Brick Lane is a long street in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, in the East End of London. The street runs from Bethnal Green in the north, passes through Spitalfields and is linked to Whitechapel High Street to the south by the short stretch of Osborn Street. Today, it is the heart of the city's Sylheti Bangladeshi community, and is sometimes known as Banglatown.
Winding through fields, the street was formerly Whitechapel Lane, but derives its current name from former brick and tile manufacture, using the local brick earth deposits, that began in the 15th century. By the 17th century, the street was being built up from the south. Successive waves of immigration began with Huguenot refugees spreading from Spitalfields, where the master weavers were based, in the 17th century. They were followed by Irish weavers, Ashkenazi Jews and, in the last century, Bangladeshis. The area became a centre for weaving, tailoring and the clothing industry, due to the abundance of semi- and unskilled immigrant labour.
In 1742, La Neuve Eglise a Huguenot chapel was built on the corner of Brick Lane and Fournier Street. By 1809, it had become The Jews’ Chapel, for promoting Christianity to the expanding Jewish population, and became a Methodist Chapel in 1819 (John Wesley having preached his first covenant sermon at the nearby Black Eagle Street Chapel). In 1898, the building was consecrated as the Machzikei HaDath, or Spitalfields Great Synagogue. In 1976, it became the London Jamme Masjid mosque to serve the expanding Bangladeshi community. Brewing came to Brick Lane before 1680, with water drawn from deep wells. One brewer was Joseph Truman, who is first recorded in 1683, but his family, particularly Benjamin Truman, went on to establish the sizeable Black Eagle Brewery on Brick Lane.
The Brick Lane Market, developed in the 17th century for fruit and vegetables, sold outside the city. The Sunday market, like the ones on Petticoat Lane and nearby Columbia Road, dates from a dispensation given to the Jewish community.
In the 20th century the Brick Lane area was important in the second wave of development of Anglo-Indian cuisine, as families from countries such as Bangladesh (mainly the Greater Sylhet region) migrated to London to look for work. The curry houses of Brick Lane are known for their cheap and cheerful food, (often the curry house itself will not sell alcohol as most are run by Muslims). More recently the area has also broadened to being a vibrant art and fashion student area, with considerable exhibition space. Each year most of the fine art and fashion courses exhibit their work near Brick Lane.
Bengalis in the United Kingdom settled in big cities with industrial employment. In London Bengali's settled in the East End. For centuries the East End has been the first port of call for many immigrants working in the docks and shipping from east Bengal. Their regular stopover paved the way for food/curry outlets to be opened up catering for an all male workforce as family migration and settlement took place some decades later. Humble beginnings such as this gave birth to the famous curry capital of the UK, Brick Lane. Curry is eaten in almost all part of the Indian Sub-Continent and outside, namely India Bangladesh and Pakistan, it has its varying degrees of style, taste and aroma, depending on local ingredients used. Bengalis of Sylheti origin makeup only 10% of all South Asians in Britain however around 90% of all Indian restaurants in the UK are Sylheti/Bengali owned displaying the preference British and western customers have for food of that region.
It has also been, since the late 1990s, the site of several of the city's best known night clubs, notably 93 Feet East and The Vibe Bar, both built on the site of The Old Truman Brewery, once the industrial centre of the area, now an office and entertainment complex.
Nearby buildings of interest include Christ Church, Spitalfields, The Jamme Masjid or Great London Mosque on the corner of Fournier Street, and the head office of Habitat on Princelet Street.
Brick Lane is world famous for its graffiti which features artists such as Banksy, D*Face and Ben Eine The lane has been used in many music videos such as "Glory Days" by Just Jack and "All These Things That I've Done" by The Killers.
The nearest tube station is currently Aldgate East. A campaign has been launched to change the name of the station to "Brick Lane" by 2012, but this has no official support.