Brick Lane

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Brick Lane street sign in English and Bengali.

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.[1] It is famous for its many curry houses.

Transport[edit]

The nearest London Underground stations are Aldgate East and Liverpool Street. The nearest London Overground station is Shoreditch High Street station.

History[edit]

Part of a series on the
British
Bangladeshis
History
History of Bangladeshis in Britain
Brick Lane
History of Asians in Britain
Statistics
Demographics of Bangladeshis
Demographics of Asians
Languages
Sylheti · English · Bengali
Culture
Baishakhi Mela
Culture of Bangladesh
Channel S · Bangla TV
Business
Religion
East London Mosque
Brick Lane Mosque
Islam in England
Notables
List of British Bangladeshis
List of British Asian people
The Brick Lane Mosque, used first as a church and then a synagogue, reflecting changing demographics.

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.[2] By the 17th century, the street was being developed from the south as a result of expanding population.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5] 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.

In the 19th century, Irish,[6] and Ashkenazi Jews immigrated to the area.[7] Jewish immigration continued into the early 20th century.

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 with 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;[8] it has now closed.[9]

In the later 20th century, Bangladeshis comprised the major group of immigrants and gradually predominated in the area.[10] 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.[11]

Religious groups[edit]

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.[12][dead link] The building is Grade II* listed.[13]

Land Ownership & Naming[edit]

Map, publisher unknown, dated 1787, showing Spitalfields (Spittlefields) and its environs

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:

1745 Roque Map
An extract from Cross's New Plan Of London, showing Stepney and surrounding areas. Published 1853 by J.Cross of London.

Regeneration[edit]

An elderly Bangladeshi man in Brick Lane.

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.

Curry restaurants in 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 nearest tube station is currently Aldgate East. In 2006 a campaign was launched to change the name of the station to "Brick Lane",[15] but received no official support.

Contemporary culture wars[edit]

Brick Lane.

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 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.

Activists told The Guardian they intended to burn copies of Ali's book during a rally to be held on 30 July 2006, but the demonstration passed without incident.[16]

Other notable books on the area are Salaam Brick Lane by Tarquin Hall,[17] On Brick Lane (2007) by Rachel Lichtenstein and An Acre of Barren Ground by Jeremy Gavron.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Spitalfields and Banglatown (London Borough of Tower Hamlets) accessed 1 Nov 2007
  2. ^ "Stepney: Economic History", A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 11: Stepney, Bethnal Green (1998), pp. 52-63 Retrieved 15 October 2007
  3. ^ "Bethnal Green: The West: Shoreditch Side, Spitalfields, and the Nichol", A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 11: Stepney, Bethnal Green (1998), pp. 103-109 Retrieved 15 October 2007.
  4. ^ The Black Eagle Brewery, Brick Lane, Survey of London: volume 27: Spitalfields and Mile End New Town (1957), pp. 116-122 Retrieved 15 October 2007.
  5. ^ "Bethnal Green: Settlement and Building to 1836", A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 11: Stepney, Bethnal Green (1998), pp. 91-5 Date Retrieved 17 April 2007
  6. ^ John A. Jackson, Irish in Britain , 137-9, 150 (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1964)
  7. ^ The Jews, A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 1: Physique, Archaeology, Domesday, Ecclesiastical Organization, The Jews, Religious Houses, Education of Working Classes to 1870, Private Education from Sixteenth Century (1969), pp. 149-51 Date Retrieved 17 April 2007
  8. ^ 'Brick Lane Farmers Market Opens', LFM
  9. ^ "London Farmers' Markets | Brick Lane Farmers’ Market". 
  10. ^ The Spatial Form of Bangladeshi Community in London's East End Iza Aftab (UCL) (particularly background of Bangladeshi immigration to the East End). Date Retrieved 17 April 2007
  11. ^ Michael Smith, John Eade (2008). Transnational Ties: Cities, Migrations, and Identities. Transaction Publishers. pp. 148-149.
  12. ^ Lucy Dixon, "A brief history of the Mosque", My Tower Hamlets website, Retrieved 15 Oct 2007
  13. ^ English Heritage. "Details from listed building database (205992)". Images of England.  Retrieved 14 April 2009
  14. ^ a b Cockayne (Compiler), GE (1904). The Complete Baronetage, Volume 3. Exeter, UK: William Pollard & Co Ltd. pp. 243–44. 
  15. ^ "Bid to name Tube stop Brick Lane". BBC. 15 December 2006. Retrieved 2007-01-10. 
  16. ^ Cacciottolo, Mario. "Brick Lane protesters hurt over 'lies'", BBC News, 31 July 2006.
  17. ^ Icons meets Tarquin Hall

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°31′19″N 0°4′18″W / 51.52194°N 0.07167°W / 51.52194; -0.07167