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Brick Lane is a street in East London, England, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. It runs from Swanfield Street in the northern part of Bethnal Green, crosses Bethnal Green Road, passes through Spitalfields and is linked to Whitechapel High Street to the south by the short stretch of Osborn Street. Today, it is the heart of the city's Bangladeshi-Sylheti community and is known to some as Banglatown. It is famous for its many curry houses.
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|History of Bangladeshis in Britain|
History of Asians in Britain
|Demographics of Bangladeshis|
Demographics of Asians
|Sylheti · English · Bengali|
Culture of Bangladesh
Channel S · Bangla TV
|East London Mosque|
Brick Lane Mosque
Islam in England
|List of British Bangladeshis|
List of British Asian people
Winding through fields, the street was formerly called Whitechapel Lane. It derives its current name from brick and tile manufacture started in the 15th century, which used the local brick earth deposits. By the 17th century, the street was being developed from the south as a result of expanding population.
Brewing came to Brick Lane before 1680, with water drawn from deep wells. One brewer was Joseph Truman, first recorded in 1683. His family, particularly Benjamin Truman, went on to establish the sizeable Black Eagle Brewery on Brick Lane. The Brick Lane Market first developed in the 17th century for fruit and vegetables sold outside the City.
Successive waves of immigrants settled in the area: in the 17th century, French Huguenots expanded into the area for housing; the master weavers were based in Spitalfields. Starting with the Huguenots, the area became a centre for weaving, tailoring and the developing clothing industry. It continued to attract immigrants, who provided semi- and unskilled labour.
The Sunday market, like the ones on Petticoat Lane and nearby Columbia Road, dates from a dispensation given by the government to the Jewish community in the 19th century. At the time, there were no Sunday markets open because of the Christian observance of Sabbath. Located at the junction of Cheshire and Sclater streets, the market sells bric-a-brac as well as fruit, vegetables and many other items. Near the junction with Hanbury Street are two indoor markets; Upmarket and Backyard Market. In 2010, the Brick Lane Farmers' Market opened, intended to be held every Sunday in nearby Bacon Street; it has now closed.
In the later 20th century, Bangladeshis comprised the major group of immigrants and gradually predominated in the area. Many Bangladeshi immigrants to Brick Lane were from the Greater Sylhet region. These settlers helped shape Bangladeshi migration to Britain; many families from Jagannathpur and Bishwanath tend to live in the Brick Lane area.
In 1742, La Neuve Eglise, a Huguenot chapel, was built on the corner of Brick Lane and Fournier Street. By 1809, it was used by missionaries as The Jews’ Chapel, where they promoted Christianity to the expanding Jewish population. It was adapted as a Methodist Chapel in 1819 for Protestant residents. (John Wesley had preached his first "covenant sermon" at the nearby Black Eagle Street Chapel).
Reflecting the changing demographics of the area, in 1898, the building was consecrated as the Machzikei HaDath, or Spitalfields Great Synagogue. After decades of change in the area, with Jews moving out and Bangladeshis moving in, in 1976 it was adapted again as the London Jamme Masjid (Great London Mosque) to serve the expanding Bangladeshi community. The building is Grade II* listed.
Large swathes of Brick Lane and its surrounding areas were once owned by the Osborne (later Osborn after 1720) family, Baronets, of Chicksands in the County of Bedford. The family's holdings survived until at least the 1970s. The family's history continues to be reflected by the naming of streets in the area around Brick Lane, including:
In the 20th century the Brick Lane area was important in the second wave of development of Anglo-Indian cuisine, as families from countries such as Bangladesh (mainly the Greater Sylhet region) migrated to London to look for work. Some curry houses of Brick Lane will not sell alcohol as most are run by Muslims. More recently the area has also broadened to being a vibrant art and fashion student area, with considerable exhibition space. Each year most of the fine art and fashion courses exhibit their work near Brick Lane.
Bengalis in the United Kingdom settled in big cities with industrial employment. In London, many Bengali people settled in the East End. For centuries the East End has been the first port of call for many immigrants working in the docks and shipping from Chittagong port in Bengal (British Empire in India was founded and based in Bengal). Their regular stopover paved the way for food/curry outlets to be opened up catering for an all male workforce as family migration and settlement took place some decades later. Humble beginnings such as this gave birth to Brick Lane as the famous curry capital of the UK. Bengalis of Sylheti origin constitute only 10% of all South Asians in Britain; however around 90% of all South Asian restaurants in the UK are Sylheti/Bengali owned.
Since the late 1990s, Brick Lane has been the site of several of the city's best known night clubs, notably 93 Feet East and The Vibe Bar, both built on the site of The Old Truman Brewery, once the industrial centre of the area, and now an office and entertainment complex.
Nearby buildings of interest include Christ Church, Spitalfields, The Jamme Masjid or Great London Mosque on the corner of Fournier Street (the building represents a history of successive communities of immigrants in East End) and The Rag Factory on Heneage Street (once home to Turner Prize nominees Tracey Emin and Gary Hume, now a thriving arts space).
Brick Lane is world famous for its graffiti, which features artists such as Banksy, Stik, ROA, D*Face and Ben Eine. The lane has been used in many music videos such as "Glory Days" by Just Jack and "All These Things That I've Done" by The Killers.
The street is the location for Monica Ali's book Brick Lane, published in 2003, and the film of 2007 starring Tannishtha Chatterjee. The novel provoked a controversy with some of the local South Asian community because of a perceived negative portrayal of them. Parts of the Bengali community were particularly opposed to plans by Ruby Films to film parts of the novel in the Brick Lane area and formed the "Campaign Against Monica Ali's Film Brick Lane." Consequently the producers of the film used different locations for certain scenes, such as that depicting Brick Lane Market. Despite this, the director of the film, Sarah Gavron, attests on the DVD commentary of the film that genuine footage of Brick Lane does appear in the finished movie.
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