Brick Lane, Part 6, the Jamme Masjid

Today, Brick Lane still meanders along in the path of old Whitechapel Lane, linking Whitechapel, Spitalfields and Bethnal Green.

Jamme Masjid
Jamme Masjid

Brick Lane’s Huguenot past reflects in street names like Fournier and Weaver and in the last few Georgian town houses. Fashion Street and Petticoat Lane recall Jewish tailors and seamstresses. Their sweatshops and factories live again as million dollar apartments. The first Bangladeshi piece workers who toiled in those sweatshops and factories  have left their legacy in Banglatown.

Nothing, however,  tells Brick Lane’s story more eloquently than the austere brick building on the corner of Fournier Street. In 1976 it became the Jamme Masjid, the Great London Mosque. Under the sun dial on its plain façade a Latin inscription reads “Umbra Sumus”, “We are shadows”. Chase the shadows back across the centuries – to 1898 when this was the Machzikei HaDath, the Spitalfields Great Synagogue, to1819 when it was a Methodist Chapel, to 1809 it when was the Jews Christian Chapel, to its beginning, in 1742, as the Protestant Huguenots’ Neuve Eglise.

On the pavement in front of the Mosque is a postscript, or perhaps a final chapter, to the tale, a roundel, inset with a globe. There is the world of races, cultures and religions which, over the years, have built today’s fascinating, multi-cultural, creative Brick Lane.