7 Interesting Facts About Brick Lane

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 10 months ago
7 Interesting Facts About Brick Lane
The intersection of Brick Lane and Hanbury Street. Photo: Louis Berk

1.Why's it called Brick Lane?

We've covered this one before. In the 16th century, the ground in the area was discovered to be full of clay, useful for creating bricks and tiles. After the Great Fire of London, demand for bricks increased. A kiln was installed at the northern end of the road, and bricks were transported down the length of the street to Whitechapel Road.

These days, Brick Lane tends to refer to the wider area around the thoroughfare, not just the street itself.

2. The other brewery

You probably know about Truman's Brewery (let's face it, you can't miss that chimney) — but did you know that the Brick Lane area used to be home to another brewery?

Next to the Pride of Spitalfields pub on Heneage street is this door:

What is now a house used to be home to Turner & Sons brewery. The pub was the brewery tap. Read more about the brewery here.

3. Lion cub for sale

Brick Lane is known for its diverse market, but it used to be arguable even more exotic. In the 1950s-1970s, an animal market ran from Club Row to Sclater Street. It began as a dog and bird market, but was also selling goats, snakes, monkeys... and even lion cubs. Photographer Markéta Luskačová famously captured this image of a lion cub and a dog on Club Row market.

The RSPCA closed the market down in the 1980s, after receiving thousands of complaints.

Read more about London's unusual and exotic pets.

4. A chapel, a synagogue and a mosque

The building in 2010, with the Minaret outside. Photo: Louis Berk

Nowhere is Brick Lane's mixed history more evident than in the building at 59 Brick Lane, currently known as Brick Lane Mosque (or Brick Lane Jamme Masjid).

Since being built in 1743 it has functioned as a Huguenot chapel, a Methodist church, a Jewish Synagogue, and has been a mosque since 1976, when much of the area's Jewish community relocated to north London.

Today, the building is Grade II* listed. The school next to the mosque used to function as the vestry when the building was the Neuve Eglise church.

5. Brick Lane station

Photo: scootsterg

These days, you're best off alighting at Shoreditch High Street station for the northern end of Brick Lane, or Aldgate East station for the southern. There's not Brick Lane station — but there could have been.

In 2006, there was a campaign, led by a local councillor, to have Aldgate East station renamed as Brick Lane station. Abdul Ullah wanted the name change to happen before the London 2012 Olympics, claiming businesses in the area were missing out on trade, as visitors had difficulty finding the famous street. The campaign wasn't successful, and Aldgate East lives on. Perhaps a certain purveyor of plastic bricks could be persuaded to sponsor the name change, like this.

6. Not a fairy tale

The cover of the film adaptation of the novel.

Monica Ali's 2003 novel Brick Lane was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, but not everyone was a fan. The Bangladeshi community, particularly those from the Sylhet region, believed the novel had portrayed them as unsophisticated and uneducated.

Production of the 2007 film adaptation of the novel further fuelled tensions, with local protests (although the extent and ferocity of such protests is debatable). Producers eventually decided to film the Brick Lane scenes elsewhere, rather than on location as originally planned.

7. The music hall that isn't where it should be

Brick Lane Music Hall: not in Brick Lane. Photo: Richardr

Brick Lane Music Hall puts on music and dance shows, pantomimes, and the like. But it's 8km away from Brick Lane, residing, in fact, in Docklands.

The venue first opened on the eponymous street in 1991, in a stable in the Old Truman Brewery. A 1995 article in The Stage newspaper reported plans to move to a former button factory on Curtain Road, half a mile away. In February 2001, it was forced out of these premises due to rising rents, and relocated to St Mark's Church in Silvertown, its current premises.

Last Updated 31 January 2017