RATCLIFFE, a hamlet, partly in the parish of Limehouse, but chiefly in that of Stepney, union of Stepney, Tower division of the hundred of Ossulstone, county of Middlesex, 1 mile (E.) from London; containing 11,874 inhabitants. The name appears to be a corruption of Redcliff, an appellation probably derived from the red cliff or bank of the Thames, which river flows on the south. In Camden's time this was only a village inhabited principally by seafaring men, but it afterwards much increased in size and population, and the Highway, a broad street formerly planted on each side with elm-trees, at present consists of lines of houses, and extends to Limehouse. The Eastern Institution, in the Commercial-road, for the promotion of literature and science, was established in 1839 by a proprietary of shareholders: the building is of handsome appearance, with a portico of stone, and comprises reading and committee rooms, with a spacious hall for the delivery of lectures, and the performance of concerts. A district church, dedicated to St. James, was erected in 1838 by parliamentary grant; it is a neat building of brick, in the early English style, with a low spire, and contains 1200 sittings, of which 360 are free. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Bishop of London.See Stepney.
Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.