A Knight’s Tale (58: Brick Lane)

I cannot write about the devastating day which led to the events that follow.

Lolesworth buildings, Thrawl Street

Jackie and I, sadly, parted in September 1972, and, for the first time, I left SW19/20 for East London, where I spent a month with Tony and Madeleine, at whose wedding in 1970 ‘The Bridesmaid’ photograph was taken.  I will never forget seeing, when bereft, and carrying a suitcase, I turned  into Lolesworth Buildings, Thrawl Street, Whitechapel, Madeleine standing on their top floor balcony beating a carpet hanging over the railings in the bright sunshine that caught the flying dust.  Tony tells me this building, c.1880, was demolished in 1979.

Thrawl Street stands off Brick Lane which, since the 18th Century, has received successive groups of immigrants. The French Huguenots fled to this part of London in the 1700s. Irish people and then Ashkenazi Jews followed in the 19th Century. In the later 20th century, Bangladeshi Bengalis from Sylhet comprised the major group of immigrants and gradually predominated in the area. Many Bengali immigrants to Brick Lane were from the Greater Sylhet region of what became Bangladesh.

During the month I lived there I ate almost daily at one of the two or three Bangladeshi men’s cafés. There was just one set meal of a curry and chapattis with a saucer of raw chillis on the side. The price was £1 and it is where I developed my taste for hot chilli. Opposite my favourite of these establishments stood the Brick Lane synagogue, which had begun life in 1743 as a Huguenot church. The building was acquired by the Jewish immigrant community in 1898 and, because of the decline in numbers on account of their moving to other parts of London, closed in 1973, the year after I was there. In 1975 it was sold again, to become a mosque.

Now known as Banglatown, Brick Lane and streets off it are packed with top class Bangladeshi restaurants. When I visited there with Sam and Holly in the early part of this century, we dived into any nearby one simply to avoid scouts sent by other restaurants to seek our custom.

Monica Ali’s excellent novel, Brick Lane, is based on a family of immigrants from the country of her birth, now living in London’s East End.

Before I knew him, Geoff Le Pard posted https://geofflepard.com/2014/06/30/upcycling-buildings-if-only-it-was-as-easy-with-people/ which covers this history in greater depth, and with more photographs. He has added this link to his comment on my post.


  1. Whatever occurred to pull you and Jackie asunder, I’m glad the two of you found each other again. I can’t imagine one of you without the other.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with nananoyz.

    Thanks for sharing a bit about Brick Lane and the area. It sounds like it’s had a fascinating history.
    I imagine those curries, peppers, and chapattis were very tasty.

  3. That opening sentence hit me quite hard. Our marital relationships can be so severely tested that many, including mine, do not survive “’til death do us part.” You don’t mention your children, so I’m assuming that Jackie left with them.

  4. Sometimes – oftentimes – what is left unsaid speaks volumes. Your opening sentence says all that it needs to and much more. Hugs, Derrick, to you and to Jackie. I’m so pleased you found your way back to each other ? (You have also inspired me to add Brick Lane to the long list of books I want to read. It’s in there already somewhere but now it’s bumped to the top.)

  5. Writing about events (good or bad) is part of our growth and we heal with every word, every sentence, yet starting to write hurts a whole lot sometimes.
    I am debating myself if I should mention certain events about our “Losing times” but if I don’t, would it still be the same. However, if it’s too painful, then I just don’t touch the subject. I have written about my Grandma (my hero) my father (a useless drunk and coward) yet I have never touched my mother (the monster, the child abuser.) Perhaps one day I will and if I don’t then so be it.
    Cheers to Jackie!

    1. Thank you very much, Bridget. You are so right about the pain and healing of the writing process, and that we can also revisit the joys. We all have memories that are not for the public domain.

  6. Yes, that opening sentence slammed into my heart. 🙁
    I’m so glad whatever happened and however your journeys took you…your paths crossed, you found your ways back into each other’s lives again. <3
    (((HUGS))) to you and Jackie!!! <3

  7. I’m very happy that you two were able to reconnect. The immigrant history of the area sounds fascinating. I have never developed a taste for anything hotter than a mild jalepeno.

  8. I have my own tale of a rather dramatic if drawn-out sundering that’s interesting in the extreme and even a little humorous now, but I’ll never write about it. Contrary to what our societies seem to believe these days, not every detail of private life needs to be made public. That said, you’ve finally made sense for me of that “second marriage” I read about in the past — and I’m so glad that it happened, for you both!

  9. Some days hold lingering grief, no matter how many years have passed. But I’m glad you survived and are doing well now. History is so much more interesting when told through personal stories.

  10. The history of that area is very interesting. It is sad you and Jackie parted back then, but your paths converged again later. Your reunion makes me happy. Love prevails! Love to both of you. ❤️

  11. I do not like to read of your pain, as I’m sure you don’t like reading about mine. Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life, Derrick, and to express your memory of Madeline cleaning the carpet. If I were nearby, I’d catch you both in an embrace.

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