At the beginning of Brick Lane, where it intersects with Bethnal Green Road, behind a forest of leaning bicycles, the fruit and vegetable market begins. It's not limited to fruits or veggies, however; vintage shops, Turkish eateries, hot bagels and sundry other things are on offer all night long. A man shouted into a black stocking cap shouts about the deliciousness of his tomatoes. Near him, another vendor hawks jackfruit. There's a sense of traversing the globe at lightning speed.
Brick Lane got its name from its location - this is where clay was quarried to make bricks, the quality of the clay so high that it was noted even by the ancient Romans. As this area was once outside the city walls, it was home to a string of noisy and noxious industries like brick kilns and paint producers. When the Great Fire destroyed London in the 17th century, the kilns of Brick Lane produced the bricks that rebuilt much of it. The area has been multinational from its beginnings, since immigrants often came here. In the 18th century it was the Huguenots, who wove silk. Some of the street names survive from that period - Fournier Street, Petticoat Lane and Calvin Street, for example. In the 19th and 20th centuries the area had a large Jewish population, and later the neighbourhood drew Bangladeshis, who now make up about 37% of the population. Baishaki Mela, the Bengali New Year, is celebrated here, and the area has now been given the name Banglatown.
The East End's unique cultural mixture is the product of wars, fires, unrest and economic crises around the world. Today the area is also home to many people from Eastern Europe. A symbol of the perpetual change here is the house of worship at the corner of Brick Lane and Fournier Street. Built in 1742 as a Huguenot church, it became a Methodist chapel and then a Jewish synagogue. In 1976 it was again transformed - it's now Jaame Masjid, the Brick Lane mosque. Brick Lane also has a sinister connection - this is the neighbourhood where Jack the Ripper chose his victims. Those who have an interest in that dark history should consult www.jack-the-ripper-tours.com for tours that follow the notorious murderer's footsteps.
On Sundays, Brick Lane is packed. The market fades into a gigantic outdoor eatery of sorts, and around the Old Truman Brewery the immigrants' Brick Lane slowly but surely fades into trendy Brick Lane. The chimney of the brewery is visible long before you reach it. Founded in 1766, the brewers were once the largest in the world. After two centuries, the fall was precipitous - first the brewery was sold, and in 1989 it was closed. Thus the former industrial building became one of the creative centres of London. Fashion, design and other such industries can now be found here, under one roof. Various exhibits take place regularly, and on Sundays there's the Backyard Market, a platform for new designers. Truman Brewery's Food Hall, also open on Sundays, offers cuisine from pretty much every corner of the earth. You can sample cuisine from Poland, Malaysia, Morocco, Japan, Korea and many another country. The aromas are something of a cacophony, like the sounds of frying, bubbling and baking. The wooden tables around the great chimney are full of diners trying the different foods, and you can be certain that you've no need to plan another meal after coming here.
Keywords: London, market