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Changing places: gentrification in east London

Enquiry question: How is gentrification changing places in east London?
Learning objectives

Knowledge and understanding

  • Brick Lane and Hackney Wick have changed in many ways; demographically, culturally, economically and the build environment

  • Gentrification is place specific, a different process in different places

  • Quantitative and qualitative data help to understand changes that result from gentrification

Geographical skills

  • Refine and adapt fieldwork techniques

  • Take photos and log location on a map

  • Carry out questionnaires of public

  • Assess retail offer and who it caters for

  • Undertake gentrification assessments

  • Compare historical photos of shop fronts and buildings with present day uses

Learning outcomes

Most students will be able to:

  • Identify evidence of change in Brick Lane and Hackney Wick
  • Understand why these two ‘post-industrial’ places were candidates for gentrification
  • Understand how gentrification can result in increased social and economic inequality in a place
  • Understand that the term gentrification has multiple interpretations and can be a feeling/perception about a place and also a concrete process of demographic displacement for example
  • Understand that gentrification can exacerbate divisions between people in a place
  • Identify different stages of gentrification
    Pre-visit recommendation
    • Consider change in their own area and whether that change has increased or decreased inequality
    • Examine the distinction and overlap between the terms gentrification and regeneration and why some urban places are likely to be gentrified.
    • Examine 2001 and 2011 secondary data about Hackney Wick and Spitalfields from the Office for National Statistics website.

    Meet at Hackney Wick Station. Look around and identify evidence of change. Agree on a definition of gentrification. Discuss data collection techniques that could be used during the day. Explain that locations and techniques will be prescribed in the morning while the afternoon will offer more freedom.


    None required


    Location 1: Hackney Wick Look at view from Hackney Wick station bridge. Annotate HW map with key landmarks.

    Walk through HW, including station refurbishment, derelict factory site, graffiti art, galleries and artisan workshops, eateries, T-shirt factory, The Pearl and Felstead Street shops, Trowbridge estate, Eastway Supermarket, Gainsborough Primary School, Leabank Square.

    On their route, students carry out the following activities:

    1. Take photos and log locations on map
    2. Evidence of Gentrification Assessments
    3. Find out what’s in the shops and who it’s for
    4. Look at historical photos of buildings and compare to current use at three sites.
    5. Gentrification questionnaire (students split into groups)

    Travel by overground line from Hackney Wick to Shoreditch High Street, via Canonbury.

    Location 2: Shoreditch/Brick Lane Orientate using map at Shoreditch High Street station. Annotate map with key landmarks and continue during walk.

    Walk along Bethnal Green Road to Brick Lane and south to Spitalfields, including Boxpark, Richmix cinema, Cereal Killer Cafe, Truman Brewery building, Second Home, Tannery building, Spitalfields City Farm etc.

    Students choose locations from those they visit, to repeat fieldwork activities. These could be refined, based on earlier experience. They split into groups to carry out activities at their chosen sites.


    Location 1
    Sheet 2: Map of Hackney Wick

    Sheet 3: Evidence of Gentrification Assessment

    Sheet 4: What’s in the shops

    Sheet 5: Shop front/ building change (Hackney Wick)

    Sheet 6: Gentrification Questionnaire

    Location 2
    Sheet 3: Evidence of Gentrification Assessment

    Sheet 4: What’s in the shops

    Sheet 6: Gentrification Questionnaire

    Sheet 7: Map of Shoreditch, Brick Lane and Spitalfields

    Sheet 8: Shop front/ building change (Brick Lane)


    Students compare the two places studied during fieldwork. Was there evidence of social and economic inequality in the two places? Students critically discuss the techniques used to collect data and suggest adaptations. How is gentrification different in the two places? Do we want to refine or expand our definition of gentrification? Do the two places represent different stages in the gentrification process?


    Sheet 9: Comparing gentrification in two places

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