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Saturday, April 24, 1999 Published at 19:14 GMT 20:14 UK


Historic home of immigrants

Asian community in London's East End

Wave after wave of immigrants have flocked to Brick Lane, a traditionally deprived area of east London.

Huguenots - French Protestants fleeing religious persecution - arrived in Brick Lane in the 17th century.

In 1724 Ben Truman established the Black Eagle Brewery at the junction with Hanbury Street. The brewery is closed now but the Trumans brand remains.

Dracula author Bram Stoker, presumably down on his luck, stayed in nearby Chicksand Street on his return to Britain from Transylvania.

The Huguenots gradually moved onwards and upwards and were replaced around the turn of the century by an influx of Jews, again fleeing persecution in Russia and eastern Europe.

Jack the Ripper territory

They arrived to find a slum of narrow alleyways and courtyards - several of Jack the Ripper's victims lived and died in the area - into which about a million people were crowded.

More Jews arrived from Germany during Hitler's reign but they prospered and many moved out to other parts of London.

Vestiges of the Jewish community remain, such as a 24-hour bagel bakery.

In the 1920s the area began to see a new wave of immigrants, overwhelmingly Bengali seamen and their families.

More came in the 1960s and 1970s as civil war and political violence damaged their homeland. By the late 1970s the area had been transformed and the rising tension between Bangladeshis and whites often broke into violence.

Conflict with NF

In 1979 the Anti-Nazi League succeeded in closing down a National Front office which had set up in Brick Lane.

But by the 1990s racial tensions had died down and police and council leaders said community relations were good. The area had recently been renamed Bangla Town.

Brick Lane has even become de rigeur among young professionals and City folk looking for a cheap London property.

The Guardian's architecture correspondent, Jonathan Glancey, said last year thre was a danger of Brick Lane becoming "embourgeoised", like Battersea and Notting Hill before it.

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