A Travellerspoint blog

August 2017

OTTOMAN HERITAGE & A RIVER THAT'S NOT A RIVER

A cosmopolitan part of north-east London. From Turnpike Lane to Clissold Park via the New River, eating Turkish and Albanian food along the way.

An Orthodox priest Green Lanes

An Orthodox priest Green Lanes

More than fifty percent of London’s inhabitants were born abroad.

Generalizing, certain ethnic groups have congregated in particular areas of London. As examples of this: Bangladeshis in Tower Hamlets; West Indians in Brixton; Punjabis in Southall; Poles in Hammersmith and Ealing; Nigerians in south-east London; and Koreans in New Malden. North-east London contains many people whose origins were places that once formed part of the huge Ottoman Empire. They come from, for example: Albania, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Kosovo, Kurdistan, and Turkey. Green Lanes is one of the ‘post-Ottoman heartlands’ of north-east London, and it is here that this exploration begins.

Turnpike Lane station

Turnpike Lane station

Turnpike Lane Underground station stands at the intersection of Turnpike Lane (formerly part of ‘Tottenham Lane’) and Green Lanes. Between about 1715 and 1872, a toll-collecting station (a ‘turnpike’) stood at this road junction. The present art-deco station was designed by Charles Holden (1875-1960), who designed many stations on the Piccadilly Line. It opened in 1932. Its tall ticket hall resembles the station he created at Alperton. The curved building beside it, which is part of the station, now contains an eatery with a Turkish name. The ventilator grids on the platforms are decorated with a horseman riding towards the turnpike gate.

Turnpike Lane station ventilation grid

Turnpike Lane station ventilation grid

Green Lanes is one of the longest streets (with a single name) in London. It stretches south from Winchmore Hill to Newington Green, over six miles. It is part of an old road (it may have been in existence in the 2nd century AD) that ran between Hertford and London’s Shoreditch. It was used much by drovers bringing animals to London for slaughter. In general, a ‘green lane’ is a byway that has existed for centuries. They were sometimes used as drovers’ thoroughfares. While most green lanes are barely used unmetalled and often overgrown rustic tracks today, Green Lanes is quite the opposite.

Ducketts Common

Ducketts Common

Ducketts Common is a park bordering the west side of Green Lanes. It is all that remains of the former Dovecote Farm that was on land once owned by Laurence Duket, a goldsmith. In retaliation for an attack of Ralph Crepyn (c. 1245 – before 1331), a lawyer and one of London’s first Town Clerks, Duket was murdered in about 1283 (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/london-mayors-sheriffs/1188-1274/pp237-248). This episode of mediaeval history has been fictionalised by Paul Doherty in his 1986 novel “Satan in St Mary’s”.

Ducketts Common

Ducketts Common

Liberty Church  Frobisher Rd, formerly the Premier Electric Theatre

Liberty Church Frobisher Rd, formerly the Premier Electric Theatre

Today, the Common is a much-used open space with trees, partly covered by grass, and partly by sports facilities. Facing the south end of the park, stands the Liberty Church (on Frobisher Road). This is housed in a former cinema. Built in 1910 as ‘The Premier Electric Cinema’ to the designs of William Emden and Stephen Egan (see: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/23882), this was one of London’s first purpose-built cinemas. The original building is hidden behind a crumbling art-deco façade, badly in need of redecoration, that was added in 1938. After several name and ownership changes, the building finally stopped being used as a cinema in 2003. Its present owners, The Liberty Church, moved in 2003.

Former Queens Head pub Green Lanes

Former Queens Head pub Green Lanes

At the corner of Frobisher Road and Green Lanes, there is a late Victorian brick building (built 1898) adorned with pilasters and topped by a round tower. This was the Queens Head pub until it closed in 2010. The building stands on the site of the original pub, built in 1794. From 1856, the pub’s owner ran an ‘omnibus service’ from London and Winchmore Hill. Today, the building houses a branch of Dogtas, the Turkish furniture retailer. There are two Bulgarian eateries, a breakfast joint and a café/bar, across Green Lanes opposite the old pub.

Bulgarian cafes on Green Lanes

Bulgarian cafes on Green Lanes

Inter4national Food Green Lanes

Inter4national Food Green Lanes

Just south of the former pub, there is a row of shops, Queens Parade, that illustrates beautifully the international flavour of this area. Neighbouring a used car dealer and beneath a huge McDonald’s advertisement, is IFC Food Centre, which claims to stock food products of interest to: Iranians, Poles, Romanians, Hungarians, Bulgarians, Lithuanians, and … ‘English’. This is close to Savalan, a supermarket that contains a halal butcher. Then, there is a small Turkish bakery, where fresh products (including simit, bread, pide, lahmacun, börek, baklava) are baked on the premises.

Simits from a Turkish bakery in Green Lanes

Simits from a Turkish bakery in Green Lanes

Albanian pizzeria (Durazzo) on Green Lanes

Albanian pizzeria (Durazzo) on Green Lanes

Almost next to the bakery, there is a pizzeria named ‘Durazzo’, which is the Italian name for Albania’s important seaport Durrës. It is run by Albanians. Nawroz restaurant (named after the Persian new year) at the end of the Parade offers Iranian (Persian) food. The Corner Café and Bar opposite it has a large covered terrace with comfortable chairs for the many smokers sitting there. Its drinks menu offers ‘raki’. I do not know whether this is the type drunk in Albania or the Turkish drink that resembles the Greek ouzo.

Hindu temple Green Lanes

Hindu temple Green Lanes

Hindu temple Green Lanes

Hindu temple Green Lanes

In complete contrast to the eateries and shops neighbouring it and wedged between them, is the Om Shakthivel Temple. Adorned with pictures of peacocks outside, it is a small Hindu temple. This caters for Tamil speakers. A lady cleaning the temple gave me a booklet, written both in Tamil and English. It contains stories of people who have had their misfortunes reversed by praying to Shakthivel.

Bardhoshi Albanian restaurant Green Lanes

Bardhoshi Albanian restaurant Green Lanes

Unlike other Albanian restaurants that I have come across in London, Bardhoshi Bar and Restaurant, makes no attempt to hide its ethnic origins. Its menu, displayed outside on the pavement of Green Lanes, is in Albanian with English translations in smaller letters. The first time that I entered this was early one weekday morning. The espresso I ordered was first-class and served, as it would be in Albania, with a glass of cold water. The lady who served me, the owner’s wife, told me that she and her family come from northern Albania. They have recently taken over the restaurant from another Albanian family from the southern Albanian city of Korçë. She also told me that there are two other Albanian restaurants in the vicinity, the Pizzeria Durazzo being one of them. These establishments attract Albanian and Kossovars from the surrounding districts and, also, from further out of London.

On the Saturday evening when we visited Bardhoshi at about 7 pm, every table was occupied by men. Almost all of them were having alcoholic drinks, mostly Mexican beer but also raki and other hard drinks. Almost without exception, they were enjoying food as well. A large TV screen was showing programmes (sports and music videos) from Kosovo and Albania. We were warmly welcomed by the owner.

Bread cheese and pickles at Bardhoshi

Bread cheese and pickles at Bardhoshi

The food was good, at least as good as much that we ate in Albania. A basket of warm bread was accompanied by delicious pickled apple peppers and white cabbage. My wife ordered a delicious okra (lady’s finger) with lamb casserole. I had qofte (minced meat kebabs – very often served in Albania) served with a generous mixed salad. We washed this enormous meal down with shots of good quality Albanian raki, and finished the meal with good espresso coffee, once again served with glasses of iced water. The waitress, an Albanian from Shkodër who had been brought up in Greece (where many Albanians have worked since Communism ended in Albania in 1990), busily served everyone in the restaurant. When we had finished our meal, the lady chef came out to meet us. We told her that we had enjoyed our meal, and she looked pleased. As we were leaving, the waitress presented us with a complementary package containing some soup for us to enjoy at home.

Turkish Cypriot Association Green Lanes

Turkish Cypriot Association Green Lanes

Turkish dental surgery Green Lanes

Turkish dental surgery Green Lanes

Across Green Lanes and further south, there is a pair of semi-detached houses, which house the Turkish Cypriot Community Association. Established in 1978, it “provides culturally, linguistically and religiously sensitive services to Turkish and Kurdish speakers residing in the UK” (see: http://tcca.org/). Nearby and across the road from this, is Duckett Dental Surgery which advertises a “Turk dis doktoru”, i.e. a Turkish dentist. Further south from this, there is a branch of The Turkish Bank.

Turkish Bank Green Lanes

Turkish Bank Green Lanes

A large building opposite the bank houses the ‘Hawes and Curtis Outlet Store’, which sells shirts for men. In the past, this building was marked on detailed maps as a laundry. Located next to Langhams Working Men’s Club, this was once the ‘Oaklands Laundry’, a large business in the days before domestic washing machines became common (see: http://www.woodses.co.uk/life-on-the-ladder-1-a-beginning.html).

Former laundry on Green Lanes

Former laundry on Green Lanes

Bulgarian grocery Green Lanes

Bulgarian grocery Green Lanes

The brick and stone neo-gothic Harringay United Church was opened in 1902. Facing it across Green Lanes, is ‘Evmolpia’, a Bulgarian grocery store named after the ancient Thracian name for the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv (see: http://www.plovdiv.bg/en/about-plovdiv/history/). This shop adjoins Salisbury Promenade, a row of shops contained in a long tile-covered building, whose architecture resembles that of many art-deco cinemas.

Salisbury Promenade Green Lanes

Salisbury Promenade Green Lanes

Staircase to Legends Gym in Salisbury Promenade Green Lanes

Staircase to Legends Gym in Salisbury Promenade Green Lanes

An historic photograph reveals that it had already been built by 1934, when the upper floor was occupied by a ‘Billiardrome’ and the lower by shops. Shops and restaurants occupy the ground floor. A snooker hall and gym centre occupy the building’s only upper floor. The staircase leading from the street to the gym is decorated much as theatres and cinemas built before WW2 used to be.

The Salisbury, Green Lanes

The Salisbury, Green Lanes

The Salisbury, Green Lanes

The Salisbury, Green Lanes

The grandiose Salisbury pub, a masterpiece of stone and brickwork with decorative gables and towers topped with domes, is on the corner of St Annes Road and Green Lanes. Built to the designs of John Cathles Hill (1857-1915), an architect, developer, and founder of the London Brick Company, this pub opened in 1899. On both sides of Green Lanes beyond this hostelry, there are lines of shops and restaurants, mostly Turkish.

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Bakery, Green Lanes

Bakery, Green Lanes

Turkish confectionery shop, Green Lanes

Turkish confectionery shop, Green Lanes

I have only been to one of these restaurants to date: Gökyüzü. It is a large restaurant, modern in design, with good service and lovely food in generous portions. It is opposite a big supermarket called Yasar Halim, which was established in 1981. The window of its bakery section has the word ‘patisserie’ written in French, Greek, and Turkish. Apart from several Turkish restaurants, all of which attract large numbers of diners, there is: a Turkish bakery specialising in gözleme (savoury flatbreads filled with, for example, spinach, egg, or cheese); Turkish jewellery shops; a Polish grocery; a Polish restaurant; a Hungarian supermarket (‘Paprika Store’); and, even, a branch of the UK chain ‘Iceland’.

Turkish shops Green Lanes

Turkish shops Green Lanes

Making gözleme in Green Lanes

Making gözleme in Green Lanes

Green Lanes Station

Green Lanes Station

The Overground line, which runs between Gospel Oak and Barking, traverses Green Lanes over a metal bridge on which the words ‘Harringay Green Lanes’ are written in large orange capital letters. Just south of this, on the corner of Williamson Road and Green Lanes, there is a notice about the history of the Harringay Arena. The Arena, an indoor stadium which could seat 10,000 people, was built in by the Canadian-born Brigadier-General AC Critchley (1890-1963) in 1936. Originally designed for that popular Canadian sport ice-hockey, the Arena was also used for boxing, horse-shows, basket-ball (during the Olympic Games of 1948), and Billy Grahame’s preaching rallies. It was built besides an outdoor stadium for grey-hound and motor-cycling racing, which Critchley had built in 1927. The Arena, designed by the modernist architect Oscar Faber (1886-1956), a structural engineer – a pioneer of the use of reinforced concrete in the UK, closed in 1978, and its open-air neighbour closed in 1987. Where these two landmark buildings once stood, a large, mundane branch of Sainsburys stands instead.

Beaconsfield pub Green Lanes

Beaconsfield pub Green Lanes

The Beaconsfield hotel/pub is across the Green Lanes facing the notice about the Arena. This Victorian building with tall brick chimneys dates from before 1894. The pub was possibly designed by JC Hill, who designed The Salisbury (see above).

Finsbury Park viewed from Green Lanes

Finsbury Park viewed from Green Lanes

New River in Finsbury Park, viewed from Green Lanes

New River in Finsbury Park, viewed from Green Lanes

Just south of this, the New River flows out of Finsbury Park and eastwards under Green Lanes. It is here that I left the ‘post-Ottoman trail’, and joined the footpath that runs beside this waterway, which despite its name is not a river but a canal. Elsewhere, I have described the New River’s lovely course through Canonbury. The walk that begins at Green Lanes is at first less charming than that through Canonbury, but gradually begins to rival it.

New River near Eade Road

New River near Eade Road

New River by Eade Road

New River by Eade Road

The New River was opened in 1613 to conduct drinking water to the New River Head in London’s Clerkenwell from springs in Hertfordshire and, also, from the River Lea. Before it was built, Londoners had to rely on oft contaminated local wells and streams, as well as The Thames, for its water supply. Now, there is a properly sign-posted footpath (see: http://shelford.org/walks/newriver.pdf) that runs along most of The New River’s 28-mile length. At first, the path I followed ran roughly parallel to Eade Road. Bounded on both sides by unattractive landscape, the canal winds its way along a strip of grassland punctuated by occasional trees and bushes. The canal is raised above the land to its north, and from it there is a fine view over the semi-industrial landscape of Harringay and beyond.

New River Studios

New River Studios

New River Seven Sisters Rd bridge

New River Seven Sisters Rd bridge

Shortly before reaching the bridge carrying Seven Sisters Road over it, the canal passes the brightly decorated New River Studios, which is housed in a former industrial building, a converted furniture warehouse (see: http://newriverstudios.com/). The Studios’ mission is to provide a centre for the promotion of arts and other creative pursuits. It is run on a ‘not-for-profit-basis’. Just beyond the studios, the canal passes under a graffiti-covered, unattractively designed brick and concrete bridge over which the busy Seven Sisters Road crosses.

Bunker on New River at Seven Sisters Rd Bridge

Bunker on New River at Seven Sisters Rd Bridge

New River: The Sanctuary at Amhurst Park

New River: The Sanctuary at Amhurst Park

On the west side of the bridge, I spotted a small brick-built structure that looked like a military bunker. Across the canal from this, there is a brick and stone neo-gothic church on Amhurst Park. This is now ‘The Sanctuary’, a church run (since 2003) by Resurrection Manifestations, which is an affiliated member of Resurrection Power and Living Bread Ministries International. On Sundays, one of its services is in a local Ghanaian language (see: http://www.resman.org/history/).

New River graffiti near Newnton Close

New River graffiti near Newnton Close

Newnton Close bridge over New River

Newnton Close bridge over New River

The canal makes a U-turn just east of the church, and begins flowing in a south-west direction. While it is turning, it flows under a brick footbridge with metal railings at the eastern end of Newnton Close. Next, the visitor must make a choice. Whether to continue along the path beside the canal or to make a small diversion to enter the Woodberry Wetlands.

Woodberry Wetlands

Woodberry Wetlands

The wetlands form a nature reserve surrounding the East Reservoir, one of two adjoining expanses of water that collect water from the New River. The East Reservoir and its neighbour The West Reservoir were built in 1830 to supply water to the then developing suburbs of Stoke Newington and Stamford Hill (see: http://www.woodberrywetlands.org.uk/about/history/). In 1992, the reservoirs were offered for sale to be filled in and then used for building purposes. Fortunately, this did not happen. In 2016, the land surrounding the East Reservoir was developed as a nature reserve, and opened to the public.

East Reservoir from Woodberry Wetlands

East Reservoir from Woodberry Wetlands

The walk through the Wetlands is delightful, and popular with mothers pushing their babies in buggies. Near the entrance, I saw a maintenance hut outside of which I saw a rack on which several pairs of red rubber gloves were hanging out to dry; it looked ghoulish. The reservoir is surrounded by untamed grassland. The water contains islands of reedbeds. A modern housing development consisting of apartment blocks of varying heights overlooks the reservoir from its western shore. When I visited the reserve, I spotted little wildlife apart from plants, ducks, and a pair of cormorants, one of which had pale white breast feathers. The path within the Wetlands leads around the reservoir to The Coal House Café (see below).

Ivy House Sluice New River

Ivy House Sluice New River

Ivy House Sluice New River

Ivy House Sluice New River

Returning to the bridge at Newnton Close, I re-joined the canal. Just before it skirts the East Reservoir, it passes beneath a small brick building that straddles the water. This is the Ivy House Sluice, which was built in the first half of the 19th century. Its hand-operated sluice-gate machinery is still in working order.

Modern sluice mechanism New River and East Reservoir

Modern sluice mechanism New River and East Reservoir

As I walked along the north-western side of the East Reservoir, I met many people with young children. Quite a few of them were speaking in Slav languages. Shortly before the path reaches the Lordship Lane bridge over the New River, there is an elaborate modern sluicing system. This regulates entrance of water from the canal into the East Reservoir. Its apparatus includes an automated weed-grabbing mechanism that plucks weeds and other rubbish from the New River, and then deposits on the bank so that it can be collected and removed (see: http://www.londongardenstrust.org/features/NewRiver.htm).

Coal House Cafe on East Reservoir

Coal House Cafe on East Reservoir

Large birds on East reservoir

Large birds on East reservoir

A pathway leads from this machine along the south-western shore of the East Reservoir to the elegant brick-built Coal House Café. Constructed in 1833, this was, as its name suggests, once used for storing coal. At one end of the building there is an enormous white stone commemorative slab with words carved on it, including: “These reservoirs the property of the New River Company were begun in the year 1830 and were completed in the year 1833 under the direction of Mr William Chadwell Mylne, their engineer…”

The Scottish born architect and engineer William Chadwell Mylne (1781-1863) was a son of Robert Mylne (1733–1811), who not only built the first Blackfriars Bridge but was also the New River Company’s surveyor. William became the Company’s Chief Engineer when his father retired in 1810. Apart from the reservoirs, he was responsible for another significant building in the neighbourhood (see below).

New River flowing from Lordship Lane Br south

New River flowing from Lordship Lane Br south

New River Riverside Gardens

New River Riverside Gardens

The New River continues beyond Lordship Lane for a few yards before it begins to skirt the western shore of the West Reservoir. First it passes a couple of modern fountains – one of them is spherical. They decorate the blocks of flats surrounding Riverside Gardens. From here onwards, the path has been re-built and looks attractive, but overly ‘manicured’.

View across West reservoir to Stoke Newington West Reservoir Centre

View across West reservoir to Stoke Newington West Reservoir Centre

Family group on New River near West reservoir

Family group on New River near West reservoir

Across the reservoir I saw a tall brick building with tall windows. This was flanked by long low newer single-storey wings, outside of which there were many small sailing dinghies. Behind this building, there were several tall brick-built towers crowned with castellated walls. I stopped an elderly couple to ask them to identify what I was seeing. They did not know because, like me, they were visiting the area for the first time. They had South African accents, and were in London visiting their children, none of whom lived anywhere near these reservoirs. They told me that whenever they visit London, they explore a part of it which is new to them. I admired them for their adventurousness.

Paddling on West reservoir

Paddling on West reservoir

I continued along the path, stopping to watch families of wildfowl swimming in the water. As I rounded the lake, and got closer to the long low building with boats stacked outside it, I saw groups of children paddling kayaks in the West Reservoir, which is now used mainly for water-sports. The building with the boats outside it is the West Reservoir Centre. Its central tall structure was formerly a water filtration centre, which was built in the 1930s.

Victorian pumping station Green Lanes

Victorian pumping station Green Lanes

Victorian pumping station Green Lanes: Mylne's logo and a climbing wall

Victorian pumping station Green Lanes: Mylne's logo and a climbing wall

Just before the New River disappears under Green Lanes, it passes what looks like a grimly forbidding castle. Built in 1855 to house a pumping station, it bears a logo consisting of the letters in the name ‘Mylne’. This is because it was built by WC Mylne, who had built the Reservoirs. It was designed by the architect Robert Billings (1813-1874), who also wrote many books including his four-volume “Baronial and Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Scotland”. The pumping station was built to pump water from the reservoir to northwest London, which was suffering from a cholera epidemic at that time (see: http://www.londongardenstrust.org/features/NewRiver.htm). Between 1953 and 1995, when it was converted into a climbing centre, the pump stood disused.

I re-joined Green Lanes about just over half of a mile south of where I left it to follow the New River. But, I had walked almost thrice that distance by following the canal.

Brownswood pub Green Lanes

Brownswood pub Green Lanes

The late 19th century Brownswood pub is several yards north of Clissold Park. Its name refers to the Manor of Brownswood, which probably existed before the first written record of it was produced in the early 12th century (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol6/pp140-146).

Clissold Park

Clissold Park

Clissold Park, where we end this exploration, was once the grounds of Clissold House (originally called ‘Paradise House’). The house was built in the early 1790s for the Quaker merchant, philanthropist, and anti-slavery campaigner Jonathan Hoare, who was a member of the well-known Hoare family of bankers. Hoare wanted a new home close to the New River, and the site he chose to lease in 1790, the present park, used to have the canal flowing through it until it was re-routed.

Clissold Park

Clissold Park

In 1811, the estate was bought by Augustus Clissold (c. 1797-1882), an English Anglican priest, who was an exponent of the theological ideas proposed by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). After Clissold’s death, there were plans to sell the park for building development. Fortunately for us, two local politicians, John Runtz (a director of the New River Company; 1818-1891) and Joseph Beck (an optical instrument maker; 1828-1891), were able to persuade the Metropolitan Board of Works to buy the land in 1887, and then to develop it as a public park.

Clissold Park

Clissold Park

Clissold Park

Clissold Park

The park contains various water features, which are remnants of the part of the old course of the New River from the time when it used to flow through it. These include two lakes, and a stretch of what looks like a canal. The latter is traversed by an elaborate cast-iron bridge, which is far more attractive than any of the bridges that I saw while walking along the New River further north.

House at Clissold Park

House at Clissold Park

House at Clissold Park

House at Clissold Park

The bridge is almost in front of the house that was built for Hoare. With six Doric pillars supporting a veranda that runs the length of the front of the house, the brick-built house has two main floors and an extensive basement. It is now used for private functions such as weddings, and contains a popular café. Most of the rooms that I entered were sparsely, if at all, furnished. The main staircase is a spectacular, almost spiral construction.

Aviary at Clissold Park

Aviary at Clissold Park

Drinking fountain at Clissold Park

Drinking fountain at Clissold Park

In addition to the water features, the park contains a small animal enclosure that includes an aviary and a butterfly house. Near this, there is a pink granite drinking fountain erected in 1890, and dedicated to the memory of Messrs Beck and Runtz. Near the Clissold Road exit, I saw a stone fragment with the date 1790 carved on it. At the exit near Riversdale Road, which recalls the former course of the New River, there is a small brick building on Green Lanes with shuttered windows. Labelled ‘Pump House’, it is a reminder of the days when the New River flowed through the park.

HARRING 9l Clissold Park pump house

HARRING 9l Clissold Park pump house

Opposite the pump house, stand the forlorn remains of what was once the White House pub. This was in business from 1866 until 2013. Nearby, there are bus stops that allow you to travel either back up north, or into the centre of London.

White House pub now closed on Green Lanes

White House pub now closed on Green Lanes

This walk fulfilled several of my pleasures, including: discovering places new to me; exploring London’s lesser-known waterways; and enjoying the cosmopolitan nature of the city. People from the formerly Ottoman territories have moved into north-east London both to escape from the horrors of war (e.g. the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, and troubles in Kurdistan and Cyprus) and, also, to enjoy the economic advantages of living in Western Europe. However, I often wonder whether they miss the lovely scenery and better climate of the places they have left in order to live in one of the more aesthetically bleak parts of London.

East Reservoir looking north

East Reservoir looking north

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 06:00 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london turkey cyprus albania bulgaria haringey harringay clissold_park new_river Comments (7)

BIRYANI, BAGELS, AND ... A YURT

Brick Lane is a vibrant and fascinating street in London's East End. Visit it to discover London's history of welcoming refugees and to enjoy one of the city's 'happening' places.

Over the years, I have been visiting Brick lane frequently for several reasons: it is near the Whitechapel Art Gallery; to eat bagels, biryani, and mishti doi (a Bengali sweetened yoghurt dessert); to buy ‘Indian’ snacks; and to have my hair cut. Even if you do not want to do any of these things, the long street that stretches north from Whitechapel High Street almost to Columbia Road is full of interest.

Brick Lane on Sunday

Brick Lane on Sunday

Before 1485, Brick Lane was called ‘Whitechapel Lane’. As early as 1401, land was leased along it (at a high rent) for tile making (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/middx/vol11/pp52-63). On a map published in the 1560s, Brick Lane, which started life as a path through fields, is shown with its current name, but without buildings along it (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol27/pp123-126). By the 17th century, it was partly lined with houses and partly with fields (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/no-series/london-map-morgan/1682). The thoroughfare derives its name from the places that it passed, where either clay (for tiles) and/or brick earth was dug up. When the architect Christopher Wren (1632-1723) visited the lane in 1670, he had to walk along it because it was unsuitable for coaches. He found it to be very dirty and lined with mean dwellings. Despite many plans to ‘improve’ it, the lane retains its narrowness and lay-out that recall its rustic origins.

Brick Lane arch

Brick Lane arch

This exploration begins at Middlesex Street (called ‘Peticote Lane’ before about 1830), which is close to Liverpool Street station. It is only worth visiting on a Sunday morning, when it is filled with stalls selling mainly clothes. This is the ‘Petticoat Lane’ Market. It runs through the part of Spitalfields that used to be well-known for garment manufacture. In the 17th century, much of this trade including dyeing and weaving was carried out by Huguenot refugees who had fled from France, and then later in the 19th century by Jewish refugees, who had sought refuge from the pogroms in the Russian Empire.

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

Middlesex Street Petticoat Lane Market

There are numerous stalls along the street. Many of them offer clothes allegedly made by well-known manufacturers, such as Marks and Spencers, Armani, and H&M, at knock-down prices. Quite a throng of people visit this market each week. Where Middlesex Street ends at the western end of Whitechapel High Street, there stands a tall conical sculpture covered with figurative bas-reliefs. This is ‘Spitalfields Column’ sculpted by Richard Perry in 1995.

Spitalfields Column by Richard Perry 1995

Spitalfields Column by Richard Perry 1995

Hoop and Grapes pub Aldgate High Str

Hoop and Grapes pub Aldgate High Str

Almost opposite this across the main road, there is a pub called The Hoop and Grapes. Built in the late 17th century on the site of St Bride’s graveyard, it is a rare surviving example of a type of building that used to be quite common in London (see: https://www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1064735).

Altab Ali Park

Altab Ali Park

Moving east along Whitechapel High street, passing Osborn Street (the southern stretch of Brick Lane), we reach Altab Ali Park. This park is built on the site of St Mary’s Church, which was destroyed by bombing in 1940, and its cemetery. It commemorates the murder of the 24-year-old Bengali machinist in May 1978, which was perpetrated by members of the racist National Front (see: “Spitalfields: a battle for land”, by C Forman, publ. 1989). When Bengalis from Bangladesh began arriving in the East End during the 1970s, there was much antagonism to them. This was exploited ruthlessly by the National Front.

Sheed Minar Monument replica in Altab Ali Park

Sheed Minar Monument replica in Altab Ali Park

Gate to Altab Ali Park

Gate to Altab Ali Park

The pleasant park contains a few gravestones and, also, a replica of the Shaheed Minar Martyrs’ Monument, which was originally erected in Dhaka (Bangladesh) to remember those killed during the Bengali Language Movement demonstrations of 1952 in what was then East Pakistan. The wrought-iron gateway to the park designed by David Peterson, and installed in 1989, combines elements of traditional Bangladeshi design with English Perpendicular gothic architecture. The former St Mary’s Clergy House survived the Blitz, and currently houses a Japanese restaurant.

Altab Ali Park  former St Marys Clergy House

Altab Ali Park former St Marys Clergy House

St Boniface German RC Church

St Boniface German RC Church

St Boniface German Roman Catholic Church, just south of the park, was consecrated in 1960, having been rebuilt on the site of an earlier church that was destroyed (by German bombing) during WW2. The first church was founded in 1809 to cater for the needs of German-speaking immigrants, who had settled in the East End. Many of them were involved in the sugar industry. The church continues to be used by German-speakers. Being so close to London’s docks, Spitalfields, the area through which Brick Lane runs, and neighbouring areas in the East End was the locale where immigrants from many places (including France, Ireland, Germany, and Russia) first settled, the most recent being people from Bangladesh. With the advent of air travel and the Channel Tunnel, later immigrants have made their first homes in Britain in a more diverse set of locations.

Whitechapel Art Gallery

Whitechapel Art Gallery

Whitechapel Art Gallery: former library

Whitechapel Art Gallery: former library

Across the road, almost facing the park, one cannot miss the art-nouveau façade of the Whitechapel Art Gallery), which now also occupies its neighbour the former Passmore Edwards Library. It was designed by Charles Harrison Townsend (1851-1928). The gallery’s foundation was encouraged by the local social reformers Canon Samuel Barnett and his wife Henrietta (see: “Henrietta Barnett: Social Worker and Community Planner”, by M Watkins, publ. 2011). This couple, who later founded the Hampstead Garden Suburb, strongly believed that bringing art to the poor, who lived in the East End, would uplift them both morally and culturally. Whether they achieved this or not, the gallery remains one of London’s most exciting venues for contemporary art exhibitions.

Whitechapel Art Gallery

Whitechapel Art Gallery

A plaque on the wall of the gallery records that the short-lived Jewish artist and painter Isaac Rosenberg (1890-1918) “studied here”. This refers to the Passmore Edwards Library, which opened in 1892 and closed in 2005. Known as the ‘University of the Ghetto’, it was a haven for many generations of studious refugees. “Until the 1970s, when they completed their exodus to the elevated heights of Stamford Hill and Golders Green, working-class Jewish men and women went there to read the books and newspapers that they lacked in their tenement homes” (see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/3645535/University-of-the-Ghetto-makes-way-for-ideas-store.html). Later, the Jewish readers were replaced by Somali and Bangladeshi refugees.

Whitechapel Art Gallery: Anarchist bookshop

Whitechapel Art Gallery: Anarchist bookshop

A narrow alleyway next to the west side of the gallery leads to an anarchist bookshop, the retail outlet of the Freedom Press, whose history extends back to the earliest days of anarchism (see: https://freedompress.org.uk/freedom-press/). Although the arrangement and display of the books and pamphlets on sale here is anything but anarchic, many of the texts relate to the theory and practice of anarchism.

Khushbu restaurant

Khushbu restaurant

Sonali Bank Osborn Str

Sonali Bank Osborn Str

Khushbu restaurant stands at the corner of Osborn Street and Whitechapel High Street. This unpretentious eatery offers great north Indian food at low prices, and it is considerably better quality than most of the numerous restaurants on the rest of Brick Lane. It prepares an excellent biryani, but only twice a week: lamb on Wednesdays, chicken on Fridays. The Sonali Bank on Osborn Street is a Bangladeshi bank serving the mainly Bangladeshi population around Brick Lane.

Former Ye Frying Pan pub

Former Ye Frying Pan pub

Confectionery shop Brick La

Confectionery shop Brick La

A short way up Brick Lane, a somewhat damaged archway with oriental motifs crosses the road. Next to it is the former ‘Ye Frying Pan’ pub. There has been a pub on this site since before 1805. It closed in 1991. The premises now house ‘Shaad’, a Bangladeshi restaurant. Just north of this, there is a row of food shops catering to the local Bangla people. One of these, a confectionery shop, supplies delicious freshly-made mishti doi.

Pride of Spitalfields pub Heneage Str

Pride of Spitalfields pub Heneage Str

The ‘Pride of Spitalfields’ pub in Heneage Street, which was laid out in the early 19th century, has a remarkably rustic feel about it. Entering this old-fashioned pub is like stepping out of cosmopolitan London and into village England. The pub was founded as ‘The Romford Arms’ in the 19th century next to ‘Best & Co’ brewery, which closed in 1902.

Fashion Street

Fashion Street

Fashion Street

Fashion Street

The south side of Fashion Street (originally called ‘Fossan Street’, when it was laid-out in about 1655) is occupied by a building with pseudo-Moorish facades (built 1905). This building, ‘The Fashion Street Arcade’ was the creation of builder Abraham Davis, who ran out of money to pay its rent in 1909, before completing his ambitious plans for it (including shops, baths, and reading rooms).

Christ Church Primary School Brick La

Christ Church Primary School Brick La

Plaque on Christ Church Primary School Brick La

Plaque on Christ Church Primary School Brick La

Christ Church School on Brick Lane is a neo-gothic Victorian building. A plaque on one of its walls records that the present building was built in 1873 to replace an earlier building containing the parochial schools and house, which used to stand in the courtyard of the local church, Christ Church Spitalfields. This church, which stands on the corner of Fournier Street and Commercial Street, is a masterpiece by the architect Nicholas Hawksmoor (1666-1736).

Jumma Masjid

Jumma Masjid

The Brick Lane Mosque or ‘Jumma Masjid’ stands at the corner of Brick Lane and Fournier Street. It is housed in what was once a Huguenot Church, then a Wesleyan chapel, then a Methodist chapel, and then a synagogue (its congregation, ‘Machzike Hadath’, now has a synagogue in Golders Green). This was built in 1743. It started being used as a mosque in 1976, by which date many Bangladeshi people had begun living in the area. A shiny, decorated stainless-steel columnar minaret, 90 feet high, stands outside the mosque.

Fournier Str

Fournier Str

Fournier Str and Wilkes Str

Fournier Str and Wilkes Str

Fournier Street, which used to be called ‘Church Street’, is lined with 18th century houses, many of which retain original external features including elaborately decorated front doors. Number 33a, the entrance to a courtyard, is flanked by the doorways to numbers 33 and 35. A sign above 33a reads “S. Schwartz”, a Jewish name. This house like most of the others in the street were originally owned by Huguenots with French surnames. Schwarz’s name and that of CHN. Katz (a dealer of string and paper bags; see: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/secret-history-1096624.html) at 92 Brick Lane are reminders of the important Jewish presence in the district in the 19th and 20th centuries (some years before the Bangladeshis began arriving).

Princelet Str

Princelet Str

Birthplace of Miriam Moses in Princelet Str

Birthplace of Miriam Moses in Princelet Str

Princelet Str

Princelet Str

Lovers of historic vernacular architecture should wander down Fournier Street, whose present name has Huguenot origins, and then enter Wilkes Street and Princelet Street. These thoroughfares are richly endowed with 18th century buildings mostly in good repair, displaying many original external fixtures and fittings including fine door-knockers. Many of these fine homes were built by wealthy Huguenots as single-family dwellings, but, as time passed, many of them became subdivided into flats.

The Jewish Miriam Moses (1884-1965) was born in Princelet Street, near where there had once been a small synagogue (at number 19). Daughter of a Jewish immigrant tailor, she was a feminist and social reformer. She became Stepney’s first female Mayor in 1931(see: “The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History”). A house almost opposite bears a faded board with the words ‘Modern Saree Centre’. It closed some time ago.

restaurant

restaurant

Brick Lane restaurant

Brick Lane restaurant

Brick Lane restaurant

Brick Lane restaurant

Returning to Brick Lane, it is impossible to ignore the often-vibrant signs above a cluster of restaurants run by Bangladeshis, offering Indian and Bangladeshi food. Each one of them boasts winning a prize, anything from “Best Curry House on Brick Lane” to “One of the World’s Best Curry Houses”. I have not tried any of them, so cannot comment on whether the accolades are deserved. If I want to eat Indian food in this area, I make a bee-line for Khushbu (see above), which does not display any extravagant claims. Until it closed some years ago, we used to enjoy excellent biryanis (cooked by Punjabis from Lahore) at ‘Sweet and Spicy’ at the corner of Chicksand Street. This has been replaced by an eatery serving ‘sticky wings’.

Hafiz barber shop, Brick Lane

Hafiz barber shop, Brick Lane

Hafiz barber shop on Brick Lane used to be run by three Lahori Punjabis. My wife often used to wait for me there while my hair was being cut. The three men would chat animatedly but amicably with her in Hindustani about India, her native land, and Pakistan, their native land. At the same time, a television used to broadcast a Pakistani channel, which I could just see out of the corner of my eye from where I sat having my trim. These three have sold their shop, which used to look slightly unkempt, to new Pakistani-born owners, who have smartened the place. They also do a good cut, and, like their predecessors, are friendly.

Mayfair Brick Lane

Mayfair Brick Lane

Nearby, there is a 20th century building with the word ‘Mayfair’ in large tiled letters at its top. This was a cinema that functioned between 1937 and 1967. For a brief while after that, it showed ‘Bollywood’ films (see: http://www.eastend-memories.org/cinema/cinemas.htm). Even as late as the 1950s, the majority of the Mayfair’s clientele was Jewish (see: Gil Toffel: “Cinema-going from Below: The Jewish film audience in interwar Britain”, in Participations, Vol 8, issue 2, Nov 2011). Currently, the former cinema building is home to two restaurants and an estate agent.

Trumans Brick La

Trumans Brick La

The middle section of Brick Lane is dominated by the premises of the Truman Black Eagle brewery. The following is summarised from an on-line history of it (see: https://www.trumansbeer.co.uk/about-us/the-brewery/). The brewery was founded in 1666, when Brick Lane was still a track through fields. For a brief period during the 18th century, it was the world’s largest brewery. In 1989, the brewery closed. In 2010, James Morgan and Michael-George Hemus revived the Truman’s brewing activities, opening a new brewery in Hackney Wick in 2013.

Trumans Brick La Barrel filling room beneath brewery

Trumans Brick La Barrel filling room beneath brewery

Trumans Brick Lane: barrel-rolling rails

Trumans Brick Lane: barrel-rolling rails

The enormous Brick Lane premises, which are well-worth exploring, are currently used as a recreation area containing, markets, spaces for artistic events, restaurants, food-stalls, and restaurants. Although beer is no longer brewed here, the old brewery is a hive of activity, and very popular with visitors. Some of the brewery’s buildings were built in 18th and 19th centuries. The ground floor of the building where the beer was brewed is now used as an antique market. Its ceiling is supported by metal pillars, but it is the floor which I found most interesting. It is criss-crossed with a network of rail tracks sunk into it. These were used to guide the barrels around the area. The casks were filled from shoots (no longer visible) that allowed the beer to flow down from the floor above, and when full, these heavy vessels were rolled along the tracks to a loading area.

Trumans Brick Lane: Sir Thomas Buxton lived here

Trumans Brick Lane: Sir Thomas Buxton lived here

Across Brick Lane from the brewery building with a clock tower, there is another historic part of the brewery, which was once the home and office of Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton (1786-1845). In 1811, Buxton became a partner in the Truman company (which became known as ‘Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co.) In addition to this, he was: a Member of Parliament; an anti-slavery activist; an opponent of capital punishment; a supporter of prison reform; and a founder of the (now ‘Royal’) Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Brick Lane Bookshop

Brick Lane Bookshop

Just beyond the brewery, there is the Brick Lane Bookshop, which is well-supplied with books about London’s East End. The bookshop started life as a ‘community bookshop’ in Watney Market in 1977 (see: http://bricklanebookshop.org/history/Our%20History%20-%20In%20The%20Beginning.html). After moving to Whitechapel Road for a few years, where it was known as ‘Eastside and attracted many local writers and artists, it moved to Brick Lane.

Sclater Street

Sclater Street

Sclater Street, just north of the railway bridge, has retained its original 18th century street name sign. Dated 1778, this decorative sign is attached to a wall next to two newer signs, one in English, the other in Bengali script. In the 19th century, a bird market was held in Sclater Street on Sundays. Sunday is still a popular market day in the East End (e.g. the Petticoat Lane Market and the Columbia Road flower market).

All of the street name signs along and near to Brick Lane are in both English and Bengali. My wife, who, having been educated in Calcutta, can read the Bengali script, says that the signs in that script are precise transliterations of the English names. One street whose name amuses me, is ‘Bacon Street’. In the 19th century there was a ‘ragged school’ (for educating destitute children) on this street, but I do not know if its name refers to food or a person. It does not seem an appropriate name for a thoroughfare in a district which was once populated mainly by Jews, and now by Moslems. Before 1912, the section of this street to the east of Brick Lane was known as ‘Thomas Street’ (see: http://www.maps.thehunthouse.com/Streets/), but the western section has always been Bacon Street.

Brick Lane on Sunday

Brick Lane on Sunday

Sunday at Brick Lane

Sunday at Brick Lane

Sunday Brick Lane

Sunday Brick Lane

Brick Lane Sunday

Brick Lane Sunday

On Sundays, the section of Brick Lane between the brewery buildings and Bethnal Green Road becomes a vibrant, bustling street market with plenty of stalls selling food and a wide variety of other goods. On a recent visit, I saw a man with several chess boards in front of him. Out of his love for the game rather than for financial gain, he was willing to challenge any passer-by to a game. He played several games at once and at great speed. Just beyond him, the queue stretching out of the Beigel Bake at number 159 Brick Lane was long.

Brick Lane Sunday

Brick Lane Sunday

The Beigel Bake, not to be confused with its inferior neighbour ‘Beigel Shop’ at number 155, is a marvellous establishment. It is open 24 hours a day, and serves the best filled bagels that I have ever eaten. The warm juicy salt-beef, which is made on the premises, is generously stuffed into freshly baked Jewish-style bagels (made in a kitchen visible from the shop) with or without gherkins and mustard. It is difficult to open one’s mouth wide enough to bite into these enormous flavoursome sandwiches. For those who do not like beef, there are other fillings including chopped herring, egg, smoked salmon, and cream cheese. In addition to the bagels, this popular outlet sells breads and cakes.

Beigel bakery queue

Beigel bakery queue

Beigel bakery Brick Lane

Beigel bakery Brick Lane

Beigel Bakery Brick Lane - old prices!

Beigel Bakery Brick Lane - old prices!

The Beigel Bake opened in about 1976, and superseded one owned by a Mr Lieberman. According to Rachel Lichtenstein (in her book “On Brick Lane”, publ. 2007), there was a bagel bakery on this site since 1855. The Beigel Bake offers some of the best value quality food in London.

Brick Lane continues north of Bethnal Green Road, but soon peters out both physically and in its liveliness. If you do venture here, take a look down Padbury Court (formerly ‘Princes Court’).

Padbury Court

Padbury Court

In the 19th century, a William Padbury owned a box-making business in this lane (see: https://www.ancestry.co.uk/boards/thread.aspx?mv=flat&m=3&p=surnames.padbury). One side of the road has modern housing, but the other has a row of two-storey brick-built modest dwellings, probably 19th century. A stone in the gardens opposite Padbury Court commemorates the planting of an oak tree in 1996 by the Boundary Community School, a community centre in nearby Club Row. This was done to raise awareness of our effects on the environment in the minds of young people. If you continue north from here, you will eventually reach Columbia Road, where a Sunday flower and plant market is held (discussed elsewhere). Alternatively, retrace your steps down Brick Lane to Buxton Street.

Buxton Str

Buxton Str

Buxton Street

Buxton Street

Buxton Street (once called ‘Spicer Street’) runs east along the northern boundary of the old Truman brewery. First, it skirts an open space, a recreation ground, called Allen Gardens. This land, now owned by Christ Church Spitalfields, was formerly the site of All Saints’ Church, Buxton Street. Built in a ‘Norman’ style to the designs of a pupil of Augustus Pugin, Thomas Larkins Walker (1811-1860), it was consecrated in 1839 (see: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-london/vol27/pp265-288#h3-0004). Although it survived WW2, it was demolished soon after 1951, when its parish merged with that of its neighbour Christ Church.

Old St patricks School Brick Lane

Old St patricks School Brick Lane

Allen Fields surrounds a cluster of old brick buildings, a tiny microcosm of Victorian London. They face onto both Buxton Street and the short, narrow, cobbled Shuttle Street. Number 35 Buxton Street, a fine Georgian residence, was formerly the vicarage to All Saints’ Church. Across the small cobbled cul-de-sac, Shuttle Street, stands The Old St Patrick’s School. It was once a Roman Catholic school. It was built between 1831 and 1833 to the designs of a builder, William Bush. In 1848, prior to the construction of the nearby neo-gothic St Anne’s Church (first used in 1855, but only completed in 1894; architect: Gilbert Blount [1819-1876]) , the school was used to hold services on Sundays. Now, the building is no longer a school.

Cooperage Spital Street

Cooperage Spital Street

East of The Old St Patrick’s School along Buxton Street, we reach a real treat. But before doing so, spend a moment in Spital Street, where a graffiti-covered doorway marks the entrance to the old Trumans brewery cooperage, the place where barrels were assembled using staves of wood and iron hoops.

Spitalfields City Farm

Spitalfields City Farm

The treat is Spitalfields City Farm (see: http://www.spitalfieldscityfarm.org/), one of several such farms that I have visited. Founded in 1978, it is wedged between Buxton Street and a railway line busy with frequent trains travelling to and from Liverpool Street. This oasis of greenery and farmyard is, and has always been, lovingly maintained by volunteers. Close to the railway line and standing amidst various flowering plants including some tall sunflowers, I saw a Mongolian-style yurt, apparently the only yurt in the east of London. It can hold up to twenty people, and is hired out for holding parties. There is also a café and a farm shop, selling plants and vegetables.

Spitalfields City Farm yurt

Spitalfields City Farm yurt

The farm has several enclosures containing animals. I saw a couple of large pigs taking a siesta under two large, leafy trees. Two donkeys were being fed by visitors in an area overlooked by the west front of St Anne’s Church. In the neighbouring small field, there were a number of goats with variously coloured furs. In between the animal areas, there were terrains planted with vegetables, fruits, and flowering plants. Signs in both English and Bengali exhort people to wash their hands after touching animals. This compact but lovely farm is in the heart of what was once one of the most economically-deprived areas of London. I enjoyed visiting it, and when I was there I could see that children were loving the experiences that are otherwise difficult for inner-city London children to savour.

Spitalfields City Farm

Spitalfields City Farm

Spitalfields City Farm

Spitalfields City Farm

Spitalfields City Farm

Spitalfields City Farm

Brick Lane is well-worth visiting, not only because of its fascinating reminders of communities that used to live there, but also because of its vibrant Bangladeshi community, and, also, because it has become a magnet for trendy youngsters and tourists.

Many of the ‘trendy’ shops offer clothes and other gear for youngsters, who regard themselves as ‘indie’ – that is to say ‘alternative’, they want to stick out from the crowd. However, in Brick Lane, the crowds of youngsters who all want to be ‘indie’, have a uniformity that seems contrary to the concept of ‘indie’. Although diversely dressed, often in ‘retro’ clothes (i.e. clothes that were the rage in the 1950s to 1980s), these ‘indie’ folk have, actually, succumbed to a new conformity.

Brick Lane on Sunday

Brick Lane on Sunday

This survey of the delights of Brick Lane and around will be followed soon by another piece that will concentrate on the immigrants that arrived in the area before the Bangladeshis: namely the Huguenots and the Jewish people. If you have not yet visited Brick Lane, you should do so soon.

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 09:56 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged market jewish bangladesh yurt whitechapel brick_lane bagels bengali shoreditch huguenot Comments (3)

A MOSQUE AND A RESTAURANT, BOTH TURKISH

A former synagogue in Dalston is now a mosque for Turkish Cypriots and anyone else who wishes to worship there.

I have visited Kingsland Road so many times, but never ventured east of it along Shacklewell Lane until today. This time, the bus from Newington Green, a route we had not used previously, deposited us outside the UK Turkish Islamic Trust, a mosque on Shacklewell Lane.

Former Shacklewell Lane synagogue

Former Shacklewell Lane synagogue

This mosque is housed in a former synagogue, the ‘Stoke Newington Synagogue’, which despite its name is closer to Dalston than Stoke Newington. It opened in 1903, after the English banker and entomologist, the Honourable Nathan Charles Rothschild (1877-1923), a member of the famous Rothschild family, laid a memorial stone.

Former Shacklewell Lane synagogue

Former Shacklewell Lane synagogue

This stone mentions that the building’s architect was Lewis Solomon (1848-1928), Honorary Architect to the Federation of Synagogues, and, also, Architect and Surveyor to the United Synagogue. The synagogue’s treasurer was, at that time Gustave Tuck (1857-1942), Chairman and Managing Director of Raphael Tuck and Sons, Ltd (a well-known producer of illustrated postcards; see: https://tuckdb.org/history). University College London, which I attended as a student, has a lecture theatre named in his memory.

Former Shacklewell Lane synagogue

Former Shacklewell Lane synagogue

During its heyday (in the 1950s), the synagogue had over 500 male seat-holders (see: http://www.jewishgen.org/jcr-uk/London/stokenewington/index.htm). The congregation was Ashkenazi Orthodox. The synagogue closed in 1976, when its congregation merged with that of Hackney Synagogue.

Former Shacklewell Lane synagogue

Former Shacklewell Lane synagogue

In 1977, the newly formed UK Turkish Islamic Trust began to make moves to acquire the former synagogue to convert it for use as a mosque for the Turkish Cypriot community (see: http://www.ukturkishislamictrust.co.uk/building-history.html). In 1983, a dome was added to the building, otherwise many of the synagogue’s original architectural features have been preserved.

Former Shacklewell Lane synagogue

Former Shacklewell Lane synagogue

The UK Turkish Islamic Trust was founded by Ramadan H Guney (1932-2006), the owner of the enormous Brookwood Cemetery (in Surrey) since 1983. Mr Guney emigrated to the UK from Cyprus in 1958. He began a business selling ethnic music recordings to London’s Turkish communities. When we arrived at the mosque, we were greeted by Ramadan’s welcoming daughter Zerin, who, with her brother, run the establishment. She allowed us to look inside the mosque. I visited the downstairs section where men pray, and my wife was taken to the first-floor gallery, which is reserved for women, as it was when the building was a synagogue.

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Gökyüzü Restaurant

We chatted to Zerin about the mosque and, also, about eating Turkish food in the neighbourhood. The two restaurants she recommended, Umut 2000 in Crossway and Mangal 1 in Arcola Street, are also our favourites amongst the Turkish restaurants in Dalston. She added that another place to go for really good Turkish food was Green Lanes in Harringay. In particular, she recommended Gökyüzü (26-27 Grand Parade, Harringay, London N4 1LG).

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Gökyüzü Restaurant

After a couple of bus journeys, we reached Gökyüzü, a large modern restaurant surrounded by many other Turkish eateries. We had not reserved, and there was not a problem finding a table in this vast restaurant. The dining area is spacious, airy, and modern – subtly stylish. As soon as we sat down, we were given menus and, before ordering, the following complementary items were placed in front of us: a generous mixed salad, freshly baked bread, and a yoghurt with cucumber dip (cacik). We ordered fried liver (Arnavut Ciğeri, or ‘Albanian liver’) and Iskender Kebab (döner kebab with cubes of bread in a spicy tomato sauce with yoghurt). Both dishes were very good. After this modest meal, we ordered glasses of Turkish tea, which, we later discovered were ‘on the house’. Service was friendly and efficient, and the prices were quite reasonable.

Gökyüzü Restaurant: complementary starters

Gökyüzü Restaurant: complementary starters

Gökyüzü Restaurant: Arnavut cigeri

Gökyüzü Restaurant: Arnavut cigeri

Gökyüzü Restaurant: Iskender kebab

Gökyüzü Restaurant: Iskender kebab

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Gökyüzü Restaurant

If it had not been for my interest in the history of London’s Jewish community, we would not have met the delightful Zerin Guney, and would not necessarily have made the fruitful journey to Green Lanes.

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Gökyüzü Restaurant

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 15:04 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged food london mosque restaurant turkish jewish synagogue islam cypriot grill dalston harringay kebabs Comments (2)

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