The People’s Panorama is an ambitious project to create a community heritage resource recording and documenting the six-kilometre stretch of road from Aldgate to Stratford in East London. The project will celebrate the High Street at this historic point in its development and act as a record of the route from central London to the 2012 Olympic Park.

Friday, 27 July 2012

The research process

The Panorama research volunteers have taken a variety of approaches to their research, and it's fascinating to see how some have found out about the buildings along High Street 2012. Below, you can see some of the resources that volunteers have been using, including maps, articles and photographs. You can also see how one of the volunteers - Lucy Schofield - has approached her research in a very visual way. 

All photos by Lucy Schofield

Monday, 11 June 2012

Scenes from Whitechapel

Judit Ferencz, one of the volunteers researching the histories and stories of High Street 2012, chose to record some of the scenes that she witnessed whilst she explored Whitechapel High Street. Below are some of her beautiful illustrations, which record her experiences of visiting the Whitechapel area.

Illustrations created and owned by Judit Ferencz

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Our Whitechapel Market Stall in pictures

Here are some of the pictures from our Whitechapel Market Stall on Saturday (all taken by Jon Spencer).

To add your experience of High Street 2012 to our collection, take a photo of your favourite building along the high street and send it to, or send in a sentence about what you think about High Street 2012 to the same address. You can also visit us our next Whitechapel Market Stall on 23rd June, which will be outside the Idea Store, Whitechapel from 10am-4pm.

Friday, 18 May 2012


Panorama High Street 2012: Whitechapel Market Stall
Saturday 26th May 2012

The Building Exploratory is hosting a market stall at the Idea Store Whitechapel to celebrate the architectural heritage of this historic high street. Our team of experts will be on hand to talk to you about its buildings and introduce you to our vote for the peoples’ favourite building.
Come and take part in activities that will inspire you to look more closely at the 600 buildings and their architectural features.
Take photographs of building details using your mobile phone for our project gallery.
Guided tours exploring the high street’s buildings and public spaces, take place at 12 noon and 2pm, beginning at the market stall.
Vote for your favourite building from our 16 “People’s Favourites”.
The event is part of the Building Exploratory’s Panorama High Street 2012 initiative, an ambitious project creating a photographic panorama of the high street and documenting the six-kilometre route from Aldgate to the Olympic Park. We hope to meet local residents, shoppers and visitors to the high street and listen to their opinions and experiences of this remarkable London thoroughfare.

Join us at the market stall, at the Idea Store Whitechapel on 26 May, and again on 23 June, between 10am and 4pm.

Idea Store Whitechapel
321 Whitechapel Road
London E1 1BU

The Idea Store, Whitechapel. Photo by Jon Spencer

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Significant Buildings

The Panorama High Street 2012 volunteers have spent the last two months undertaking detailed research of 150 ‘Significant Buildings’. Rakan, one of the volunteers, reflects on what the Post Office Directories reveal about Bow Road…

Who lived here?

No. 1 Bow Road
Photo by Jon Spencer

My section of the High Street 2012 survey focuses on a row of listed early Victorian Terraces on the last stretch of Mile End Road and the beginning of Bow Road. While the buildings themselves are wonderful they aren’t especially architecturally unique and on the whole have mainly been used as homes for nearing their 200 years of existence. This presented a challenge. As opposed to someone who was tasked with researching a cinema or a hospital, these houses at first look (give or take a uPVC window here and a concreted front garden there) are pretty much as they were built.

With this in mind I settled into Tower Hamlets Archives. With 80 years worth of Post Office Directories at my disposal I was sure I could come up with some interesting histories of these terraces. The Directories (or Kelly’s Directories, the name under which they were published) are a fascinating series of volumes dating back to the early 1800s which among other things attempt to list every inhabitant or workplace at every address in London.

The directories provide a fascinating picture in micro-detail about who lived and worked in this part of London throughout the building’s history. What I was able to learn from following the directories through the years was that the houses were initially occupied by private residents. While a few were used as schools or nurseries (easy to run out of a home environment) it wasn’t until later that other cottage industries started to set up in these buildings. Tailors and related crafts people were probably the most predominantly found inhabitants of the buildings between 415 Mile End Road and 23 Bow Road. However there were also several occupants from the medical professions, with 1 Bow Road in particular being a home to physicians for well over 100 years. This could have something to do with the nearby presence of St. Clements Hospital, but is also a comment on the relatively well off nature of inhabitants of these terraces whilst the area was still seen as desirable.

It is also interesting to see that most of the names of inhabitants throughout the 1800s seem to be of English descent but in the first half of the 20th century a number of other ethnicities seem to crop up, especially those of Eastern European descent. This helps to paint an interesting picture of the Mile End Road in relation to events in Europe and the world at the time.


Wednesday, 11 April 2012

On researching Queen Mary University

Queen Mary University of London is a truly fascinating place to research.

Queen Mary University Administrative Building.
Photo by Jon Spencer

One architectural wonder is the Humanities Building designed by Wilkinson Eyre. These architects teamed up with artist, Jacqueline Poncelet, to produce a blue, book motif decorated facade. This book-themed pattern acts as a symbol for the collecting, sharing and increase of knowledge. And the Humanities department remembers the important matter of sustainability by incorporating ground source heat pumps into their design in order to create renewable energy.

But by far the most beautiful piece of architecture at Queen Mary’s is the Octagon Library, part of the main Queens Building, a magnificent Victorian three-tiered hall with an elegant, cross-vaulted ceiling. Its eight walls are furnished with Neo-Grecian iron galleries. Gleaming, golden busts of literature’s finest writers peer down from their columns from Chaucer, to Shakespeare, to Byron. From the very beginning women held key positions at the library which was rather unexpected in the Victorian era, such women were Constance Black and Minnie James.

There are so many interesting features of Queen Mary University and I am looking forward to exploring more…

Kimberley Chen

Friday, 16 March 2012

More discoveries by the project volunteers

 'When I first visited Whitechapel High Street and discovered Black Lion House was in my section, I didn't think much of it. Then I started researching the building and I was very pleasantly surprised. 

Black Lion Yard, 1961. Photographer unknown
Black Lion House stands near the now demolished Black Lion Yard which used to be described as the ‘Hatton Garden of the East End’ due to its 18 jewellery shops. Black Lion Yard was a narrow passage that ran from Old Montague Street to Whitechapel Road. Before it became known for its jewellers it was known for its kosher dairy. Until 1902, The Jewish Soup Kitchen was based here and even had its own heard of cows. Despite petitions and media coverage Black Lion Yard was demolished in 1975.'
Niamh Linnane

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Reflections on Photography

Jon Spencer (see his website here) is the architectural photographer for the Panorama High Street 2012 project. He is taking photos of the elevations of every building along High Street 2012, and he is about half way through this extensive task. Here are his thoughts about the process so far...

'The work I've done so far on producing the People's Panorama has already proved of great interest.  Although I knew the streets that make up High Street 2012 as a visitor – the Whitechapel Gallery, the old Atlantis site by the Bell Foundry, the living bridge and so on, the time I've spent walking along the street for this project means I'm getting to know it in much fuller way. From my own experience and distant memories of lectures at architecture school, the occasional visitor often misrepresents the relationship & relative position of elements spread along a long thoroughfare, and I now feel like I've got a much better sense of the street, its rhythm and tempo.

The diversity of buildings is remarkable – in period, style, scale and function.  I might not have given much consideration to many of them in the past, but looking at each one individually means I'm getting to know them all a little and am seeing interesting or intriguing details & relationships that I would have missed before.

Looking at the parts of the panorama completed so far, I'm really struck by the way this wide range of buildings produces a fluctuating roofline to the final image … it seems almost like we're in a canyon, but here the line rises and falls dramatically to reveal glimpses of the city beyond the road, whether that's at the junction with side streets, or more tantalisingly, in the small gaps between buildings.

From a technical perspective, the sheer scale of this project means I've come across a number of issues in how to effectively describe these building fa├žades as a single panorama, when such a view doesn't really exist in reality. Relative position & height of neighbouring buildings, buildings that address the street at different angles, street clutter, distant towers and traffic. And then there's the weather … but I don't need to tell you about that, right?!'
Jon Spencer

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Rapit Suvanajata discovers...

'There are many memories and historical layers to all these buildings. At the end of Whitechapel Road, the last building number is 337 at present but the numbers used to run up to 345 in the past. Numbers 339-345 now is the outdoor space of the Blind Beggar pub (no.337)'

Friday, 24 February 2012

Zahra Rajaei's thoughts on researching Whitechapel High Street

'I have had a great time exploring my section of the High Street 2012 so far! My section includes Whitechapel Art Gallery, which I’ve visited very often and it is one of my favourite buildings on the high street. During my first visit all my focus was on the gallery and it was only after coming home and doing a bit of on-line research that I realised my section has a lot more to offer.

I realised I had completely missed a fine work of art just above the entrance of 88 Whitechapel High Street. It is quite hard to spot the sign of 1934-5 by Arthur Szyk, it is said to be a sign showing the editorial heart of the Jewish Daily Post. Arthur Szyk was a US based Jewish artist well known for his illustrations, this piece was made while he lived in London and is one of his few 3D pieces.  
I also found that The White Hart Pub is not just any old pub, it has a fascinating history. It was only during my second visit that I learned about the mysteries of the pub and that it has been a pub for more than 200 years. It is definitely worth a visit if you are interested in finding our about the darker history of Whitechapel! 

Photo by Jon Spencer

Although I have gathered a lot of information I still think there is more to it, one more week to discover the wonders of Whitechapel High Street.'
Zahra Rajaei
Zahra has been recording information about buildings
along High Street 2012 using her iphone

Friday, 10 February 2012

Barry Blinko, one of the volunteers, writes about his research so far...

I recently received the section of High Street 2012 that I am to research and it is close to Bow Church.  'Easy' I thought! A group of council blocks of flats and a couple of large old buildings.  Then I went along to February's training session at the archives.  I realised that before the blocks of flats were built there was something else there.  Suddenly not quite so easy.

I began my archives research this week and it became really interesting. I began to get a sense of the area. There used to be lots of shops of bygone trades - a chandlers, an eel stew shop, a clog maker, harness maker and so on.  Also I found that at one time there was a music hall - The Eastern Empire Music Hall then renamed the Bow Palace Music Hall.

The trades that seemed almost guaranteed survival were the funeral directors and the public houses!  Within a short distance there was the Bow Bells, which still exists complete with a reported ghost in the ladies toilet, Bird in Hand, Black Swan, Three Cups, White Horse and the Bombay Grab. Six pubs, a music hall and a cinema all in a short distance and only on one side of the road!  It shows that it must have been a lively area. 

I look forward to continuing my research and learning more.

Barry Blinko

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Visit to Tower Hamlets Archives!

The Peoples Panorama volunteers visited Tower Hamlets Archives over the weekend and then braved the cold to find out the current uses of buildings along High Street 2012. The archives are full of fantastic resources that will provide lots of information about the buildings along High Street 2012. For example; Post Office records dating back to the mid-18th century, which tell you exactly who was using all of the buildings along the high street over the last 150 years, alongside folders of images and many fascinating maps of the area.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Welcome to the People's Panorama Blog!

The People’s Panorama Project has begun, with the induction and training of 26 fantastic volunteers. The volunteers will research the history of every building along High Street 2012, and this work will form the majority of the content of a major on-line resource about this historic high street.  

The road is 6km long with approximately 600 distinctive buildings along it, so we are delighted to have a team of such dedicated volunteers to undertake this ambitious task. In carrying out their research, the volunteers will become the experts on High Street 2012, uncovering its history and hidden stories.

The team of volunteers will also contribute to the other exciting learning programmes that are part of the project. These will include an adults learning programme, a schools programme and a lifelong learning programme.  

The team of volunteers will be adventuring out onto High Street 2012 on 4th February, to start their research. Keep an eye on this blog for updates of what the volunteers discover!