Thursday 22 June 2023

The East End - Brick Lane

We love walking around Brick Lane, so after our visit to the Whitechapel Gallery we walked around Spitalfields, up Fournier Street, and then turned left into Brick Lane. Its history is rich. The first immigrants were the Huguenots followed by the Irish and the Ashkenazi Jews. Jewish immigration continued into the early 20th century followed by the Bangladeshis in the later 20th century who today are the predominant group in this part of the East End.

In the 1970s the National Front made their presence felt. The racist murder of Altab Ali in May 1978 led to a resistance movement beginning with the first ever Bengali march when some 10,000 Bengalis took to the street, supported by anti-racist organisations, trade unions and the Anti-Nazi League. The resistance of these groups against the National Front are legendary and continued until the early 1980s.

In the Rajmahal shop we found lots of sweets

but savouries too.

Lots of people around enjoying a Saturday afternoon, including lots of native and foreign tourists.

Recently, the area has broadened to being a vibrant art and fashion one, with considerable exhibition space. 

We walked past the Truman brewery which was established in 1683.

Some interesting street art

and lots of food for sale

including this chocolate shop which to me, exemplifies the continuing gentrification of the area

delicious chocolates, but very expensive

the parade of food shops continues

culminating in the Beigel shop which had the longest queue I have seen in a long time

and the Beigel Bakery a few doors up

I actually went across the road and tried to photograph the length of the queue and could not get it all in.

We got to the end of Brick Lane and then turned round and started walking down the other side of the street

A few stalls selling street food

'Pay as much as you can' art

We ended up where we started, the corner of Brick Lane and Fournier Street, by the Jamme Masjid (Great London Mosque). Originally, this was a Huguenot chapel, built in 1742. By 1908 it was used by missionaries as The Jews' Chapel, where Christianity was promoted to the expanding Jewish population. It was then adapted as a Methodist Chapel in 1819 for Protestant residents and in 1889 the building was consecrated as the Spitalfields Great Synagogue. In 1976, it was adapted again as a mosque to serve the expanding Bangladeshi community. All the changes of the area reflected in one building!

We came to the end of Brick Lane, turned into Whitechapel High Street and went to get our bus.


  1. Great photos. We sometimes fail to spot how pretty a street is just walking right through. I wasn't aware of the National front being active in Brick lane. Interesting given its ethnic roots, don't tyou think?
    I'm back in London soon, and hope to visit this iconic road.
    Have you been to Cambridge at all? You'll love it here. Off to the Fitzwilliam Museum today :).

    1. The resistance against the National Front in Brick Lane was legendary in the 70s and 80s and activists would travel from all over Britain to support the local community. The NF were pushed away eventually.

      It is a very interesting street, because of its mix of cultures but also the creeping gentrification. I really do like visiting when we are in London.

      I used to go to Cambridge a lot because I had a close friend who lived here. But, it's been years since I've been - I must go again. I hope you enjoyed your visit to the Fitzwilliam.