Over the years, London has been home to hundreds of villains and heroes; nowhere is this vast array of characters more prominent than in the city’s East End. Of course, those who venture out on our East End tours will learn all about these infamous characters, but it is often the villains who go down in history and are the most memorable.

To change this, we thought we would remind you about some of the heroes who have graced the streets and share their stories. So, without further ado, here are our East End heroes.

Joseph Merrick

Otherwise known as ‘The Elephant Man’, Joseph Merrick was not born in the East End but he did spend a large amount of time there. His primary link to the East End is through the London hospital, in particular, along with one of its surgeons, a man named Frederick Treves.

Joseph was born in 1862 and began to develop abnormalities about two months into his life. He was left with large lumps and masses attached to his body, leaving him disfigured. His nickname came from a showman who Joseph had approached about being an exhibit in a ‘freak’ show.

After travelling to London, he was discovered by surgeon Frederick Treves who made every attempt to help him. However, Treves’ attempts were unsuccessful and Joseph died in 1890 at the young age of just 27. Throughout his life, Joseph faced immense struggles while still persevering – earning him a worthy spot on our list of East End heroes.

Thomas Barnardo

Born in Dublin, Thomas Barnardo, or Doctor Barnardo as he was later known, moved to the East End in 1866 to study as a medical student. However, he failed to complete the course and wasn’t classed as a doctor until he later finished his studies in 1876.

Of course, he was well known in the East End for something other than being a doctor. Shortly after he dropped his studies, there was an outbreak of Cholera and London was struggling to cope with the effects of the illness. Barnardo was disgusted by the situation and planned to help. He set out on a mission and devoted himself to helping children. He later bought various properties where children could live and since then, Barnardo’s Foundation has helped over 1,000 children – a definite hero!

Rip the Dog

Our last hero is Rip the dog, or the Blitz Dog as he’s also known. During the Blitz, hundreds of bombs were dropped all over London leaving hundreds trapped in the rubble. It was then that Rip found his true calling.

His owner, Mr E King, had made his way across the rubble with his dog Rip. However, after standing in disbelief looking at the destruction, Rip suddenly ran to a pile of debris and began furiously digging and barking. The warden and others began to dig too and eventually found a child that had been buried. Rip had saved his first life and it wasn’t to be his last. He went on to find and save another 99 victims that were buried in rubble during the Blitz and at the end of the war, he was awarded the Dickins Medal.

Each of these characters has undoubtedly earned a place on this list, but these are only a few of the many heroes connected to the East End. Who knows, there could be some future heroes living in the East End as we speak – but only time will tell.

For more information about our Heroes and Villains tour or any of our other East End tours, please contact us today.