Goulston Street, where Nevinson lived for two years in the 1880s, is where the City edges into the East End. It's in the shadow of 'the Gherkin', but has the look and feel of Whitechapel. There's still a street market - part of Petticoat Lane - but it's fairly shabby.
Brunswick Buildings, newly built when the Nevinsons moved in, was demolished in the 1970s. Two mansion blocks from about that time remain. There's little else from that period. At the southern end of the street, at the junction with Whitechapel High Street, an East End institution remains (though not from Nevinson's era) - Tubby Isaacs' seafood stall, now standing opposite a halal fast food outlet.
Goulston Street had a tangential part in the 1888 Jack the Ripper murders and resulting conspiracies - though by then the Nevinsons had moved on to Hampstead.
From Brunswick Buildings, Toynbee Hall would have been no more than two minutes walk - along Wentworth Street and across Commercial Street. It's still there and thriving, a centre of community activity, support, self-help and education. It was founded in 1884 by Nevinson's friend, Samuel Barnett - mentioned in passing in Neighbours of Ours - who is remembered in Barnett House, an unremarkable block of flats nearby. Both Henry and Margaret played an active part in Toynbee Hall activities.
A more distant connection, along Whitechapel High Street - accessed by the narrowest of entrances alongside a Kentucky Fried Chicken shop - is Angel Alley, home since 1968 to the anarchist Freedom Press (founded in 1886). Nevinson was briefly on the margins of the Freedom group through his relationship with Nannie Dryhurst, one of the stalwarts of the journal from which the group took its name.
Many of the stories in Neighbours of Ours are set in Shadwell, a district which Nevinson knew well. His cadets both drilled in and were in part recruited from this area. Shadwell is not more than twenty minutes walk from Goulston Street, but it has a very different feel. The City seems distant, while the Thames is close at hand.
Very little of the Shadwell that Nevinson would have known survives. The Hawksmoor-designed tower of St George-in- the-East is the main landmark. The church's interior was bombed out during the Second World War, along with so much else of the neighbourhood.
There are tiny enclaves of terraced houses on and around Cable Street, and the occasional older block of flats. Most of the area, however, is given over to soulless mansion blocks. In Nevinson's era, the Jewish East End didn't extend as far as Shadwell. The incidental Jewish characters in Neighbours of Ours are outsiders to the community. The presence of the docks, though, meant that black and Indian seafarers would not have been an unusual sight.
At first glance, Shadwell seems old East End. There's a pie and mash shop and a boxing gym within a minute's walk of the station. Another glance reveals how much has changed. Most shops and businesses are now Bangladeshi run. The Britannia pub is a halal chicken joint. On the north side of the railway line, the arches are given over to a range of Bengali stores and supermarkets.
Although Nevinson never precisely located 'Millennium Buildin's', many of the streets he mentioned can still be found: Pennington Street in Wapping, Dora Street in Limehouse, Johnson Street in Shadwell (with the railway arches by which a character in his tales is found dead). There was and is a Shadwell Basin and a Pier Head, just as Nevinson related. - A.W.