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Before the Olympics: London's East End

Published 1358 GMT (2158 HKT) August 10, 2012
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The 21st-century sharpness of London's Olympic venues stands in stark contrast to these photographs: 20th-century images of the East End neighborhoods that stand in the shadow of the Games. Here, two workers survey the reconstruction of Poplar in April 1951 following the devastation of World War II. All the images that follow are taken from Getty. Getty Images
Several of the UK's worst pockets of poverty can still be found in East London, something the Olympic legacy in part hopes to address. It has ever been so: this photograph of an impoverished family was taken in the East End on July 25, 1912, almost 100 years to the day that the Summer Games opened (Getty Images). Getty Images
This photograph, taken around 1915, shows a young Jewish boy sewing at home in 1915. Tailoring was a key industry in 20th-century East London and a common trade for members of the Jewish community. The rag trade, as it is known, still has a strong presence in certain neighborhoods (Getty Images). Getty Images
East London has long been home to immigrant communities, who have settled and shaped the fabric and future of the city. Here children play outside the Chinese Freemason Society in Limehouse, close to the River Thames, in 1927. Many of the first Chinese to settle in the UK were seafarers: the community still has a strong presence in London, most notably in Chinatown, Soho (Getty Images). Getty Images
Two young ballet dancers, Violet Hutchinson aged eight, and Betty Putt aged seven, rehearse in a back garden in Poplar in June 1935. This image is taken from the recent exhibition EAST, which was held at the Getty Images Gallery, Stratford, London during spring 2012 (Getty Images). Getty Images
A skater takes to the ice -- a cushion providing protection against a fall -- at Hollow Ponds, Leytonstone, in December 1927 during one of the worst winters to hit 20th century London. The Ponds stand on the southern edges of Epping Forest, a centuries-old protected area of woodland frequented by figures as diverse as Henry VIII, highwayman Dick Turpin and Charles Dickens (Getty Images). Getty Images
Two men enjoy jellied eels, an East End delicacy, in Whitechapel on a Sunday morning in September 1927. Eels became a staple dish of East London over the centuries due to their prevalence in the River Thames. They are much less popular now but can still be found in certain eatries, where they are served with pie -- which usually contains beef -- and mash (Getty Images). Getty Images
A female demonstrator is arrested by police amid clashes between fascists and communists in October 1936 during the Battle of Cable Street. Trouble erupted as the extreme-right Blackshirts -- led by Sir Oswald Mosley -- attempted to march through the heart of the biggest Jewish community in the UK. Tens of thousands of residents defending their neighborhoods clashed with police who were attempting to secure the route for the fascist marchers. The Blackshirts were eventually beaten back in a defining moment in East End history (Getty Images). Getty Images
A group of children at the East End Mission on Commercial Road, Tower Hamlets in May 1931, stripped to the waist and wearing goggles, sit around a sunlamp for sun ray treatment. An adult supervisor in the background lifts the needle on a gramophone player (Getty Images). Getty Images
Greyhound racing was, with boxing and football, one of the chief spectator sports for 20th-century East Londoners. Here dogs are inspected in October 1938 at West Ham Stadium, where hay has been laid on the track due to bad weather. The venue also staged speedway, stock car racing and even baseball until, like many others, it fell victim to changing tastes and shut in the early 1970s (Getty Images). Getty Images
It's January 1934 and a baby sits in a wire cage suspended several stories about the street. East Poplar borough council planned to attach these fixtures to the outside of tenement windows so that the very young would be able to take fresh air and sunshine. It points to how both local and national government repeatedly tried to improve the lot of the largely working-class East London population throughout the 20th century. Whether this idea proved successful is not known (Getty Images). Getty Images
East London has always had a strong tradition of theater and music hall: for a sense of former glories, seek out the pantomime at Hackney Empire, which first opened its doors in 1901 and played host to Stan Laurel and Charlie Chaplin before they found wider fame in Hollywood. Music hall declined during World War I but revived in the 1930s: here entertainer Harry Champion publicizes his role at the Granada Theatre, East Ham in May 1938 (Getty Images). Getty Images
Neighborhoods across East London suffered heavy losses during World War II, targeted by German bombers seeking to devastate the capital's industrial and maritime heartland. Many residents slept on the subway system to avoid night-time raids; others such as these women, girls and babies, pictured here in October 1940 in Clapton, took cover in air raid shelters run by the Salvation Army. The Blitz as it was known lasted from September 1940 to May 1941, claimed at least 20,000 lives and left 1.4 million people homeless (Getty Images). Getty Images
Hughes Mansions in Stepney, which was destroyed in March 1945, was the last London site to be hit by a bomb during World War Two. Towards the end of the war Germany had developed the V2, a rocket-powered missile fired from the European mainland which travelled at more than 3,000 mph. This attack killed 134 people, most of whom were Jewish (Getty Images). Getty Images
Dockers -- as longshoremen are known in the UK -- unload fruit from the SS Jamaica at West India Docks in June 1946. Food imports were strictly controlled during World War II: rationing continued long after the conflict, with bananas a highly sought-after commodity. The docks closed for heavy freight traffic during the 1980s and have since been heavily redeveloped as part of the Canary Wharf, one of London's core business districts (Getty Images). Getty Images
East London has been shaped by the River Thames, from the fish taken from its waters and the arrival of immigrant communities to the vessels which ply its waters: small wonder the river played center stage to Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee celebrations earlier this year. Here the Shaw Saville liner Dominion Monarch sits in the King George V dry dock at Silvertown in March 1950 (Getty Images). Getty Images
Football legend Bobby Moore meets young fans during a break from training in August 1962. Moore, who played for East London club West Ham -- nicknamed "The Hammers" -- captained England to their only World Cup win in 1966 and was cited by Pele as the greatest defender he faced. He died in February 1993 and is buried in the City of London Cemetery (Getty Images). Getty Images
The Kray twins, Ronnie (left) and Reggie, enjoy a cup of tea in 1966 after they had been questioned by police about the murder of George Cornell. The pair ran several protection rackets across East London during the 1950s and 1960s, mixing violence with appearances alongside celebrities at nightspots. East London's most notorious criminals of the 20th-century were eventually jailed in 1968 for murder (Getty Images). Getty Images
Regulars at a pub in 1964 gather round the piano for a singalong. Or to roughly translate into East London cockney: "A bunch of bacardi breezers gather down the rub-a-dub-dub for a ding dong round the old joanna." (Getty Images). Getty Images
The 20th century saw a steady flow of new arrivals in East London, including several from the Indian sub-continent. Brick Lane has long been a focus for immigrant communities: this photograph shows a grocer's shop in June 1978. Since then the street has cultivated a reputation as a tourist destination based largely on its restaurants (Getty Images). Getty Images
A London County Council apartment block in Bethnal Green in 1948, one of many built in the aftermath of World War II as part of the city's attempts to rebuild itself. Many blocks now face demolition themselves as East London embarks on a repeated path of reinvention at the dawn of the 21st century -- Nick Hunt, August 9, 2012 (Getty Images). Getty Images