Preserving precious memories in London’s Jewish East End
Petticoat lane market

From the delicacies of Tubby Isaac’s jellied eel stall on Brick Lane to the joys of a towel and soap for sixpence at Goulston Street Public Baths, the sights, sounds and smells of London’s Jewish East End are long gone. The thriving Jewish social, commercial, religious and street lives which once dominated Whitechapel and Spitalfields have been lost to the Blitz, to development and to demographic change. 

But their memory has not been lost. Artist and writer Rachel Lichtenstein has spent much of her career helping to preserve the history of this unique community, including three of her books

Rodinsky’s Room
(1999, with Iain Sinclair),
On Brick Lane
(2008) and
Diamond Street
(2013). The Memory Map of the Jewish East End brings together the images, stories and audio recordings she has collected over the years, with the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis and the Survey of London’s map-creation technology developed by Dr Duncan Hay (principal investigator at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis), alongside the architectural and urban historical expertise of Peter Guillery (co-Investigator, Survey of London) and Professor Laura Vaughan (co-Investigator, Space Syntax Laboratory). The project was supported by a Bartlett Materialisation grant.

Around 70 of the East End sites which had most often cropped up in the memories of Lichenstein’s interviewees were chosen to be highlighted on the map. They demonstrate the richness and variety of Jewish East End life: synagogues, theatres, cinemas, shops, restaurants, markets, housing, community spaces, and places with an intimate connection to events, such as the famous Battle of Cable Street. 

“The map allows you to compare a contemporary street map and the historic map and then hear or read stories of particular places,” explains Dr Hay. “The map format enables you to see how story is embedded in place, how those places change over time and how cultures shape places. For example, have you ever wondered why Brick Lane market takes place on a Sunday? It’s because Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath.”

The project will also benefit other communities in the future, as the software used to create the Memory Map has now been released as an Open Source toolkit to enable local history groups, museums and researchers to conduct their own memory mapping projects. Currently in use by groups in London, Liverpool, and New York, Dr Hay hopes that the toolkit will enable many more communities to bring their histories alive. 

“It’s so important to record memories and bear witness, and the digital format allows readers to have a really rich conversation between different sorts of media. That’s why we are now handing over the tools to other communities to allow them to tell their stories about place in this way. Once the physical traces of a community vanish, all you have is the voices.”

This project was supported by a Bartlett Materialisation grant. If you would be interested in using the toolkit, please contact Duncan Hay at

Petticoat Lane is one of London's oldest street markets. Image: Bishopsgate Institute Archives

The Pavilion Theatre

The Pavilion Theatre

The ‘Drury Lane of the East’ opened in 1827 as a small playhouse. By 1900, it was the principal Yiddish theatre in London, attracting audiences of up to 2,000, but fell into dereliction following bomb damage in 1940.

London’s Jewish East End_The Kosher Luncheon Club

The Kosher Luncheon Club

‘There is nothing fancy about the club, but there's plenty on the menu to take your fancy,’ wrote

Jewish Chronicle
of The Kosher Luncheon Club, a dairy restaurant managed by Conny Shack and Lou Morrison. It closed in 1994.

London’s Jewish East End_Machzike Hadath, Spitalfields Great Synagogue

Machzike Hadath, Spitalfields Great Synagogue

The Neuve Église on Fournier Street (formerly Church Street) was originally a church and, briefly, the home of the London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews. In 1899, it formally became the synagogue of the orthodox Machzike Hadath society, and in 1974, it became the Jamme Masjid mosque.

London’s Jewish East End _Original Blooms

Bloom’s deli bar

Before the war, every kind of Jewish food and goods could be found at Bloom’s deli bar and restaurant at Number 2 Brick Lane. But it was best known for the political speakers – Communists, socialists, Labour Party members – who gathered to speak to crowds of Jewish immigrants outside. 

London’s Jewish East End  _Petticoat lane market

Petticoat Lane

The ‘beloved Lane’ – one of London’s oldest street markets – was more than just a market. It was a meeting place, an institution, famous throughout the world for its vibrant street life; the cries of the auctioneers and vendors, the banter, the colour and the smells, the great mix of Yiddish and cockney culture.

Duncan Hay
Dr Duncan Hay
Laura Vaughan
Professor Laura Vaughan

Professor of Urban Form and Society, Space Syntax Lab, The Bartlett School of Architecture 

Peter Guillery_London’s Jewish East End
Peter Guillery

Senior Research Associate, Survey of London, Bartlett School of Architecture 

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