Promote Your Business | Become a Member | MyVillage Network | Areas we cover: UK and London | E-mail this page to a friend

Arts&Entertainment | Bars&Music | Restaurants | Shopping&Fashion | Health&Beauty | Celebs&Gossip | Competitions | Jobs&Careers

click here to bookmark this page | News & Community

News & Community - E: [email protected]
Feature: A brief history of Tower Hamlets by Lucy Dixon

The borough of Tower Hamlets gets its name from the Tower of London, built during the reign of William the Conqueror in the 11th century, and the small communities or hamlets that developed on the surrounding marshland.

The wet marshland was eventually drained over the years, allowing the people to build houses, which enabled communities and trade in the area to grow. By the 16th century, Tower Hamlets was an important location for many industries including metalworking and brick making, which were considered too noisy and dangerous to take place within the city boundaries.

New arrivals to a country often seem to settle within a few miles of their arrival point, and this pattern led many to form communities in the Tower Hamlets area, close to where their ship docked on the River Thames. The borough has a long history of welcoming people seeking refuge from persecution.

The mosque on the corner of Brick Lane and Fournier Street has an interesting and varied past and is a perfect example of the rich cultural history of Tower Hamlets as a whole. It was built in 1742 as a place of worship for the large Huguenot population that had arrived in the area. The Huguenots were Protestants escaping persecution from Catholic rule in their native France.

The Huguenots eventually moved on and in 1898, the building was consecrated as the Machzikei HaDath synagogue for the large East European Jewish community that had recently settled in Spitalfields. Up to 1914, the number of Jews recently arrived in Britain was approximately 100,000, which was the biggest immigrant community since the large influx of Irish in the 1840s. The new Jewish population brought many new skills and abilities to the area, as had the Huguenots before them. Some of the businesses sets up by the Jewish community included steam baths, wig makers, Yiddish theatres and libraries. The Jewish flavour is still in evidence today in the 24-hour beigel shop on Brick Lane.

The Bangladeshi people that started to arrive in the area in large numbers in the 1960s, before aviation became more accessible, also arrived by boat and settled in Tower Hamlets. By this time the Jewish settlers had moved on, as had the Huguenots before them, and the synagogue on Brick Lane became a mosque to serve the new Bangladeshi community. The population today is still predominantly Bangladeshi and the area has been dubbed Banglatown. The market in Brick Lane developed during the 18th century so that farmers could sell their produce outside the city boundaries. Today the bustling market offers shoppers wide choice goods including vegetables, fruit and clothes. The huge variety of restaurants has given Brick Lane the reputation as the curry capital of London.

Read more on the Tower Hamlets Council website