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It is 3.4 miles (5.5 km) east of Charing Cross and roughly bounded by Petticoat Lane and Mansell Street to the west, Fashion Street to the north, Cambridge Heath Road and Sidney Street to the east and The Highway to the south.
Because the area is close to the London Docklands and east of the city, it has been a popular place for immigrants and the working class. The area was the centre of the London Jewish community in the 19th and early 20th century. It is where the infamous Whitechapel Murders by Jack the Ripper took place in 1888. In the latter half of the 20th century, Tower Hamlets (including Whitechapel) became the largest settlement for the British Bangladeshi community, particularly on and around Whitechapel Road and Brick Lane.