Maryam Centre, 45 Fieldgate Street
Contributed by Survey of London on Feb. 17, 2020
Following the opening of the London Muslim Centre in 2004, further enlargement
of the East London Mosque's premises ensued to the south, beside Fieldgate
Street on the site where the temporary mosque of 1975 and the imam’s house and
mortuary of 1985 had stood. First plans for a building of up to seven storeys
were submitted in 2006–7. These were revised up to nine storeys and the Maryam
Centre was built in 2009 to 2013 in another design-build project led by
Bamfords Trust, again working with Markland Klaschka, as at the London Muslim
Centre. Costs of £9.5m were wholly met by the mosque’s fund-raising – £1.25m
was raised in a single night in 2010.
The steel frame here is yellow-brick clad, echoing earlier buildings but more
monochromatically with starker angular elevations, broken up by a smattering
of generally small windows. A new Fieldgate Street entrance foyer for the
mosque as a whole was part of the project. Its west side is the Alhambra donor
wall, decorated with large-pattern geometric-Arabesque tiling that
commemorates the donations that funded the project. The ground-floor hall is
an extension of the mosque’s men’s prayer hall. A street-side staircase leads
initially to other prayer halls, that on the second floor being for women.
There is basement car parking and the rest of the building is dedicated to use
by Muslim women in what is said to be the first such centre in Britain. There
is a female-only gymnasium and classrooms, spaces for advice or guidance,
healthcare and childcare. There are also some residential flats.
Haji Taslim Funerals, based at the Maryam Centre, commemorates Haji Taslim Ali
(1915–1998), who had managed a Muslim funeral service from the East London
Mosque on Commercial Road from 1950 with his wife Hajja Mariam Ali (née
Josephine Mary Morgan). This couple also helped found Britain’s first halal
butchers and ran a restaurant on Old Montague Street in the late 1950s. Their
son Gulam Taslim succeeded as the Mosque’s funeral director.
Plans by Webb Gray & Partners Ltd, architects, to enlarge the men’s prayer
hall yet again and to the east were approved in November 2015. They had not
yet been carried forward in early 2020.
The East London Mosque’s Whitechapel Road and Fieldgate Street estate achieved
topographical wholeness with the acquisition of the former Fieldgate Street
Great Synagogue in 2015. The mosque has grown rapidly and in a somewhat
improvised though coherent manner. ‘The combination of religious, community,
social and commercial space is manifest in a plan of complex alignments and
spatial arrangements. This can perhaps be read as a metaphor for the emergence
of British Muslim institutions through a strenuous, iterative and intensely
A sugar refinery with men's room, Fieldgate Street
Contributed by Bryan Mawer on Nov. 18, 2016
The 1873 map layer shows that the Maryam Centre sits squarely on the site of a
sugar refinery, the later development of which took it almost to Whitechapel
Road where the East London Mosque now stands. The sugar refinery was at 17
Fieldgate St, the building across the yard, beyond the gatehouse, was 16.
There had been sugar refining at two separate locations in Fieldgate St, the
earlier record being 1736, but we don't get a true indication of who was
working the refinery adjacent to Orange Row until 1817 when it was listed as
James & Edward Friend. William Boden became a partner in 1821 and took
over the company when the partnership was dissolved in 1830, following a fire
the previous year. The 1851 census shows that Boden lived in the dwelling
house at the refinery, while fifteen, mostly single, German sugarbakers lived
in the men's room at no 16. Other sugarbakers would have lived in the streets
nearby. Men's rooms, with many bedrooms and a mess room, had always been part
of the larger London refineries, giving the newly arrived young workers secure
lodgings and guidance from the one or two experienced workers who also lived
in. The records for this particular refinery make it clear where the men's
room was relative to the refinery.
William Boden retired in 1851 and took himself off to converted salt workers'
cottages in Clevedon, Somerset. The business was purchased by Sydney B
Hodge. He ran it through to his death in 1878 when his son took over, but by
1882 it was losing money, production ceased and the extensive premises were
put up for sale. The buildings were described in an advertisement in The
Times: 'A brick built sugar house 67ft by 61ft of ground and 7 floors,
warehouse brick built of ground and 5 floors, cistern house, dwelling house,
and offices of 4 storeys and basement, sample room with gatekeeper's house
over, manager's office, large stone paved yard enclosed with pair of folding
gates, lofty brick built chimney shaft, steam engine house, and a freehold
dwelling house no. 16 Fieldgate St containing 12 rooms and in the basement a
mess room for the men. A brick built charcoal house 60ft by 55ft with ground
and 2 floors over, smith's shop, and gateway entrance, brick built stable and
store with dwelling rooms over, stoke hole in rear and yard, and a brick built
dwelling house with 3 rooms with yard in rear.
Visiting Whitechapel as a youngster
Contributed by Sarah Milne, Survey of London on June 3, 2017
Sufia remembers mid-20th century Whitechapel:
Whitechapel had a sense of culture when I came to Whitechapel when I was
younger. It was okay to be Bangladeshi here. We came to visit my uncle just
outside the Whitechapel boundary from Yorkshire. My mum felt very at home here
coming from Yorkshire. I remember being excited by going to a cinema on
Commercial Road to watch a Bollywood movie. There was lots of Bangla media
around: newspapers, the latest fashions, events. You could dip in and out of
the culture. I felt part of it.
The first time I heard the call to pray was very memorable. It was like we
were in a foreign country. You could see how different cultures were mixed
together in London and it was okay. You heard of stories of racism but as a
younger person visiting it wasn't something I thought about. The best thing
was Whitechapel Market, it had everything that no one else had in Yorkshire!
I moved to the area later in life. My two daughters were born in the London
Hospital before we moved out to Poplar. Since 1997 I've been working at the
Wapping Centre(?), with women and Bangladeshi community in particular. I found
that there was so much culture on our doorsteps but women were not coming out
of their houses to engage with it. So I worked in various local centres to
encourage women to be confident in different ways and to be part of the
community. More recently I've been working at the Maryam Centre.
Mahera Ruby on how the Maryam Centre serves women
Contributed by Survey of London on March 9, 2018
Mahera Ruby, an academic and community activist, grew up in Whitechapel. Here
she reflects on what the Maryam Centre provides for the women who use it.
'The Maryam Centre [is] one of our key achievements. We have a women’s
project, Maryam Women’s Services now but it used to be called the Women’s
Link. That used to be based at the mosque. So the mosque had two entrances:
the women’s entrance and the men’s entrance. Even though women could still
come in to use the services, I think they still felt a bit [uncomfortable] if
they were coming in for, say, domestic violence or whatever troubles they were
facing. With the Maryam Centre, it’s wonderful because they have [a] totally
There’s a gym there, there’s the prayer space. And because it’s separate, very
separate entrance, I think women feel much much more comfortable accessing
those services. There’s counseling available now. So those kinds of services
[have] been great for those women. But also for classes, so there’s a lot
women’s classes that take place.
Personally, I feel we could’ve done better. The Maryam Centre could have been
better utilised. I would have loved to have had that ground floor hall to be
ours too. [And] the lovely entrance, rather than us having that little
entrance on the side. But we are working towards it.
Because at the moment I feel it’s a bit sad that sometimes we may have to
share the lift with people who have passed away in coffins. It’s a good
reminder, but it’s not the nicest thing to experience.
[The women’s prayer hall is on the 2nd floor] the whole floor. And it is nice,
it’s quite nice. But I miss the gallery [the women’s prayer space in the 1985
East London Mosque building], because I think [there] we were at the heart of
the mosque. Here, we’re a Centre.
It does feel separate. A lot of people like it, I mean, women do prefer that
because in this area, this is the only women’s centre. We used to have
Jagonari across the road, we don’t have that anymore. So in terms of women’s
services, this is one of the community-sensitive, culture-sensitive services.
And we do get referrals of other cultures and faiths too, so it’s not just
restricted to Muslims.
[The Maryam Centre] really did make sense [as] the usage by women [was]
increasing. The gallery just wasn’t [enough to] contain the women and the
numbers, particularly Friday prayers, tarawih prayers, and it was becoming
quite impossible. So I think it just made sense that women needed a bigger
space. And [the] Maryam Centre was born.'
Mahera Ruby was in conversation with Nishat Alam and Shahed Saleem on the 19th
January 2018 at the East London Mosque