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‘Extend Brick Lane to Whitechapel Road’ plan by Tower Hamlets Council

PUBLISHED: 17:03 05 November 2020 | UPDATED: 15:38 07 November 2020

Whitechapel's Osborn Street... Tower Hamlets Council wants this bit renamed 'Lower Brick Lane'. Picture: LBTH

Whitechapel's Osborn Street... Tower Hamlets Council wants this bit renamed 'Lower Brick Lane'. Picture: LBTH

LBTH

Town Hall bosses want to extend the iconic Brick Lane down to the Whitechapel Road and install some “wayfinding” to help you get a purchase on it.

How Google sees it... plain old Osborn Street, with its rubbish, but no graffiti.How Google sees it... plain old Osborn Street, with its rubbish, but no graffiti.

A plan is published online today from Tower Hamlets Council to improve street signs and add a splash of colour.

This ancient lane winds from Whitechapel up to Bethnal Green where brick kilns in Tudor times were in what were once green fields, from where the thoroughly narrow thoroughfare gets its name.

The town hall wants to extend Brick Lane going south, beyond the ‘Banglatown Arch’ on the corner of Wentworth Street and Old Montague Street, right down to the A11 Whitechapel Road itself, adding what it calls “wayfinding” signs to find your way through the maze of back streets.

What attracts most tourists to Brick Lane... the 'Curry Mile'. Picture: Mike BrookeWhat attracts most tourists to Brick Lane... the 'Curry Mile'. Picture: Mike Brooke

That stretch has always been called Osborn Street where the old Whitechapel electricity generating station and the Osborn garage used to be years ago.

This often foxed tourists emerging from the Underground looking for “The Lane”, not realising you have to walk along Osborn Street first, before coming face-to-face with the Banglatown Arch that marks the real start of Brick Lane.

“This is one of our most historic neighbourhoods,” mayor John Biggs would tell those tourists, perhaps pointing to the arch. “The much-needed investment makes Brick Lane more attractive.”

Brick Lane's Banglatown Arch... in need of some TLC after three decades of rust and stuff. Picture: LBTHBrick Lane's Banglatown Arch... in need of some TLC after three decades of rust and stuff. Picture: LBTH

The “investment” would include street lighting to help Brick Lane’s “high street businesses”, those these are technically not in Whitechapel High Street itself, if anyone had told the town hall.

Public consultations are now under way, including whether to rename Osborn Street “Lower Brick Lane” and refurbish the rusting arch after three decades.

There would be more greenery, seats and “wayfinding” signs like the orange one they want splashed on the tarmac telling outsiders “You are now on Lower Brick Lane” approaching the arch like Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie during the Cold War.

Back in the day... How Brick Lane thrived in Edwardian times, with its large Jewish community. Picture: Tower Hamlets ArchivesBack in the day... How Brick Lane thrived in Edwardian times, with its large Jewish community. Picture: Tower Hamlets Archives

Businesses are facing some of the toughest conditions in generations, the town hall admits. The lockdown doesn’t help.

The council’s lead member for economic growth, Motin Uz-Zaman, is adamant: “We want to make Brick Lane a great destination for visitors and more pleasant for the community.”

The Brick Lane plans have gone online for public comment.

Even fabled unicorns eventually find their way to Brick Lane... honest!  Picture: Truman's Old BreweryEven fabled unicorns eventually find their way to Brick Lane... honest! Picture: Truman's Old Brewery

The move comes just a week after the Spitalfields Forum, now joined by TV’s famous architectural expert Dan Cruickshank, submitted its Neighgbourhood Plan for the future of the ancient parish with Brick Lane at its ground zero.

The forum’s southern boundary, ironically, is right on the spot where the arch tells you that Brick Lane starts here—just like Checkpoint Charlie.


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