At onefinestay we’re fascinated by the stories our members tell us about the streets they live on. So much has vanished from plain sight, so it is the memories, anecdotes and records that keep London’s rich history breathing. In a series of blogs we’ve decided to do our part in bringing London’s streets to life.
Hawksmoor’s Christ Church [image: wikipedia.org]
You’ll spot the white spire first. That’s Hawksmoor’s iconic Grade One listed (landmarked) Christ Church, glinting above Spitalfields Market. It’s stood sentry there since its consecration in 1729, although the first foundations were laid in 1714.
Palm Sunday in Spitalfields [image: http://www.victorianlondon.org]
The street, and Spitalfields as a whole, received several significant waves of immigration over the centuries. And it was the first wave of some 40,000 French Huguenots fleeing the Dragonnades (forced conversion to Catholicism in France) that led to the development of the residences, built to accommodate silk weaving families, on Fournier Street.
Next came Jewish immigrants from Poland and Russia. It is reckoned that with over 40 synagogues Spitalfields was one of the largest Jewish communities in Europe between 1880 and 1970. The suave shoe shop David Kira on contemporary Fournier Street is a relic of the Jewish era.
Shop fronts present and past [images: clothespeggs.blogspot.com and spitalfieldslife.com]
In the 1970s the final large scale influx of émigrés from Bangladesh arrived in Spitalfields. The Brick Lane Jamme Masjid is a paradigm of Fournier Street’s past. It began as the Huguenots Protsestant chapel ‘La Neuve Eglise’, and became Spitalfields’ great synagogue ‘Machzike Adass’ in the late 19th century before its most recent conversion when the Islamic Bangladesh community became predominant.
For all its rich history, Fournier street’s long poverty stricken decay smouldered well into the eighties. In 1985, giving an idea of the wildness of the locale, a new resident remarked that the tower had a different sort of resident: “there were hawks nesting on the church tower that ate the rats”.
Gilbert and George outside their Fournier Street home [image: http://annebernecker.wordpress.com]
“All the businesses were totally shuttered,” says George. “Totally deserted – scary. You could either have sex with a stranger or get beaten up. Those were the only two choices. Nevertheless, they were the first sign of gentrification, and throughout the eighties and nineties devoted renovators adopted the dilapidated properties and restored them to their magnificent Georgian grandeur.
Georgian living room at Fournier Street 2
At onefinestay we’re proud to count two of Fournier Street’s listed townhouses among our members’ homes. Take a peek at Fournier Street and Fournier Street 2 for marvellous period features and modern interiors. And investigate some of the sources for this blog post to discover more about the history of the street.Google+