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Today approximately 300,000 Bengalis live in Britain, most of whom originate from - page 7 / 9





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London Jamme Masjid (19), Brick Lane Mosque (59) is housed in a building where worship has taken place by different faiths for 250 years. It was built by French-speaking Protestant Huguenot refugees who named it La Neuve Eglise, (the New Church) in 1743.  High above, on the Fournier Street side of the building is the sundial bearing the mournful Latin message umbra sumus – “we are shadow”. A Methodist Church from 1819, it became an orthodox Jewish Synagogue in 1898.

In 1976 it became East London’s second mosque where Muslims pray to Allah.  The building houses a religious school on the first floor. On Fridays piles of shoes of the faithful spill out onto the steps from the large prayer hall on the ground floor. Continue along Brick Lane to Hanbury Street, turn left at the junction.

At 30 Hanbury Street is the Kobi Nazrul Centre (20), a Bengali arts centre founded in 1982 and opened by Lord Fenner Brockway. Exhibitions, seminars, concerts and performing arts take place in the beautiful concert space upstairs.  The Centre is named after Kazi Nazrul Islam.

Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) is the national poet of Bangladesh. Most of his plays, poems, novels and songs were written between 1920-30.  The British administration in India jailed him during the Indian Independence struggle and banned some of his books.  A great humanist, he wrote against sectarianism, slavery, colonialism, and for social justice and women’s rights.

Turn back onto Brick Lane where the walk is completed at the sign of the Black Eagle (21), where Truman, Hanbury and Buxton made ale from the 17th Century, using the clean spring water and the skills of Huguenot brewers. The brewery closed in 1988. The Brewery buildings have now been converted into some of London’s hippest nightspots,

such as the trendy 93 Feet East (150) and the Vibe Bar (93).

Among the performers that you can see here are the homegrown Bengali underground music outfits such as Asian Dub Foundation, Joi, State of Bengal and Osmani Sounds and the young Asian talent explosion, the superb Nitin Sawhney and Talvin Singh.


1600 East India company founded

1614 First record of Bengali settlement in London

1617 Mughal Trade Treaty with East India Company

1757 Annexation of Bengal

1773 Norris Coffee House serves curry in Haymarket London

1801 First Lascars hostel

1802 The Ayah's home established in Aldgate

1895 M M Bhownaggree Asian MP for Bethnal Green

1920 First Indian restaurant in East London

1947 Indian independence and partition of India, Pakistan

1951 Pakistan Welfare Association founded

1971 Bangladesh liberation

1976 Jamme Masjid opened

1978 Altab Ali killed

1999 Brick Lane and surrounding area branded Banglatown

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