The Pedley St Arch is one of Spitalfields’ most disreputable corners and has been for more than a century, evidenced by this description of it by Emmanuel Litvinoff from his autobiography ‘Journey Through A Small Planet’ (1968) recalling his childhood, growing up in Cheshire St in the nineteen-twenties.
“Late one night, about eleven o’clock, I was detailed to walk Fanya home… There were no unusual signs of debauchery when we came to the railway arch although couples grappled against the dripping walls and tramps lay around parcelled in old newspaper.
The evil was in its gloom, its putrid stench, in the industrial grime of half a century with which it was impregnated.”
You need a strong stomach if you choose to visit the Pedley St Arch, since this is still where people go to urinate and defecate out of hours, and occasionally you will find homeless people taking shelter or dodgy builders dumping rubbish.
But more likely – these days – you will encounter the making of a Hip Hop music video or a fashion shoot for urban streetwear.
If there is such a thing as heritage of grime, Pedley St Arch has it in spades.