Secret London: Have You Spotted These Historic Discs Around Spitalfields?

By M@ Last edited 88 months ago

Last Updated 10 February 2017

Secret London: Have You Spotted These Historic Discs Around Spitalfields?
Beer mugs outside the old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane.

A walk around Spitalfields is always rewarding. The curious mind can learn so much by paying close attention to the buildings, the stall holders, the passers-by, the street art or the rooftops. But how many of us take the trouble to study the stones beneath our feet?

Fruity delights near the old Spitalfields fruit market.

These metal discs can be found all over the wider Spitalfields area. Each contains a motif plucked from Spitalfields's history.

A nod to the local Victorian match girls on Hanbury Street.

The discs resemble coal hole covers — metal features which can still be found all over the older parts of London. They mark the location of coal chutes, which were once used by delivery men to pour coal from the roadside down into the cellars.

A hand with henna stencils, on Brick Lane.

The Spitalfields discs are more recent. Each is the work of Keith Bowler, a local sculptor. The artist made 25 roundels in total, as part of a 1995 cultural festival.

Another roundel from Brick Lane references the local clothes making industry.

About half of the discs have since gone missing, partly thanks to insensitive pavement replacement. Those that remain depict local industries and episodes from history. They are a joy to track down.

On Princelet Street, a musical roundel recalls a former Jewish theatre on the site.
Another roundel that looks like it's commemorating the local weaving industry. On Puma Court.
We're not sure what exactly this represents but you'll find it on Fournier Street.

The ever-superb Spitalfields Life has an interview with Bowler from 2010.
All photos by the author.