Today approximately 300,000 Bengalis live in Britain, most of whom originate from Bangladesh, from the region of Sylhet in the north east of the country. Other Bengalis come from West Bengal in India.
Tower Hamlets has a long tradition of welcoming immigrant populations from all over the world including huguenots in the 18th century and Jews in the 19th century. Now one third of the population in Tower Hamlets is Bengali, the largest Bengali community in the UK.
However many people are often not aware that Bengali people have lived in London for nearly 400 years. Early Bengali residents left few signs or buildings to mark their presence but some clues still remain. In 1616 for example the Mayor of London attended St Dionis Church in the City for the baptism of “Peter”, an East Indian from the Bay of Bengal, who had arrived in 1614 and whose ‘Christian’ name was chosen by James I.
The thriving streets of the modern East End of London offer a fascinating insight into the British Bengali community’s significant contribution to contemporary UK culture, from music and food, to politics and architecture.
Banglatown and the Bengali East End
Starting point St. Botolph’s, Aldgate
Finishing point Truman’s Brewery
Estimate time 1.5 hours
1 St Botolph’s Church
2 Jewry Street
3 East India House
4 Cutler Street
5 13 Sandy’s Row
6 Wentworth Street
7 Calcutta House
8 Toynbee Hall
9 Altab Ali Arch
10 Altab Ali Park
11 Shahid Minar, ‘Martyr’s Monument’
13 Sonali Bank
14 Brick Lane
16 Café Naz
17 Christ Church School
18 Bangladesh Welfare Association
19 London Jamme Masjid
20 Kobi Nazrul Centre
21 Black Eagle