The ceiling of Brixton Market, with flags symbolising the international heritage of the location
A brief introduction to Architecture Listed places

7 Places That Tell the Story of London’s International Heritage

London has always been a city of movement and migration, and the diversity of its population has made an important mark on its character.

London has always been a city of movement and migration, and the diversity of its population has made an important mark on its character.

Greater London has just over 19,000 listed buildings, 162 scheduled monuments and 152 registered landscapes on the List. These special assets serve 2 important roles: firstly, they celebrate the extraordinary time-depth of human activity in a great world city; secondly, they help to identify the places that should be safeguarded amidst the great pace of change.

As we help shape London’s future, an understanding of its diverse and international history can help include all of us in the process.

Here are 7 ways that international diversity is captured on the List.

Buildings of multi-faith

Brick Lane Mosque
The metal Minaret Like Sculpture attached to Brick Lane Jamme Masjid, Brick Lane, London. Grade II listed. © Martin Pettitt via Flickr.

Buildings can embody the impact of successive waves of immigration.

Best known is the Grade II* Brick Lane Jamme Masjid in Spitalfields, originally built in 1743 as a French Huguenot Chapel. It was later used by the Society for Propagating Christianity among the Jews, then by the Wesleyan Methodists, then by a Lithuanian Orthodox Jewish group, and most recently as a mosque from 1976 through to the present day.

The listing was updated in 2010 to reflect the remarkable range of religious history on one site.

Maritime movement

General interior view of Swedish Seaman's Mission
Swedish Seamen’s Mission. © Historic England.

London was once a great port and its docklands embody our world history.

Rotherhithe is home to the Swedish Seamen’s Mission (1964 to 1966 by Bent Jörgen Jörgensen, Grade II), the Finnish Seamen’s Mission (1957 to 1959, Cyril Sjöström Mardall of YRM) and Norway’s St Olav’s Kirke (1927, John L. Seaton Dahl, Grade II), illustrating the international character of worship that sea trade brought to the capital.

The Grade II listed former Rowton House hostel (now Arlington House) of 1905 in Camden Town was home to 1000 men each night, many of them Irish labourers.

The architectural legacy of transient communities can be ephemeral but we hope that the history of Chinese sailors in Limehouse, for example, could be reflected in the List or through the Missing Pieces Project in the future.

Indian influence

Exterior of Himalaya Palace
Himalaya Palace, formerly Liberty Cinema. © Nigel Cox via Geograph.

Indian heritage is acknowledged in a number of listed places. These range from the Mughal-influenced monument in Kensal Green Cemetery commemorating the Indian judge, Daboda Dewajee, who died in 1861, and the YMCA Indian Students Union and hostel of 1952 in Bloomsbury.

The Grade II* Liberty Cinema of 1928 in Southall was built in an exuberant Chinese style. Since 1972, it has exclusively shown Indian language films for the local community, giving new life to the building. It is a colourful cultural melange symbolic of London life.

Transatlantic slave trade

General view of the Hibbert Gate and 1 West India Quay
Canary Wharf: The Hibbert Gate and 1 West India Quay, E14. © Nigel Cox via Geograph.

Not all of this history is comfortable. The sad Georgian legacy of the transatlantic slave trade is most redolent in the surviving Grade I buildings of the West India Import Dock, built expressly to receive the products of slavery, forming the most direct and unambiguous witnesses to this shameful trade.

Community spirit

General view of stores and their wares at Brixton Market
Brixton Market. © Historic England.

A much more positive, post-war story is reflected in the Grade II listing of Brixton Market’s arcades, which formed the commercial and social heart of the extensive Afro-Caribbean community that settled after the Second World War.

Its listing in 2010 stressed the historical importance of this place as the clearest marker of an immigrant community’s experience, and the complex has gone from strength to strength ever since.

Jewish heritage

Exterior shot of the door of Bevis Marks Synagogue
Bevis Marks Synagogue. © Historic England.

Jewish heritage has been studied and protected for some decades now.

It ranges from burial grounds and 17 listed synagogues in London (including the Grade I Bevis Marks of 1701) to commercial and welfare buildings. The 1930s reliefs on the listed 88 Whitechapel High Street are highly expressive of Jewish solidarity at a time of international unease.

Café society

Exterior shot of E. Pellicci
E Pellicci exterior. © Historic England.

The immediate post-war years in London saw a considerable rise in Italian immigration. A great number of new cafes and espresso bars opened up, like the Grade II listed E Pellicci in Bethnal Green, with its primrose Vitrolite shop front.

Interior image of E. Pellici. Customers sat eating at tables.
E Pellicci interior. © Historic England.

Inside, the striking Art Deco marquetry panelling was crafted by Achille Capocci, continuing a long tradition of imported architectural craftsmanship within what was in many ways a continuation of the late 17th century London coffee house tradition. This integration of British and Italian traditions resulted in a remarkable small cafe that continues to thrive today.

Written by Emily Gee, London Planning Director at Historic England

Add your pieces to the big picture
Every snapshot and story you can add to the National Heritage List for England is an important piece of the picture. The more pieces we have, the better we can work together to protect what makes these places special. Make a contribution to the Missing Pieces Project.

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