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A ROAD OF SIGNIFICANCE

A seemingly unimportant road in north-west London played a significant role in my younger days, and offers some intriguing surprises...

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LIFE AND DEATH IN HOOP LANE

Hoop Lane runs in a north-easterly direction from Golders Green Road to Meadway. This by-way is of personal interest as it ran through the first few decades of my life, and the last few decades of my mother’s.

Northern Line bridge over Hoop Lane

Northern Line bridge over Hoop Lane

Hoop Lane is amongst Golders Green’s older thoroughfares. It joins Golders Green Road (formerly ‘North End Road’) with Finchley Road, and then continues towards the western edge of the Hampstead Garden Suburb. The latter did not exist prior to about 1905. Before that date, Hoop Lane continued from Finchley Road towards where it ends today, but as a ‘dead-end’ in open country. An 1870’s detailed Ordnance Survey map shows that Hoop Lane was lined by trees (as it is today) and ended at its eastern end at a T-junction. In one direction (north west) ran Temple Fortune Lane, and in the other (south east) ran Wild Hatch, which ended abruptly in farmland. These byways were devoid of buildings in the 1870s. However, an 1807 map shows that there was one building on Wild Hatch at that date. These appear on a 1900 map, labelled as ‘Wild Hatch Cottages’.

1807 map  with some old and modern landmarks overlaid

1807 map with some old and modern landmarks overlaid

Finchley Road was laid out and built in the 1820s and 1830s as a turnpike road (toll-road), bypassing the difficult hilly road that ran from Camden Town through Hampstead village (to Finchley and further north). Before the new road was built, traffic had to climb the steep road to Hampstead, and then wind its way down the North End Road, which still exists. North End Road passed through Golders Green. In the first two decades of the19th century, Golders Green was a string of well-spaced properties, a small hamlet, close to common land (the ‘green’), which was located where Golders Green Station stands today. What is now named ‘Golders Green Road’ was then known as ‘North End Road’. This road continued from Hampstead towards the settlement called ‘Brent Street’.

In those early days, before the existence of Finchley Road, to reach Finchley from Hampstead it was necessary to proceed as follows. After passing the commonage of Golders Green, the traveller would have taken a right turn into Hoop Lane, and gone along it in a north-easterly direction to its end where it met Temple Fortune Lane. Next, the traveller would have had to go northwest along this lane until he or she reached a triangular open space, which is now the position of modern Temple Fortune. This place’s name derives from the fact that it stands on land once owned by the Knights Templars. This spot was the southern end of Ducksetters Lane, which wound its way north-eastwards to Finchley. From this description of the route, it is evident that Hoop Lane was an important thoroughfare between London and the North prior to the building of Finchley Road. It was a country lane with few, if any, buildings before the late 19th century.

Oakview Lodge in approx position of 'The Oaks'

Oakview Lodge in approx position of 'The Oaks'

South west of Finchley Road, Hoop Lane was devoid of buildings as late as 1897. Near where the road met North End Road (now ‘Golders Green Road’), there was a building set in the middle of a large plot called ‘The Oaks’. The Oaks were still marked on a detailed 1912 map. This large stately home disappeared in 1920. By 1912, there were plant nursery buildings on Hoop Lane and, also, one building, now the Central Hotel, where Hoop Lane met Finchley Road on its west side. This must be the one of oldest surviving buildings on Hoop Lane.

HOOP LANE Central Hotel

HOOP LANE Central Hotel

There was another early building (now Glentrees estate agent) opposite it on the other side of Finchley Road close to where the Roman Catholic Church of Edward The Confessor stands today. This church’s construction began in March 1914, and it was completed by October 1915, despite wartime difficulties such as a zeppelin raid on Golders Green in September 1915.

HOOP LANE Glentrees and RC Church of Edward The Confessor and the distant spire of St Judes

HOOP LANE Glentrees and RC Church of Edward The Confessor and the distant spire of St Judes

My earliest memories of Hoop Lane date back to when I was three or four years old, and therefore are rather vague. At that age, I attended a kindergarten in Hoop Lane. This was in the hall attached to Golders Green’s Unitarian Church, which was designed in the ‘Byzantine revival’ style by the architect Reginald Farrow (opened in 1925). It contains interesting artworks including a mural by Ivon Hitchens (1893-1979), which I have not yet seen.

HOOP LANE Kindergarten

HOOP LANE Kindergarten

The kindergarten was under the direction of Miss Schreuer, who lived a few doors away in Hoop Lane. My only lasting memory from my time there was when my father appeared at the school with a white beard and a red outfit, dressed as Father Christmas. A few years later, my sister and my cousins attended Miss Schreuer’s. One day while my sister was attending, I was allowed to return to the school to act as an older helper. One of my fellow pupils was the late Micaela Comberti (1952-2003), who was later to become an accomplished violinist. Her German mother and Italian father were friends of my parents.

HOOP LANE Unitarian Church

HOOP LANE Unitarian Church

I am not sure what became of Miss Schreuer, but I heard rumours that the end of her life was unhappy. Today, the hall, where her school flourished, is now a Montessori kindergarten. When I lived in the area (I left finally when I was aged thirty), I often walked past the school and the Unitarian Church. The latter had a panel facing the road, upon which posters with pious messages were posted. One that I will always remember said:
“If you think you have seen the light, think again”.
Coincidentally, I now live very close to a Unitarian Church in Kensington, even closer than my parents’ home was to Miss Schreuer’s school, and it also offers pre-school facilities to local children.

At the north-western corner of the point where Hoop Lane meets Finchley Road, there stands the Central Hotel (illustrated above). This building is the one that was marked on the 1912 map, one of the oldest buildings in Hoop Lane. Undistinguished in appearance, it has been a hotel for over forty years. I have never met anyone who has stayed there.

HOOP LANE site of Express Dairy depot

HOOP LANE site of Express Dairy depot

Directly across the Finchley Road on the north-eastern corner of its intersection with Hoop Lane, there stands a corner shop. For at least forty years, it has been the premises of Glentree International, an estate agent. Before that, this corner shop was a dairy shop run by Express Dairies. Next to it, accessible from Hoop Lane, the company had a depot for re-charging and stocking its electric milk floats. These floats moved almost silently, apart from the clinking of the glass milk, cream, and yoghurt bottles, which they delivered from house to house every morning. Deliveries, such as these and those made by a mobile vegetable seller in a lorry and a Frenchman with strings of onions draped over his bicycle, made life a little easier for those living in the nearby Hampstead Garden Suburb, which has never had any shops.

Most of the rest of Hoop Lane to the east of Finchley Road is effectively a ‘necropolis’. On the northern side of the road, there is a huge Jewish cemetery. On the southern side, there is the sprawling Golders Green Crematorium. For almost thirty years, I used to walk between these two final destinations for the dead on my way to and from schools and university, in daylight and at night. The possible presence of ghosts and other supernatural phenomena associated with the after-life never bothered me in the slightest. These final resting places were part and parcel of my childhood.

Meadway Gate

Meadway Gate

Meadway Gate from Hoop Lane

Meadway Gate from Hoop Lane

Beyond the cemetery and the crematorium, Hoop Lane ends. Vehicles have to drive around a tiny triangular area containing gardens, and then can continue along Meadway into Hampstead Garden Suburb. Pedestrians can access the small gardens by means of a short staircase, and then walk through them under a wooden pergola to reach Meadway. This little garden is now called ‘Meadway Gate Open Space’. I am certain that it had no name when I lived in the area (i.e. until about 1990). Wild Hatch that is shown on early maps still exists. The northern part of it is accessible to vehicles, but the last hundred or so yards of it is a narrow, rustic footpath that leads to Hampstead Way and across from that, the Hampstead Heath Extension. Opposite Wild Hatch, and beyond the Meadway Gate Open Space, is the beginning of Temple Fortune Lane, that also appears on early maps.

WILD HATCH

WILD HATCH

WILD HATCH Garage with dovecote

WILD HATCH Garage with dovecote

WILD HATCH house with shutters

WILD HATCH house with shutters

Wild Hatch skirts the eastern boundary of the crematorium. Temple Fortune Lane, which has houses on its eastern side, skirts the eastern boundary of the Jewish cemetery. This picturesque cul-de-sac narrows at its eastern end to become a footpath, which threads it way between the garden gates of houses on one side (north) and the edge of the crematorium gardens on the other.

WILD HATCH footpath section

WILD HATCH footpath section

WILD HATCH old garden door

WILD HATCH old garden door

The path emerges on Hampstead Way. Crossing this, one enters the Hampstead Heath Extension. To the north of a gravel path, there is a clump of wild vegetation. Within this, there are mounds that were used during WW2 to position anti-aircraft guns. In my childhood, these mounds were accessible. Now, they are fenced-off and hidden by the plants growing around them.

WILD HATCH Hampstead Heath end

WILD HATCH Hampstead Heath end

Hampstead Heath Extension: anti aircraft gun platforms site

Hampstead Heath Extension: anti aircraft gun platforms site

The Jewish Cemetery in Hoop Lane appears to be divided into two sections. One, the western half, contains upright gravestones, and the other, the eastern, mainly horizontal gravestones. The vertical headstones are characteristic of the Ashkenazi tradition, and the horizontal of the Sephardic tradition. It is probably by chance that the Sephardis, who are mainly Jews from the south and east, rest in the eastern part of the cemetery.

JEWISH CEMETERY Ashkenazi graves

JEWISH CEMETERY Ashkenazi graves

JEWISH CEMETERY Sephardic stones

JEWISH CEMETERY Sephardic stones

A book, “A History in our Time - Rabbis and Teachers Buried at Hoop Lane Cemetery” (published by the Leo Baeck College in 2006), provides an interesting history of the cemetery. The cemetery opened for ‘business’ in about 1896. The juxtaposition of the graves of two types of Jew in the same cemetery is unusual. The Jewish Yearbook for the year 5658 (Jewish calendar; 1897 AD) noted of the cemetery:
“… a new cemetery at Golders’-green was also made ready for its melancholy purpose this last year. This cemetery has the curious distinction of being used by both the Orthodox Sephardim and the Reform Congregation of the West London Synagogue of British Jews.”
The reason for this juxtaposition was that the two separate Jewish communities had bought neighbouring plots of land. Many years after the purchases, some of the land was sold for house building on Temple Fortune Lane (this happened in 1973, and includes the estate on Sheridan Walk), and another part to build a synagogue, the North Western Reform Synagogue (built in 1936; entered from Alyth Gardens). I remember the housing construction around Sheridan Walk because it was opposite the home of one of my first ever school friends.

JEWISH CEMETERY buildings for funerary procedures

JEWISH CEMETERY buildings for funerary procedures

The cemetery, which I have seen by peering through its boundary fence but never visited, contains graves of many notable people including that of Dr Leo Baeck (1873-1956), who was born in Germany and became a leader in both Liberal and Progressive Judaism. During WW2, he represented all German Jews and narrowly avoided being murdered at Theresienstadt. More recently, another well-known Ashkenazi Jew, Rabbi Hugo Gryn (1930 – 1996), a cleric and a broadcaster, was buried here. Amongst those who are buried in the Sephardi section, one is of particular interest to me. This is the barrister and historian Philip Guedalla (1889-1944), who published many books on historical subjects. He was related to my late mother’s family, albeit quite distantly.

CREMATORIUM general view from Hoop Lane

CREMATORIUM general view from Hoop Lane

CREMATORIUM Garden cloisters

CREMATORIUM Garden cloisters

CREMATORIUM View of gardens

CREMATORIUM View of gardens

The Golders Green Crematorium faces the two Jewish cemeteries across Hoop Lane. This was opened in 1902 by Sir Henry Thompson, president of the Cremation Society of England. Before its existence, Londoners wanting to cremate had to use the Woking Crematorium that opened in 1885. The buildings of the crematorium are all close to the brick boundary wall that runs along Hoop Lane. Behind them spread attractive and extensive memorial gardens. According to www.historicengland.org.uk website, the main buildings were designed in the ‘Romanesque Lombardic style’. That may well be the case, but they present a fairly forbidding appearance. Many of the original buildings were designed by teams that included Alfred Yeates (1867-1944) and Ernest George (1839-1922), who formed a business partnership in 1892. George’s speciality was garden architecture. The gardens and some of the buildings at the crematorium are fine examples of his work. Although the various buildings exhibit a certain architectural homogeneity, they were built over several decades as, gradually, money became available to pay for their construction.

CREMATORIUM View of entrance to a columbarium

CREMATORIUM View of entrance to a columbarium

CREMATORIUM Columbarium apse

CREMATORIUM Columbarium apse

CREMATORIUM Anna Pavlova's ashes in the columbarium

CREMATORIUM Anna Pavlova's ashes in the columbarium

CREMATORIUM Columbarium arches

CREMATORIUM Columbarium arches

It is well worth asking to visit the inside of the Ernest George Columbarium. This building, which is usually locked, contains urns of ashes and memorials placed in beautiful stone settings and shelves. Amongst those ‘stored’ in this columbarium are Sigmund Freud and his wife, as well as Anna Pavlova, the ballet dancer. Many other famous people have been cremated at this crematorium (a good list is available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golders_Green_Crematorium). These include, to name a few, Ivor Novello, Bram Stoker, Peter Sellers, Ronnie Scott, Ernő Goldfinger, Kingsley Amis, Enid Blyton, Rudyard Kipling, and Ernest Bevin.

CREMATORIUM Sigmund Freud urn

CREMATORIUM Sigmund Freud urn

CREMATORIUM Dispersal area

CREMATORIUM Dispersal area

Not all of the ashes of the cremated are stored or scattered at the Crematorium. Many are taken away to be disposed of elsewhere, as were, for example, the ashes of Soviet politician and a proponent of the idea of Lenin’s tomb in Moscow Leonid Krasin (1870-1926), which were buried in the Kremlin Wall Necropolis. According to S Kotkin in his “Stalin. Paradoxes of Power” (published 2014), it was Krasin, who had: “… proposed inclusion of a terrace from which the masses could be addressed…”. This was added to the design of Lenin’s Mausoleum.

Sadly, the crematorium is a place that I have had to visit too often. Friends of my parents and colleagues of my father have been cremated here. These included Professor William Baxter, who was responsible for encouraging my father to come from South Africa to study in the UK in 1938. My father’s colleague at the London School of Economics, the philosopher Professor John Watkins, was another person whose funeral I attended in one of the larger of the crematoriums multi-denominational chapels. We attended the final farewell of Dr ‘Sushi’ Patel, who studied medicine in Bombay with my mother-in-law. She was a Hindu. I remember that the whole congregation filed past her open coffin before she was cremated.

CREMATORIUM View from gardens

CREMATORIUM View from gardens

Closer to home, my heart was filled with great sadness when I attended the memorial services for two of my uncles. At one of these services, the ceremonies were conducted by a Humanist celebrant. At the other, the Jewish Kaddish was recited, this being the final wish of an uncle who in life showed little outward interest in his Jewish background. Later, when his belongings were being sorted, we discovered to our surprise that his interest in Judaism and its practices was greater than anyone had realised.

The saddest funeral that I attended at Golders Green’s Crematorium was my mother’s. She died young after suffering painfully for months in hospital. Very few of us sat in one of the smaller chapels. There was no ceremony, nothing was said. When my mother’s coffin was carried past me along the aisle, I was overwhelmed with emotion as I realised that this was the very last time that I would ever be physically close to her. As soon as I was able, and that was moments after her coffin slid out of sight, I fled from the small gathering, and walked briskly down Hoop Lane towards Finchley Road. Later that day late in December 1980, I bought a boxed set of LPs containing recordings of Bach’s Cello Sonatas. To this day, I have felt unable and unwilling to open them, let alone to play them.

CREMATORIUM Ivor Novello

CREMATORIUM Ivor Novello

My mother was one of many thousands to have been cremated in Golders Green. She was a sculptress. Other artists cremated here included Boris Anrep, Walter Crane, and Percy Wyndham Lewis. Our family lived in Hampstead Garden Suburb, a stone’s throw from St Judes Church, whose architect was Edwin Lutyens, famous for his work in New Delhi. Many of my parents’ friends were psychoanalysts. The greatest of them all, Sigmund Freud, was rendered to ashes in this crematorium. The list of celebrities in all fields who ended up at this place is enormous. I knew nothing of this during the many journeys that I made by foot along Hoop Lane during my younger years. In those days, my mind was on the future rather than the past.

CREMATORIUM Large Chapel

CREMATORIUM Large Chapel

When I was being shown around the Columbarium by one of the Crematorium’s officials, I told him that my mother and uncles had been cremated there. To which he smiled, shook my hand, and then said:
“Well, in that case, I suppose that you will end up here one day.”

Meadway Gate: Horse trough

Meadway Gate: Horse trough

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 10:30 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london cemetery jewish kindergarten freud crematorium golders_green pavlova Comments (1)

STEPPING THROUGH STEPNEY

Exploring a part of east London that was once home to many Jewish immigrants, and is now home to a large Bangladeshi community.

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My late father-in-law, an Indian, used to refer to the ‘Stepney’ when talking about motor cars. In India (as well as Bangladesh, Malta, and the USA), a ‘Stepney’ refers to the spare-tire in a car. This use of the word, which shares its name with a part of the East-End of London, refers to screw-on spare wheels that were first manufactured in Stepney Street, Llanelli, South Wales.

Jackfruits in Whitechapel Rd

Jackfruits in Whitechapel Rd

The name ‘Stepney’ is probably derived from that of a Saxon settlement known as ‘Stebba’s Landing’. In the 11th century, Stepney was mostly arable farmland, along with meadows and woods, mainly populated by peasants. At the end of the 16th century, the area began to be urbanised. This exploration is about a part of London, from which the prosperous Stepney family of South Wales originated and which has been home to many immigrants since the 19th century.

Stalls Whitechapel Road

Stalls Whitechapel Road

Emerging from Whitechapel Station, your nose is regaled with the fragrances of curries. Turning east from the station, you cannot miss the bustling street market that faces the Royal London Hospital, and spreads along Whitechapel Road towards Mile End Road. Both roads are parts of a Roman road that led to Colchester. Formerly, this market was popular with the local Jewish community, mostly refugees from Eastern Europe who arrived before WW1. Now, it is mostly used and worked by people of Bangladeshi origin. A good variety of foods, some quite exotic, and clothing can be obtained from the stalls, and, also, from the shops lining the pavement. On a hot humid day, seeing piles of jackfruits and stalls selling jewellery and bangles, you could almost imagine that you were in Bengal.

The Royal London Hospital

The Royal London Hospital

The Royal London Hospital, founded in 1740, moved to its present location in 1757. Its pedimented Georgian neo-classical façade was designed by Boulton Mainwaring (who flourished professionally in the 1750s). Its most famous patient was Joseph Merrick (1862-1890), the so-called ‘Elephant Man’, who suffered from a rare congenital disorder that distorted the growth of his skeleton.

Edward VII Whitechapel Rd

Edward VII Whitechapel Rd

Detail of Edward VII sculpture on Whitechapel Rd

Detail of Edward VII sculpture on Whitechapel Rd

Opposite the hospital, and almost buried amongst the market stalls, there is a sculptural drinking fountain dedicated to King Edward VII. It was erected in 1911 and financed by money donated by “Jewish immigrants of East London”. It was designed by William Silver Frith (1850–1924). Like the sculptures Frith designed for the entrance to 2 Temple Place (near Temple Underground Station), he included details of objects that were considered innovations at the time. The Whitechapel sculptures include a model of a child caressing a toy motor car. The statue was unveiled by a member of the Rothschild banking family (see: http://www.pmsa.org.uk/pmsa-database/2984/). Edward VII, who was on good terms with both the Rothschilds and another Jewish family the Cassels (see: “Edward VII”, by C Hibbert, publ. 2007), was known to have had sympathy with the Jewish people, and to have interceded on their behalf with the Russian Czar (see: Jewish Daily Bulletin 22nd August, 1927).

Working Lads Institute Whitechapel Rd

Working Lads Institute Whitechapel Rd

Working Lads Institute Whitechapel Rd

Working Lads Institute Whitechapel Rd

Number 283 Whitechapel Road currently houses ‘Hut Bazar’, a Bangladeshi fruit shop. Entrances above doorways on both sides of the shop bear the words ‘Lecture Hall’ and ‘Gymnasium’ (and in almost invisible letters below it ‘Swimming Pool’). Look up to the gable, and you will see ‘Working Lads Institute’ in fading letters. This was founded in 1878 by Henry Hill, a city merchant (see: https://surveyoflondon.org/map/feature/498/detail/). It was aimed at young working men, who wanted to better themselves both physically and intellectually. Hill ran out of money in the 1890s, and this institution was short-lived in Whitechapel.

Old Albion Brewery Whitechapel Rd

Old Albion Brewery Whitechapel Rd

The Blind Beggar Whitechapel Rd

The Blind Beggar Whitechapel Rd

Old bank Whitechapel Rd

Old bank Whitechapel Rd

East of this, is an impressive building that might be mistaken for a palace. It is the former premises of Mann, Crossman, & Pauling Ltd, which is housed in the Albion Brewery, established in 1808. The present buildings were built between 1860 and ’68. The brewery closed in 1979, and was converted into flats in the early 1990s. Its neighbour to the east, The Blind Beggar pub, was re-built in 1894 by the brewery’s engineer Robert Spence. Across the road from this, there is an elegant former bank building (number 234). This housed the ‘London & South Western Bank’. It was built in 1889 by Edward Gabriel, who built other branches in London.

White Hart Mile End Rd

White Hart Mile End Rd

William Booth Mile End Rd

William Booth Mile End Rd

The White Hart Pub at the western end of Mile End Road faces the Blind Beggar across Cambridge Heath Road at the eastern end of Whitechapel Road. Rebuilt in 1900, this pub was already established by 1750. Up until about 1914, its publicans had English-sounding surnames, but between 1914 and 1938, surnames included the foreign-sounding: Sugarman, Kazanoski, and Rosenthal (see: https://pubshistory.com/LondonPubs/MileEnd/WhiteHartMERd.shtml). Near the pub, set amongst trees lining the road, there is a fine bust of the tee-totaller William Booth (1829-1912), the founder of the Salvation Army. He founded it on “Mile End Waste”, which was a large open space where Mile End Road widened for a short distance, as it does today. It was frequently used for public meetings.

Trinity Green Mile End Rd

Trinity Green Mile End Rd

Trinity Green Mile End Rd

Trinity Green Mile End Rd

Trinity Green Mile End Rd

Trinity Green Mile End Rd

Trinity Green is a charming collection of alms-houses surrounding a rectangular grassy open-space. They were built in 1695 by Trinity House to house sea captains and their widows. According to Pevsner, they are: “… a delightful example of the domestic classical style of the time of Wren.” The two rows of houses are separated by a chapel with a small dome.

Trinity Green Mile End Rd

Trinity Green Mile End Rd

The alms-houses are separated from number 33 by a low wall that encloses the garden in front of The Tower Hamlets Mission founded in 1870 by Frederick Charrington (1850-1936), son of the brewer. Established to help the needy, it now serves to help those with alcohol- or drug-abuse problems. The windowless western wall of number 33 is covered with an enormous mural, the Mile End Mural, painted by Mychael Barratt in 2011 in time for the 2012 Olympic Games. Amongst the many characters depicted on the mural, you may notice Lenin, Samuel Pepys, Frederik Charrington, Queen Elizabeth II, and Mahatma Gandhi. The latter stayed at nearby Kingsley Hall (on Powis Road), when he visited London in 1931 (see: http://spitalfieldslife.com/2015/09/10/mychael-barratts-mile-end-mural/).

Mychael Barratt mural Mile End Rd

Mychael Barratt mural Mile End Rd

William and Catherine Booth Mile End Road

William and Catherine Booth Mile End Road

Further along Mile End Road, there is a statue of William Booth gesturing towards another one depicting his wife Catherine. Along to the east of them, there is a metal bust of Edward VII, greening with oxidation. Like the one already described, it was also erected in 1911. This one, its plinth bearing a quote from John Milton, was erected by some freemasons from East London. The King was Grandmaster of the English Freemasons. The quote alludes to his fostering of good relations with France. The so-called ‘Entente Cordiale’ was signed during his reign (see: https://www.londonremembers.com/memorials/edward-vii-bust).

Captain Cook. Mile End Rd

Captain Cook. Mile End Rd

81 Mile End Rd

81 Mile End Rd

The site of the home of the explorer Captain James Cook (1728-1779) is almost opposite the bust. His house, number 90, was demolished in the 1950s. The commemorative plaques were put up in 1971. Its neighbours, numbers 82 and 84, look as if they were present when Cook lived nearby. Across the road, there are a few odd-looking contemporary sculptures along the pavement’s edge, including one that looks like a classical pillar sinking beneath the road.

Sunken pillar in Mile End Rd near Genesis cinema

Sunken pillar in Mile End Rd near Genesis cinema

Genesis Cinema Mile End Rd

Genesis Cinema Mile End Rd

Mosque 91 Mile End Rd

Mosque 91 Mile End Rd

The Genesis Cinema on Mile End Road was designed by William Ridell Glen (1885-1950), and built in 1939 on land that had been the site of places of entertainment (including a music hall and an older, now demolished, cinema) since about 1848. It shows both general release and specialist films. The cinema’s western neighbour is a building that looks like a modified Grecian temple. Now home to the ‘Al-Huda Cultural Centre & Mosque’, this was once a bank. East of Genesis, there is a row of terraced houses built in brick with lovely canopies over their front doors. These are remnants of 18th century London, which survived first WW2, and then the ravishing of property developers.

107 to 111  Mile End Rd

107 to 111 Mile End Rd

4 Stepney Green

4 Stepney Green

Now we enter Stepney Green, and will partly follow a walk described by Rachel Kolsky and Roslyn Rawson in their book “Jewish London” (publ. 2012). The Green begins as a normal street, and then soon widens, running either side of a long narrow strip of parkland, Stepney Green Gardens, planted with lawns and trees.

Stepney Green midline park

Stepney Green midline park

Number 2 has a well-preserved painted wall advert extolling the virtues of ‘Daren Bread’. This type of bread was first baked in about 1875 in Dartford using, it was claimed, unadulterated flour (see: http://paintedsignsandmosaics.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/daren-stoke-newington.html). The company was taken over in the early 20th century by Rank’s, who were famous for their ‘Hovis’ bread.

Stepney Green. Dunstan House

Stepney Green. Dunstan House

Staircase leading to Flat 33, Dunstan House

Staircase leading to Flat 33, Dunstan House

Dunstan House, a large red-brick block of flats was built in 1899 by the East End Dwellings Company, whose founders included the philanthropists Samuel and Henrietta Barnett, who also established the nearby Whitechapel Art Gallery and Toynbee Hall. This couple were also responsible for the creation of Hampstead Garden Suburb (see elsewhere). Dunstan House was briefly home to the Russian refugee Afanasy Nikolayevich Matyushenko (1879-1907), who led the rebellion on the battleship Potemkin in 1905. Another revolutionary resident was Rudolph Rocker (1873-1958), a gentile who worked closely with Jewish workers’ and anarchist’s groups. He lived in Flat 33, and met Matyushenko, who he described as a: “good-natured, smiling Russian peasant type; about medium height, and powerfully built.” (see: https://libcom.org/files/Matiushenko,%20Afanasy%20Nikolaevich%201879-1907.pdf).

TB dispensary 35 Stepney Green

TB dispensary 35 Stepney Green

37 Stepney Green

37 Stepney Green

Number 35 Stepney Green once housed a dispensary set up in memory of King Edward VII, who was concerned about making progress in preventing tuberculosis. Its grand neighbour, number 37, was built in 1694, and is the oldest house in Stepney Green. Its residents included East India Company merchants and the Charrington family of brewers. Between 1875 and 1907, it was the ‘Home for Elderly Jews’, and after that it housed municipal offices (see: Financial Times, 24th March 2017). In complete contrast to this, is the ugly Rosalind Green Hall, a youth club which stands on the site of the Stepney Orthodox Synagogue that was badly damaged in WW2.

Stepney Jewish School 1906 Stepney Green

Stepney Jewish School 1906 Stepney Green

Logo in gate of  Stepney Jewish School 1906 Stepney Green

Logo in gate of Stepney Jewish School 1906 Stepney Green

The Stepney Jewish School (founded 1863) used to be housed in the large brick building with some neo-classical features, number 71. It catered mainly for Jewish boys born in England. Now, the building is used for other purposes, but the cast-iron entrance gates bear logos with the letters ‘SJS’ intertwined. The entertainment entrepreneur Bernard Delfont (1909-1994) attended this school. His son was at school with me at The Hall in Belsize Park.

Stepney Green Court

Stepney Green Court

The former school is dwarfed by its southern neighbour Stepney Green Court, a tenement block built in 1896, designed by N S Joseph (once Honorary Architect to the United Synagogue). It was erected by the ‘Four Per Cent Industrial Dwellings Company’ (renamed ‘IDS’ in 1885), which was established by Baron Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1840-1915) to provide housing for the poor, which, in this area, included many Jews. The building has some intricate stucco features above some of its doors and windows.

Clocktower Stepney Green

Clocktower Stepney Green

Montefiore fountain Stepney Green

Montefiore fountain Stepney Green

At the southern end of the Green, there is a triangular grassy area containing a square clock-tower. This was put up in 1913 to commemorate Alderman Stanley Atkinson (1873-1910), a scholarly medical doctor and Justice of the Peace. Near to this, and in poor condition, there is a disused stone drinking fountain surmounted by an obelisk. Dated 1884, this was erected to remember Leonard Montefiore (1853-1879) who “…loved children and was loved by all children”. The short-lived Jewish philanthropist Leonard was born in Kensington. He was a friend of Oscar Wilde when they studied together at Oxford University and, also, a colleague of Samuel Barnett (see above).

Remains of Baptist College Stepney

Remains of Baptist College Stepney

A short distance further south along the Green and hidden amongst weeds and building materials is a white stone neo-gothic arched flanked by short red-brick walls. This is all that remains of Baptist College, a large estate with several buildings built for the strongly Calvinist ‘Particular Baptists’ in 1810. Most of what was once the College is now one of the building sites for the Crossrail project.

St Dunstans and All Saints Stepney

St Dunstans and All Saints Stepney

Turning into Stepney High Street, it is impossible to miss the large gothic Church of St Dunstan and All Saints with is square bell tower. Founded in the 10th century, the present church was erected in the 15th century, and refurbished in the late 19th century. Close to the London Docks, this was once known as the ‘Church of the High Seas’, and flies the red ensign flag from its bell tower.

Stepney City Farm

Stepney City Farm

Stepney City Farm

Stepney City Farm

Stepney City Farm

Stepney City Farm

Stepney City Farm and St Dunstans Church

Stepney City Farm and St Dunstans Church

Nearby, and entered from Stepney Way, is the Stepney City Farm. This is one of a number of ‘city farms’ dotted around London. They offer opportunities for (especially young) Londoners to become acquainted with farm animals without leaving the city. At the Stepney farm, ducks, hens, geese, goats, pigs, rabbits, and donkeys can be seen at close quarters, all within sight of St Dunstans Church. Notices in both English and Bengali exhort visitors to wash their hands before eating or, rather surprisingly in these times of political and sanitary correctness, smoking. There is a shop and an eatery in the farm.

Whitehorse Rd Park

Whitehorse Rd Park

Lady Micos almshouses

Lady Micos almshouses

Returning to the church, walk south-eastwards through its lovely churchyard shaded by trees until you reach White Horse Road. This passes the southern side of the small White Horse Road Park, which contains a perforated egg-shaped sculpture. Lady Mico’s Alms-houses stand at the north end of White Horse Lane. These were established in 1691 by Dame Jane Mico, widow of alderman Sir Samuel Mico (1610-1665), Master of the Company of Mercers and cousin of the composer Richard Mico (1590-1661). The Company of Mercers rebuilt the alms-houses in 1856.

Stepney Meeting Burial Ground

Stepney Meeting Burial Ground

Proceeding south along White Horse Road (known as ‘Cliff Street’ in the 14th to 16th centuries, and urbanised in the 17th), we reach a green space with a few gravestones. This garden is all that remains of the former (non-conformist) Stepney Meeting Burial Ground, Alms-houses, and School. The ‘Stepney Meeting’ was a church founded in 1644 by a group of Puritans. It was the first non-conformist church in East London. The burial ground is one of several non-conformist cemeteries in the east of London, reflecting the history of dissent in the area. The school and alms-houses were destroyed badly in WW2.

Corner Salmon Lane and White Horse Rd

Corner Salmon Lane and White Horse Rd

A large well-restored brick building with two gothic arch shaped windows stands at the corner of Salmon Lane and White Horse Road. Its heavily restored surrounding wall has several carved old stone constituents which display a neo-gothic style. A map surveyed in 1915 marks this as a vicarage. It was next to some “Guardians Offices” (now no longer in existence).

74 and 76 Whitehorse Rd

74 and 76 Whitehorse Rd

74 and 76 Whitehorse Rd

74 and 76 Whitehorse Rd

Further down White Horse Road, numbers 76 and 78, Victorian buildings, have bas-reliefs, depicting a woman wearing a crown and a necklace, high above their street entrances. They were built in the 1890s as ‘Model Dwellings’ by the Jewish builders, the brothers Nathaniel and Ralph Davis (see: http://www.history-pieces.co.uk/Docs/WHITE_HORSE_STREET_1901.pdf). These adjoin a row of houses including numbers 62 to 68, which look like Regency-era constructions, and are officially listed as being worthy of protection.

Southern east side of White Horse Rd

Southern east side of White Horse Rd

Half Moon Theatre White Horse Rd

Half Moon Theatre White Horse Rd

White Horse pub in White Horse Rd

White Horse pub in White Horse Rd

Just before reaching Commercial Road, there is a beautifully renovated neo-classical building that houses the Half Moon Theatre (founded 1972), now a children’s theatre. Between 1862, when it was built, and ’64, this building was the ‘Limehouse District Board of Works Offices’. Opposite the theatre there is an old-fashioned, completely unspoilt, somewhat neglected, east-end pub, the White Horse. This is a good place to sit down, rest your feet, and chat with the locals whilst sipping a drink. When I was there, three elderly men were passing the afternoon drinking a series of cans of beer, the pumps for draught beer having run dry. At this point, you need to decide whether you have had enough, or wish to continue exploring, as described below.

Retrace your steps to the ruined Baptist College, cross Stepney Green, and then head for Rectory Square.

Former East London Synagogue now Temple Court

Former East London Synagogue now Temple Court

Foundation stone of former East London Synagogue now Temple Court

Foundation stone of former East London Synagogue now Temple Court

Air raid shelter marking on Former East London Synagogue now Temple Court

Air raid shelter marking on Former East London Synagogue now Temple Court

A block of flats built with yellowish bricks, Temple Court, has a white foundation stone dated 1876 with carved letters both in English and in Hebrew scripts. Built as the ‘East London Synagogue’, it was designed by Messrs Davis and Emanuel, who also designed the Stepney Jewish School. The United Synagogue organization built it with the aim of encouraging newly arrived Jewish immigrants to follow Anglo-Jewish traditions, rather than to continue their eastern European practices. In 1997, the synagogue, which had fallen into disuse, was converted into flats. To the east of the building, surrounded by a luxuriant garden, there is a Victorian building called “The Rectory”, which was already built in the 1870s.

Beaumont Square

Beaumont Square

Bangla script in  Beaumont Square

Bangla script in Beaumont Square

Site of former Jewish Maternity Hospital Beaumont Square

Site of former Jewish Maternity Hospital Beaumont Square

From the former synagogue, follow White Horse Lane northwards, and enter Beaumont Square with its attractive central gardens open to the public. Some of the council flats surrounding it have public notices both in English and Bengali. At the north-west corner of the square, there is a modern building, ‘BMI The London Independent Hospital’. This stands on the site of the London Jewish Hospital, which was established to assist the local mainly Yiddish-speaking population (see: http://ezitis.myzen.co.uk/londonjewish.html). It functioned between 1919 and 1979. It had kitchens for preparing Kosher food. In 1956, a synagogue designed by Sigmund Freud’s son Ernest (1892-1970) was installed within the hospital. In 1979, the hospital was demolished and replaced by the present establishment.

Alice Model Nursery School Beaumont Grove

Alice Model Nursery School Beaumont Grove

Alice Model Nursery School Beaumont Grove

Alice Model Nursery School Beaumont Grove

Phyylis Gerson House Beaumont Grove

Phyylis Gerson House Beaumont Grove

Alice Model (née Sichel; 1856-1943) was born into a prosperous Hampstead Jewish family. She was a descendant of the 18th century German banker Benedict Goldschmidt. A leader of the Union of Jewish Women, she was a philanthropist known for her work in family welfare. A nursery school in Beaumont Grove is named after her. It is the descendant of a nursery school for children from all backgrounds, which Alice founded nearby in 1901. The present school was opened in 1956. A little to the north of the school, stands the architecturally unexceptional Phyllis Gerson House, which looks more like a factory administration building than what it is: the Stepney Jewish Day Centre. Phyllis (1903-1990) devoted much of her time to running the Stepney Jewish B’nai Brith Girls Club and Settlement. During WW2, whilst a member of the committee of Jewish Relief Abroad, she visited many countries including Albania, where the local population protected Jews from the Nazi invaders.

Stepney Green Station

Stepney Green Station

Half Moon Mile End Road

Half Moon Mile End Road

Islamic education centre Mile End Rd

Islamic education centre Mile End Rd

Beaumont Grove leads back into Mile End Road opposite Stepney Green Station, a low brick building with a tiled roof, which was opened in 1902. East of this, there is the Half Moon pub, which is housed in a brick and stone fronted building that could easily be mistaken for a theatre, which is what it used to be. In 1979, this disused Methodist chapel became the second home of the Half Moon Theatre (see above). A few yards further east, there is an Islamic learning centre, the Mazahirul Uloom London. This is next to the covered entrance to Mile End Place.

Mile End Place

Mile End Place

Mile End Place and trees of Alderney Rd Cemetery

Mile End Place and trees of Alderney Rd Cemetery

Hidden from the main road, the Place contains rows of two-storey homes with picturesque front gardens. This charming domesticated cul-de-sac ends at a high brick wall beyond which the tops of trees can be seen. They are growing in the Alderney Road Cemetery (see below).

Albert Stern Hse Mile End Rd

Albert Stern Hse Mile End Rd

Albert Stern Hse Mile End Rd

Albert Stern Hse Mile End Rd

Albert Stern Hse Mile End Rd

Albert Stern Hse Mile End Rd

A few yards east, we reach an elegant four storey brick and stone house set slightly back from the pavement. This is Albert Stern House, which was built in 1912 on a plot that had been previously occupied by a Sephardic Jewish hospital for women that had been established in 1665. Now a home for the aged, this building backs onto the Old (‘Velho’) Portuguese Jewish Cemetery that is completely hidden from the streets surrounding it.

Hidden Jewish cemeteries from the air

Hidden Jewish cemeteries from the air

Alderney Rd Cemetery wall

Alderney Rd Cemetery wall

Alderney Rd Cemetery

Alderney Rd Cemetery

Alderney Rd Cemetery through the letter box flap

Alderney Rd Cemetery through the letter box flap

Retracing our footsteps along Mile End Road, which is about one mile in length, we reach Globe Road, and follow it to Alderney Road. A high blank wall with a single locked door runs along part of this road. Notices by the door read “Please do not feed the foxes” and “Beware guard dogs”. The wall conceals the Alderney Road Cemetery, an Ashkenazi Jewish burial ground used from 1696 until 1852. By peeking through the letter box on the door, I could just manage to see the bases of several upright tombstones typical of Ashkenazi burial practices.

Bancroft Rd Cemetery

Bancroft Rd Cemetery

Bancroft Rd Cemetery

Bancroft Rd Cemetery

Mile End Hospital

Mile End Hospital

There is another Ashkenazi Jewish cemetery in nearby Bancroft Road. This is surrounded by a wrought-iron fence that allows views of the few remaining gravestones still standing. This cemetery was used between 1810 and the 1920s. A few yards south of the cemetery, we reach the buildings of Mile End Hospital. The main building with white stone-trimmed gables was opened as the ‘Mile End Infirmary’ in 1883 on the site of a former ‘workhouse’ (see: https://www.bartshealth.nhs.uk/mile-end-our-history). During WW1, the hospital was used by military authorities, who considerably improved its facilities. In 1930, the hospital, which had 550 beds, was taken over by the London County Council. Since 2012, it has been part of the Barts Health NHS Trust.

Tower Hamlets Local History Library Bancroft Rd

Tower Hamlets Local History Library Bancroft Rd

Neighbouring the hospital grounds, there is a grand building on Bancroft Road with pilasters and round-arched windows, which houses the Tower Hamlets Local History Library. This building began life in 1865 when it was built to house the Vestry Hall (a ‘Vestry’ was the committee responsible for both the secular and ecclesiastical administration of a parish; its ‘Hall’ was a place for local community activities). In 1905, the building became a public library (see: https://www.kocarchitects.com/bancroft-road-library). In 2008, there were plans to sell the library, and to incorporated it with its neighbour Queen Mary’s University (‘QMU’). This would have risked dispersing the library’s valuable collection of archives. Fortunately, the plan was defeated following protests by local people as well as ‘the great and good’.

Bancroft Road joins with Mile End Road after passing beneath The School of Engineering, a part of QMU. Immediately east of this is the former New Peoples Palace.

The Peoples Palace

The Peoples Palace

The Peoples Palace

The Peoples Palace

The Peoples Palace

The Peoples Palace

Built in 1937 (architects: Campbell Jones, Sons and Smithers), its white stone façade is decorated with bas-relief sculptures by Eric Gill (1882-1940). These illustrate the kinds of activities that used to be performed within the hall, such as music, drama, and boxing. The Palace, now part of QMU, was built on the site of part of an older ‘Peoples Palace’ that was built between 1886 and 1892 to provide East-enders with “intellectual improvement and rational recreation” (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1393150). It was destroyed by fire in 1931. Inside the entrance to the building there is a large stone memorial to John Thomas Barber Beaumont (1774-1841). This man, an army officer, artist, and a philanthropist, made his fortune in the insurance business. In about 1840, he founded Beaumont Philosophical Institution in Mile End. This was administered by the Beaumont Trust, which later financed the building of the original Peoples Palace. The Trust was also one of the group responsible for the establishment of a forerunner QMU, which became part of the University of London early in the 20th century. In 1934, the college acquired its present name and its charter of incorporation, which was presented by Queen Mary (1867-1953) in person.

Beaumont Monument in  The Peoples Palace

Beaumont Monument in The Peoples Palace

The Queens Building Mile End Rd

The Queens Building Mile End Rd

The former Peoples Palace is next to the Queen’s Building, whose neo-classical facade resembles that of an old-fashioned grand hotel. The façade is all that remains of the first People’s Palace, which was opened by Queen Victoria in 1887. The building was designed by Edward Robert Robson (1836-1917). The free-standing clock tower was built in 1890. Today, the Queen’s Building is used for administration and for teaching.

Silvermans Mile End Rd

Silvermans Mile End Rd

The Bancroft Arms pub (in business by 1844) across the Mile End Road stands next to an elegant brick and stone warehouse belonging to Silvermans. Established at the very end of the 19th century by the Jewish Mr Silverman, this store has been supplying clothing for military and police personnel, as well as other protective and safety equipment, ever since then. The Royal Warrant for supplying footwear to HM Armed Forces is proudly displayed on the warehouse. The firm has a shop close-by on Mile End Road.

large_STEP_7c_Cl..ary_College.jpg caption  Clement Attlee at Qu Mary UbiversityDaniel Mendoza at Qu Mary University

Daniel Mendoza at Qu Mary University

A pathway leads north between the Queen’s Building and buildings east of it, and then right through a space in an old wall, to an open space. This contains a statue of the former Labour Prime Minister Clement Attlee (1883-1867), holding a book in his right hand. Behind him to his left, there is a plaque with a bas-relief depicting a boxer. It is attached to the brick wall of the Mile End Library. The boxer being commemorated is David Mendoza (1764-1836). Of Portuguese-Jewish descent, Mendoza was boxing champion of England between 1792 and 1795. After 1795, he diversified his activities, made money and spent it, and died impoverished. One of his great-great-grandsons was the film star Peter Sellers (1925-1980), who hung portraits of the boxer in the backgrounds of some of his films.

Novo Cemetery

Novo Cemetery

Novo Cemetery

Novo Cemetery

Close to the plaque but on the other side of the building to which it is attached, there is a large rectangular open space containing horizontal gravestones typical of Sephardic Jewish burial practises. This is the Novo (i.e. ‘New’) Cemetery established in about 1733 (on an old orchard) when the nearby Velho cemetery had become filled up. The newer cemetery was closed in 1936 when it too had become fully occupied. In 2012, QMU in conjunction with The Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Congregation preserved the cemetery to make it a place to reflect on the history of the immigrant Jewish people who contributed much to the development of modern London.

Novo Cemetery

Novo Cemetery

Novo Cemetery

Novo Cemetery

Novo Cemetery

Novo Cemetery

The cemetery is well-maintained. Some of the stones are cracked, but on most of them it is possible to read the names of the deceased. These include Portuguese surnames such as De Pinto, Fonseca, Lindo, and Carvalho. There are several very small gravestones marking the burial sites of babies or infants. One of these marks the grave of Edmund Julian Sebag-Montefiore, a short-lived member of a prominent Jewish family, which came from Morocco and Italy. A series of oxidised metal screens separates the burial ground from a footpath that runs along its southern edge. Near this, there is a circular hemispherical stone hand-basin with a metal cup attached to it with a chain. This is either a drinking fountain, or, more likely, a place that visitors to the cemetery can wash their hands after visiting it, as prescribed by Jewish tradition.

Mile End Lock

Mile End Lock

Returning from the cemetery to Mile End Road, it is a short walk eastwards to a bridge from which the Regents Canal and its Mile End Lock (8 miles along the canal from Paddington Basin) can be viewed. The canal separates QMU from Mile End Park.

Guardian Angels RC Church Mile End Rd

Guardian Angels RC Church Mile End Rd

Walking further east along the mile End Road, we pass the red brick gothic-style Guardian Angels Roman Catholic Church (see: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1088079). Opened in 1903, its architect was the Scottish-born Frederick Arthur Walters (1849-1931). He designed over fifty Roman Catholic churches, and was a follower of the architectural ideas of Augustus Pugin, who assisted in the design of the present palace of Westminster.

The Green Bridge Mile End Rd

The Green Bridge Mile End Rd

On The Green Bridge Mile End Rd

On The Green Bridge Mile End Rd

Mile End Park

Mile End Park

The so-called Green Bridge, which is painted yellow, carries the linear (long and thin) Mile End Park over Mile End Road. The name of the bridge, designed by Piers Gough, becomes clear when you are on it. It carries the parkland (lawns and paths) across the busy thoroughfare beneath it. The park is about 1,155 yards in length and at its width varies from 210 yards down to 65 yards. Built on industrial land destroyed by bombing in WW2, and then destined for recreational use, the parkland was only properly developed in about 2000.

Mile End Station from The Green Bridge

Mile End Station from The Green Bridge

From the Green Bridge, Mile End Underground Station (opened in 1902), where this exploration ends, can be seen to the east.

Colmar Close near Alderney Street

Colmar Close near Alderney Street

Walking through Stepney, we follow in the footsteps of the Jewish people, who sought refuge in London following their flight from persecution in Eastern Europe and Russia. Most of the Jews have left the area, many of them having moved out many years ago to leafier suburbs in outer London. Their place has been taken by people, who originated far further east than the Jews: the Bangladeshis. Although there have been people from Bengal in London since the 1870s, a large wave of people from Bangladesh settled in London and other cities in the UK in the 1970s. Many of the London Bangladeshis now live in the Borough of Tower Hamlets that includes the parts of Stepney described above. Like the Jews who have moved from commerce into the professions, the Bangladeshis are following in their footsteps. Who can tell whether, one day, like their Jewish predecessors, they will also leave the East End, and then, one wonders, who will succeed them? Will it be a further wave of immigrants, or, as has happened in formerly impoverished areas like Clerkenwell and Dalston, will it be young professionals seeking an exciting ‘edgy’ lifestyle close to the centre of London?

Sweet shop in  Whitechapel Rd

Sweet shop in Whitechapel Rd

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 08:31 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged jewish bangladesh cemeteries jews bangladeshis stepney tower_hamlets Comments (1)

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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