“An hotel on Whitechapel Road please”

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No one knew much about my family – the Morrisons. I knew my great-grandfather came to Melbourne from Hobart, was confirmed at St Mark’s Fitzroy, was involved in the establishment of St Martin’s Hawksburn and that he and his wife died within a few months of each other leaving infant sons – my grandfather was 7. Hobart? My parents had no idea why, when, where, what.

Not a lot to work with nor stories passed down.

One day a friend, a genius at family history research (an all round genius really), took me to the Genealogical Society in Sydney. That was the beginning of a research project which has uncovered over 600 relatives so far – vaguely related, of course.

So this morning on a beautiful sunny London day (no really), I set off to put images to some of my historical research. I set off for Whitechapel, since the family seems to have been in and around the Tower Hamlets (when they were still hamlets). I knew that my great-great-great-grandfather had been a watch & clock maker in Commercial Road before immigrating to Hobart Town (as it then was) in 1826. I had found this in a book of horologists and their apprentices.

Starting in Commercial Road seemed to make sense then. As I turned the corner from the tube station, imagine my surprise when the very first thing I saw was:

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It wasn’t quite a hotel from Monoploy, and I could see why Whitechapel was one of the cheapest properties on the board. More of a tenement really.

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Indeed, my research later in the day revealed that it was built by the Sir Sydney Waterlow of the Improved Industrial Dwellings Company in 1875 (no relation so far as I know) and was part of a program for building accommodation for workers in slum areas. Waterlow built over 6000 properties in London. Like the Peabody buildings, which seem to be in more fashionable locations.

And it was not alone. The above property is the ‘Morrison Building North’. There was a ‘Morrison Building South’ which was on the opposite side of Commercial Road, and was even bigger (below), but no doubt so daggy that it had to be demolished.

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But who were they named after? The mystery remains.

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