...his days are like a passing shadow." Psalm 144, v. 4.
There is a boarded-up, closed-for-business feel here, almost an attempt to turn back the casual tourist - this is not what you thought it was. Peering through the cracked hoardings into a deep excavation, the old foundations are revealed. Ms. Edna you would call this "doubly enticing".
On into ‘Banglatown’. Scents assault the senses - diesel, curry, hot coffee, bad drains.
I press on to 59 Brick Lane the building has a tiny Star of David emblem hidden on a down pipe that betrays the last great wave to sweep the area - Church became Synagogue, and in turn a great Mosque, one of London's largest, a symbol of change and continuity. Each successive community claimed it as its own, revealing the history of an area in one building.
Standing at the corner of Brick Lane and Fournier Street, a plain but gracious rectangular brick property with tall arched windows that lets the light flood in. Set high up on the wall is a vertical sundial with the above-mentioned Latin inscription, Umbra Sumus.
Originally intended as a reference not only to the workings of the sundial, but as a reminder that our life on earth is fleeting, the inscription has and added significance for this area, as waves of immigrants have arrived, thrived and then moved on.The building has had many names as each community established its own place of worship here-
1743 - La Neuve Eglise
William Hogarth, (The Four Times of the Day), ‘Noon’ (1738)
Spitalfields silk weavers winding and reeling thread, 1893 ©TopFoto.co.uk
1809 - The Jews’ Chapel
The London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews had four aims: to declare the Messiah ship of Jesus to Jews primarily but also to non-Jews; to endeavour to teach the Church its Jewish roots; to encourage the physical restoration of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel; and to encourage the Hebrew Christian/Messianic Jewish movement.
The Society failed to have a dramatic impact on the inhabitants of Brick Lane so they moved elsewhere and the building was taken over by Methodists in 1819.
1819 - Methodist Chapel
The Methodists already had a strong connection with this area of London. John Wesley himself had lived not far away on City Road and preached his first covenant sermon at the Black Eagle Street Chapel, just off Brick Lane. The simplicity and plainness of the building would no doubt have suited them well.
1897 – Machzikei Adass or Spitalfields Great Synagogue
This was an Independent Orthodox, later Federation Synagogue which had schoolrooms on the roof. There had been an influx of Yiddish-speaking Jews to the East End after the assassination of the Tsar of Russia in 1881 that resulted in pogroms across northern Europe.
Brick Lane was the heart of the shtetl and this was the principal synagogue of the area, open from dawn ‘till dusk. From the 1960s, the Jewish community dwindled, many moving to areas of north London such as Golders Green and Hendon (known as the bagel belt). The building closed for a short while before its next incarnation.
1976 - London Jamme Masjid