A digitised colour slide of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, and the buildings (left) that stood at 36 Whitechapel Road and 1 Fieldgate Street until c. 1970; from the Tower Hamlets Archives collection:
The large corner site between Whitechapel Road and Fieldgate Street’s west end, cleared and used since 1967 as a car park, passed to Tower Hamlets Council upon the abolition of the GLC in 1986. With the East London Mosque newly opened there were already then intentions to use part of this land to build sheltered accommodation for Muslim elderly people. A scheme of 1989 to replace Whitechapel’s Commercial Road fire station here alongside other community uses on the whole site west of the East London Mosque came to nothing. Ballymore Properties advanced plans to develop the site with flats in a private speculation and the Council was prepared to sell up in 1997. This was successfully opposed in a campaign initiated by the mosque, the Trust’s chairman at this time being Akbor Ali. The mosque wanted the land to its west for its own expansive ambitions. The East London Citizens Organisation (TELCO), a coalition of community groups founded in 1996 with the mosque as an original member, led what proved to be a powerful mobilisation and in November 1998 planning permission was granted for an alternative scheme whereby Tower Hamlets Council gave up the site for joint development for ‘low-cost’ housing and a community centre, to be built by the Bethnal Green and Victoria Park Housing Association and LABO Housing Association in association with the East London Mosque Trust. The Frederick Gibberd Partnership prepared plans for the whole complex to include what was to be the London Muslim Centre.
The housing at the western corner and along Fieldgate Street was handled by the Bethnal Green and Victoria Park Housing Association by agreement with the mosque as a first phase of the London Muslim Centre project and approved in May 2000. Built by 2002, it emerged as much plainer than first designed, revisions by Gibberds presumably being imposed on cost grounds. The eight- storey Mosque Tower, thirty-three flats, and four-storey Mosque Terrace, eight flats and a house at the east end, are of stock brick with red-brick trim and little other articulation. A prosaic octagonal dome tops the tower.1
Fieldgate Street’s west end was narrowed in 2009, to enforce one-way traffic and a much enlarged pavement area south-west of Mosque Tower was landscaped by Tower Hamlets Council as the Fieldgate Oasis, with planters, including mosaic ornamentation, and benches.
Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives, pamphlets 022, St Mary’s Centre report, March 1986; cuttings 222.13: East London Advertiser, 23 Oct 1997, p.14; 29 Jan 1998, p.20; 5 Nov. 1998, p.19: East London Mosque Archives, GB3396 ELMT/BU/0133: East London Mosque News, issue 2, Nov. 2002, p. 1: Humayun Ansari (ed.), The Making of the East London Mosque, 1910–1951, 2011, pp.70–1: Shahed Saleem, The British Mosque: An architectural and social history, 2018, p. 163: Sarah Glynn, Class, ethnicity and religion in the Bengali East End: A political history, 2015, pp. 203–6: Tower Hamlets planning applications online: information kindly supplied by Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari ↩
Mosque Tower from the north-west in April 2017
Contributed by Derek Kendall
Roof terrace on the south pavilion at Mosque Tower in 2016, photograph by Rehan Jamil
Contributed by Rehan Jamil