower and Dean Street was fronted along most of its north side
by the flats of the Nathaniel Dwellings and along half of its south
side by those of the Charlotte de Rothschild Dwellings. Although desperately
cramped as family homes by modern standards, these Rothschild Buildings
were constructed as model housing.
Follow this link to housing and the Rothschild
In the 1870s, this street and those around it had had the reputation
of being the poorest and most dangerous in the East End of London. Alarmed
by the miserable condition of the newcomers to the area and fearing
to be associated with their poverty and alien culture, the established
Anglo-Jewish bourgeoisie (as represented by the Board of Guardians for
the Relief of the Jewish Poor) took action.
Baron Nathan Meyer de Rothschild, the unofficial leader of Anglo-Jewry,
formed a company to build cheap tenement dwellings for Jewish tenants
while at the same time providing a reasonable return to its shareholders.
The Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company was formed in 1885 and
opened the Rothschild Dwellings to tenants in April 1887.
Further redevelopment of the area soon received a lurid impetus: all
five of Jack the Ripper's victims lived in, or had connections with,
Flower and Dean Street and its immediate environs. These events led
to both a renewed interest in slum clearance and public outrage at the
activities of slum landlords. Most of the rest of Flower and Dean Street
was bought by the Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company in 1891
and the Nathaniel Dwellings opened the following year.
The tenants of the two buildings were mostly, but
by no means entirely, Jews and had mainly emigrated from Eastern Europe
and Russia. They brought with them to the Spitalfield area their trades,
predominantly tailoring, cabinet making and cigarette manufacture.