Stepney, a parish and a parliamentary borough in Middlesex. The parish lies on the North London and the G.E. railways, chiefly between Commercial Road and the G.E.R., 2½ miles E of St Paul's, London, and included prior to 1669 Limehouse, Shadwell, St George-in-the-East, Spitalfields, Bethnal Green, Bow, Poplar, and Blackwall. It was known at Domesday as Stebenhede, and afterwards as Stebunhithe, Stebenhythe, and Stebonheath, belonged early to the Bishops of London, and had a palace of theirs at Bethnal Green. In 1299 it was the seat of a parliament summoned by Edward I. to meet at the mansion of Henry Walleis, then mayor of London. It went in the time of Edward VI. to the Wentworths, passed afterwards to the Mannerses and the Colebrooks, was devastated by plague in 1625, when nearly 3000 persons perished, and again in 1665, when over 6500 died in a single year. It included for a long time nearly all parts of the Thames having berthage for London vessels, insomuch that a tradition arose that all children born at sea belonged to Stepney parish. The old rhyme runs-" He who sails on the wide sea Is a parishioner of Stepney."
In consequence of this belief many paupers who had been born at sea have been forwarded on to Stepney by other parishes, but the tradition has received no support either from the parochial authorities of Stepney or the courts of law. It had as residents Secretary Lake and the lexicographer Bailey, and as natives Lord Exton, the theologian Lawrence, the annalist Strype, the scholar Dr King, the lawyer Hough, and the Shakspearean editor Steevens. It contains Arbour, Sidney, Henry, Beaumont, and Trafalgar squares, has post offices under London E, and a police court with stations. The church is of the 14th century, much altered by repairs, and contains many ancient monuments. Archbishop Segrave, Bishops Lumney and Fox, Dean Colet, and Pace the friend of Erasmus, were rectors. Acreage, 465; population, 57,376. The population of the parliamentary borough, which returns one member to the House of Commons, is 58,746. The ecclesiastical divisions of Stepney are given under London. The parish contains numerous almshouses and hospitals, a synagogue and Jews' burial-ground, and many large dissenting chapels. In Stepney Causeway also is located the central institution of Dr Barnardo's Homes for Destitute Children, originally established in a very humble way by the worthy doctor in 1866. The homes, which are entirely supported by voluntary contributions, have now fifty-one branches, and maintain very nearly 5000 children. There is also a large hall used for evangelistic services, which accommodates an audience of over 3000 persons.
The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.
|Ecclesiastical parish||Stepney St. Dunstan and All Saints|
|Poor Law union||Stepney|
Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.
Directories & Gazetteers
We have transcribed the entry for Stepney from the following:
- Samuel Lewis' A Topographical Dictionary of England, 1848 (Stepney (St. Dunstan and All Saints))
Land and Property
A full transcript of the Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Middlesex is online.
Online maps of Stepney are available from a number of sites: