Friday, 13 January 2012

Rough Guide.2

Presently, Brick Lane is well known for the many curry houses and the Bangladeshi-Sylheti community that occupy the street. In the past it has been famous for a variety of other reasons such as brewing, brick and tile manufacture (from which Brick Lane got it’s name) and links with textile weaving.

During the 1600’s, brewing came to Brick Lane. One of the first recorded brewers located here was Joseph Truman in 1683 who went on to create what is now known as the Old Truman Brewery, formerly the Black Eagle Brewery. The brewery buildings have now been redeveloped and are home to over 250 businesses from art galleries to retail shops and restaurants. The huge brewery chimney still remains erected to this day. Just walking around Brick Lane you find out information about the history of the area, for example one of the buildings used to be home to the anti-slavery campaigner Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton. On the same wall of the building you can also find present day street art, of which Brick Lane is filled with and is a notable attraction for tourists as well as residents.

The master weavers were based in Spitalfields in the 17th Century, whilst refugees from there spread to Brick Lane which eventually became a centre for weaving, tailoring and the clothing industry as the many semi and unskilled immigrants provided useful labour. Even in present day, clothing is the main attraction for people visiting Brick Lane. There’s an abundance of vintage clothing shops and markets which have been one of the reasons this part of East London has gathered a reputation in the past few years for it’s interesting and at times unusual street style.

Other attractions in Brick Lane include the Bagel Shop, which is famous for producing the best bagels and almost always has queues leading outside of the shop, and the nightlife. Speaking to a student who often goes to bars in and around Brick Lane in the evenings, I was told that it gets really busy; especially with lots of students, and that the atmosphere is one of a kind.

The three items I’ve found around our chosen area include a shirt, a book and a toy. The shirt I found in a vintage store called Beyond Retro, made of cotton and denim; it has a pattern of the American Flag’s stars and stripes. The denim and coloured areas are faded slightly which gives it a nostalgic feeling of summer. Being in a vintage store, it makes the shirt a bit more ‘special’ than being found in a regular high street/department store because you know that it has a history to it and you won’t be able to find it anywhere else.

My next object is a book I bought from Spitalfield Market for only £1. It is a hardback copy of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and it feels and smells very old. There isn’t a publishing date but I researched the publishing company, Cassell and Company LTD ( which was founded in 1848, and although it doesn’t specify, it says they reprinted classic works in stiff covers or cloth bound between 1881-1890, So I’m guessing that this copy of Treasure Island was published around that time. I ‘m always fascinated by old objects and the idea that so many people have used/held/enjoyed the same thing from complete different lives and backgrounds. On the first page it has writing of the names of people it’s belonged to in the past – ‘Eddie Bell Form I4’ and ‘E.U.Miles’, which both seem to be written a very long time ago. I’m surprised this was only £1 from the market, if you put in a museum or gallery behind some glass, it would become a priceless bit of history.

My final object was something I came across in the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. It was a clockwork mechanism that made two doll-like figures appear to dance, I was intrigued by how it was crafted but also the fact that it could be deemed as racist. If this was on a shelf not in a museum but in a shop, it would probably be taken down due to causing racial offence as it was based on the black slaves in the USA, who were exploited for the sake of entertainment.

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