Whitechapel was first recorded in 1340 as Whitechapele by Algate. It takes its name from the “White Chapel” originally built as a chapel-of-ease between 1250-1286, and rebuilt – as Saint Mary Matfelon or Matefelon – in 1329. The church survived the Great Fire of 1666, although it was rebuilt again, in the Neoclassical style, in 1673, and yet again, in the Victorian Gothic style, in 1875. It was seriously damaged by bombing in 1941, and subsequently demolished in 1952, whereupon its former site was converted into a garden, now named Altab Ali Park (in honour of a young Bengali who was murdered nearby in a racially motivated attack in 1978). Richard Brandon, the rag-man from the Royal Mint who was given the task of beheading Charles I in 1649, is buried in the churchyard.
The present Whitechapel Bell Foundry on the corner of Whitechapel Road and Plumber’s Row was built in 1738, on the site of one that had been there since 1570, and where founders had been working since at least as long ago as 1420. What was to become the Liberty Bell was cast here, in 1752; as was Big Ben, in 1858.