Loading Map...

Panorama High Street East is a community learning resource created by The Building Exploratory, celebrating the six-kilometre stretch of road from Aldgate to Stratford in east London. The Panorama documents this High Street in 2012, at a historic point in its development, and is a record of the route from central London to the 2012 Olympic Park. It also includes information about how this High Street is continuing to change.

For this project the Building Exploratory worked with a magnificent team of 30 volunteers who have gathered information about each of the 500 buildings included in Panorama High Street East. The volunteers have also been involved in supporting the delivery of three learning and engagement programmes for schools, older people and local residents.

You can learn more about the Panorama High Street East project below:

High Street 2012

The Panorama High Street East project came about following conversations with colleagues at English Heritage and Tower Hamlets Council who were involved in delivering the High Street 2012 programme. High Street 2012 was the name given to the works which are part of the programme which seeks to 'enhance and celebrate the ribbon of London life that connects the City at Aldgate to the Olympic Park in Stratford’. High Street 2012 projects include conservation work, new developments and regeneration of green spaces, decluttering the high street and improving street surfaces.

The project is being coordinated by the following partners working collaboratively: The London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Newham, Design for London, Transport for London, the London Thames Gateway Development Corporation and English Heritage.


Back to top

How the Panorama was created

Panorama High Street East volunteers each undertook an initial task of researching a 150 metre stretch of buildings. Within their stretch of 150 buildings they then went on to research the more ‘significant’ buildings in greater depth.

The volunteers used a number of research methods to build up information about the buildings. They visited the buildings themselves and made notes on their current uses and the age and style of the buildings. They also visited Tower Hamlets Archives where they used historical sources to record the uses and occupiers of buildings from around 1850 to the 1980s. The Archives’ collection of historic maps was also important for establishing the historic period that buildings date from where no record of origin could be found.

In addition to archival and in-situ research, each volunteer used their own range of additional methods to uncover the secrets of High Street 2012. Some pieced together stories from internet sources and books, whilst others made drawings of the characters that they met during their research on the street. Some volunteers interviewed interested passers by, and others participated in a ‘Peoples Favourite Buildings’ Market Stall where they spoke to local people, hearing about their opinions and perspectives of the area.

Together, our team and the volunteers have created a rich resource on the history, development and life of the High Street.

Back to top

Photographing the Panorama

Photographer Jon Spencer was responsible for the photography of the Panorama. From winter 2011 to Summer 2012 Jon sought good weather, clear days and quiet times to photograph the elevations of each of the 500 buildings along the north and south sides of the high street. He then stitched the photographs together using Photoshop to create a continuous image of 12km of road. You can read about Jon’s experiences of photographing the Panorama here, and see more of his work at www.jonspencer.co.uk

Back to top

Building Panorama High Street East Online

The team from the Building Exploratory worked with web designers Studio Baum and developers Luck Laboratories to bring together the vast amount of research and information with the photographic panorama itself, to create this fantastic interactive resource.

Back to top

The High Street in context

“High Street 2012” is the most recent name given to this 6km long stretch of road in East London, but its history dates back to the Roman period and probably before. In Roman times, this route was named 'Durovernum' and was the route that took travellers from London to Dover via Canterbury.

The single route documented in Panorama High Street East, is formed of 4 road, which today are named ‘Whitechapel High Street’, ‘Whitechapel Road’, ‘Mile End Road’ and ‘Bow Road’.

These names tell us more about the history of the High Street:


The area of Whitechapel gained its name from the 13th Century Chapel of the Blessed Mary of Matfelun, which was located where Altub Ali Park currently stands. It has been speculated that the chapel was built from a white stone, and that this gave the church its colloquial name. This area of the High Street is famous for it’s links to the Jack the Ripper murders, and as the home of a diverse demographic, enriched by a range of immigrant populations moving to this area.

Mile End

The name Mile End was given to this hamlet, which was a ‘Miles End’ away from the gate into the City of London at Aldgate, along the road that passed east out of the City. A toll booth stood roughly where Cambridge Heath Road meets Mile End Road. This area has seen some significant events during its history. Charles Booth gave his first speeches which begun the Salvation Army on Mile End Waste, which is reflected in statues of Booth on the Waste.

Notable buildings on Mile End Road also display the area’s association with the shipping and exploration history of London and Britain. For example, the Trinity Green Almshouses were built in the 17th Century for “Fallen Sailors”, and there is a plaque at 88 Mile End Road commemorating the site of the house of Captain James Cook. These buildings with their rich maritime heritage sit alongside buildings that tell a more domestic history of the East End, such as the former Wickhams Department Store, built to be the “Harrods of the East End”, which to an extent still serves local domestic needs, albeit through a Tesco store on the ground floor.


The area of Bow gained its name from the bowed shape of a bridge built over the river Lea in the early 12th Century. The bridge lent its name to the medieval area ‘Stratford-atte-Bow’, which has since been abbreviated to 'Bow'.

Bow is particularly famous as the location of civil rights movements and development during the 19th and 20th centuries. Prominent among them was the suffragette movement, which was started by Sylvia Pankhurst from 198 Bow Road - a Baker’s shop. Miss Pankhurst was also held in Bow Road Police Station in 1913 for smashing windows.

Close by, in 1888, Annie Besant led the first unionised strike at the Bryant and May Match Factory on Fairfield Road, this campaign won better pay and conditions for the Matchgirls employed at the factory.

The area is also famous as the location of Poplar Borough Council in the early 20th century, located in what is now Bow House. Poplar Borough Council played an important role in the development of the Labour Party in the 20th Century. George Lansbury was Mayor of Poplar for Labour, before he became the leader of the Labour Party in the 1930s. Poplar Borough Council pioneered welfare reforms in the borough, including equal pay for men and women and a minimum wage, which later became key features of welfare reform.

Back to top

The Building Exploratory

Launched in 1996 and based in East London, the Building Exploratory helps people discover the secrets of their local area and gain a better understanding of the buildings and spaces that surround them.

We work closely with school children, local residents, partner organisations, private companies and others to build resources that have resonance and relevance. Innovative programmes are at the heart of what we do.

Find out more about the Building Exploratory at www.buildingexploratory.org.uk

Back to top


Significant Building

Significant buildings are those that have been deemed by volunteers and project partners to be of special historic, architectural or social significance on the High Street.

People’s Favourite

People’s Favourite buildings are indicated by a red star on the panorama. The numbers relate to the guided walk, which you can find on the Learning Page

There are 17 buildings along the road which have been voted as the peoples favourites

Our High Street

Buildings marked with a blue star are also part of Our High Street. They might be a building from ‘The People’s Favourite’ buildings, or they could be a building for which we have further stories, pictures or sound recordings which were gathered as part of the Our High Street.


Listed refers to buildings which have been designated as Listed by English Heritage You can read more about how they designate listed buildings by visiting their website www.english-heritage.org.uk/

Back to top