Tired of London, Tired of Life - A website about things to do in London



For more regular updates, visit Tom's Britain, a new website about things to do in Britain.


6 February 2010

See the new minaret at the Brick Lane Mosque

The Swiss probably wouldn't like it, and some ridiculous people have been talking about it aggravating racial tensions, but your author thinks the new Minaret, winched into place in mid-December, beside the Brick Lane Jamme Masjid is brilliant.

Towering above the corner of Fournier Street and Brick Lane, and topped with a bright crescent moon, the new minaret is 90ft tall, and is right in the heart of the Brick Lane area in every sense.

The Mosque itself is a converted former synagogue and Huguenot church, and as such is a symbol of how the area has changed. The Minaret is part of an £8.6m regeneration project which will also see new arches erected along Brick Lane, all paid for with money from the Bishops Square development near Liverpool Street Station.

For more, see the East London Advertiser.

^Apologies for the awful picture, taken on your author's phone ^


  1. Wow how "vibrant" and "diverse". Frankly public money being paid on silly fairy tales (homophobic, sexist and violent fairy tales at that) is a disgrace. This country needs french secularism pronto. And no thanks a giant illumiated stick with a moon on the top looks like a tedious attraction :)

  2. Interesting to hear your views Caerus. I am not at all religious but I think in this case that it's no different to any sort of new structure that is part of a community building.

    I find the notion that we should have some sort of imposed secularism particularly worrying. Why shouldn't I be able to believe in what I want and build structures, if approved through the legal mechanisms which exist, to celebrate that belief? We have always tolerated every sort of people before, and Brick Lane has been home to immigrant communities for hundreds of years, who have all made small changes to the fabric of the area.

    That's why it's so interesting.

  3. Tom, this isn't a community building, it's a religious building, and the minaret is a religious icon. It is illegal, and in my opinion, immoral to spend public council money on religious buildings.

    The minaret is beautiful, and I do like it a lot, but the building is a listed 1743 Huguenot church, which later became a Methodist chapel, and then a synagogue, and is now a mosque. The minaret only celebrates the current use of the building, not its history - it has only been a mosque since 1976.
    It's topped by the crescent moon, which as far as I know, is a symbol of Islam. So it's not public art, it's a religious icon. I'm happy for the mosques to build minarets if they are popular enough to be able to afford them, but not the councils.

  4. If the debate about this is to be resolved, it will not be on the pages of this website.

    I like it, and I value the right of democratically elected councillors to decide how Section 106 funding which results from a nearby development is spent.

    A considerable amount of money I pay in tax is spent on cathedrals hundreds of miles away each year. I don't mind, and I realise it isn't always practical to expect cathedrals to raise their own fund.

    This money was a 'windfall' from a nearby development (the Spitalfields Market 'redevelopment') which has a direct impact on the lives of people who live there, so I think the right of their representatives to chose how it is spent is fair.

    One final point I would make is that the minaret isn't actually built into the fabric of the building and could be removed at a later date so I think its impact on a historic building, which is now a well-used mosque is minimal.

  5. A daytime picture of the minaret reveals that it looks like a steel chimney more suited to an industrial estate in Slough or Crawley. It is not at all in keeping with the building, and does not even look like a minaret, of which there are some very nice ones in London. I'm sure that something a lot better could have been designed.

    And I'm not keen on the idea of public money being spent on a religious building, unless it has specific architectural merit. The actual Brick Lane Mosque does, but this chimney-like appendage does not.

    Dr Paul

  6. Hi Dr Paul,

    Thanks for your input. Always good to hear people's view, but I hope you will understand I disagree.

    I think it might have been a little bit different if the money had come from taxation, though I probably would still support it, but as it is Section 106 funding, coming for a developer, I think people in the immediate vicinity have the right to choose how it's spent. My view really doesn't matter.



  7. What a sorry state of affairs to see people brandishing 'open-mindedness' as a cover for their lack of taste, vision and discretion.

    Tom - the difference between cathedrals and minarets are that cathedrals are actually a part of our history and therefore indirectly responsible for who we are, and how we live and think today. Their preservation is of direct public interest, and hence if they do receive tax money (which I'm not certain they do), then it is directly relevant to everyone equally, because we choose to live here... in England.

    A big steel chimney with lights and a half-moon on top, on the other hand, is an invasive intrusion on an already degraded townscape (and historic setting) which will just cost us money to remove at a later date if ever we manage to bring taste and thoughtfulness back into the full spectrum. It is badly spent money.

    If this planning application had gone in anywhere else in the country, it probably would have been rejected. It is only because the likes of English Heritage are so desparate to keep the building in use (and thus from falling apart) that they have allowed it to happen.

  8. Nowhere am I brandishing 'open-mindedness'. I just pointed out that in this one street, in one city, in one area of the country, immigrant communities have lived for hundreds of years, and have all made small changes to the fabric of the area. This is a part of the area's history and therefore indirectly responsible for what it is, and how the people there live and think today.

    And on the subject of cathedral funding, over the past 19 years English Heritage has given just over £52 million in grants for repair works to English cathedrals.

    English Heritage receives over three quarters of its income from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

    Thanks for popping by, and thanks for the comments though.

  9. Hi Tom. Thanks for the useful fact about cathedrals. As mentioned, it is very much in the public interest that such monuments are preserved.

    I'm happy with the thought that change is a symbol of the times. That's a fact of life.

    You said earlier that you think the impact on the historic building in minimal, but not living there (I presume), you won't be the one who walks past it and thinks - 'what an ugly piece of garbage next to this piece of my heritage. I used to enjoy walking down this street... what a pity.' And then feel the associated knot in your gut, the heavy heartbeat and the weight of the times on your shoulders - 'what could I have done to prevent my forefather's legacy from being so slighted?'

    The answer of course, is nothing... we are helpless to the whims of businessmen and politicians who decide how poverty is managed - which poor immigrants will go where next, and how can we placate them?

  10. p.s. I have nothing against poor immigrants - I blame our own people for not trying to take care of certain communities properly in the first place - bringing them here simply to take advantage of them, and then even sometimes taking their jobs away after enticing them to come live here!

    I've seen it around the world... it is a tragedy to everyone that people are becoming a commodity to be traded.