London’s Brick Lane: Banglatown No More?

British Bangladeshis have called the area home for decades. With new development, its future is far more uncertain.

GettyImages-1235594946 Brick Lane
Local residents and supporters of the Save Brick Lane campaign protest against ongoing gentrification on September 12, 2021 in London, U.K. (Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)

Sharlene Gandhi


February 28, 2024

In Brick Lane, the 2003 novel by Monica Ali, readers meet Nazneen, a woman whose father has married her off to a British Bangladeshi man in London. She leaves her home in Bangladesh to join her husband and build a life in a country that doesn’t welcome them. Yet, there is a large community around her: one that holds her when she is at her lowest. 

In London’s East End, Brick Lane borders three distinct locales: Liverpool Street, part of the financial district; Shoreditch, known for its hip coffee shops, restaurants, and nightclubs; and Whitechapel, home to a sizable South Asian population. 

Today’s Brick Lane is a cultural mix of its three neighbors, but its heterogeneity is a recent phenomenon. For over 70 years, Bangladeshi immigrants have settled there, spawning Bangladeshi curry houses, fish and sweet shops, and clothing stores. Brick Lane is effectively the heart of the U.K.’s Bangladeshi community, its Banglatown. When you walk through Brick Lane, road signs are in both English and Bengali; Taj Stores, a Bangladeshi grocer that opened in 1936, is still standing; and curry houses continue to cater to the British penchant for butter chicken, saag paneer, and garlic naan. But these businesses and Banglatown itself are now under threat.

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