Connecting People and Places

Stephen Lawrence was an aspiring architect from south-east London, who was murdered in a racist attack in 1993, aged just 18.

The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust (SLCT) was founded in his memory to support young people from underrepresented backgrounds to pursue careers in architecture and the built environment.

© Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust

The SLCT project, Connecting People and Places, is funded by Historic England and celebrates Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) influence on the built environment.

In the first phase of the project, a team of aspiring architects have been researching and visiting places of historic importance that tell the story of BAME communities in Britain.

Here are five stories from their research.

The Howitt Building

© Historic England Archive DP232240

The Howitt Building in Nottingham was completed in 1931 as the head office of Raleigh Cycles, which by 1919 had become the biggest manufacturer of bicycles in the world.

In the 1950s Oswold George Powe, a Jamaican RAF volunteer who had settled in Nottingham, campaigned against Raleigh’s discriminatory employment policy.

© Historic England Archive DP232256

Negotiations with the company failed, but Powe was undeterred and sought the assistance of Jamaica’s first premier, Norman Manley, who placed an embargo upon bicycle imports from England in response.

This action helped change the company’s employment policy and led to Raleigh becoming the largest employer of African Caribbean workers in Nottingham.

Indian Young Men’s Christian Association

© Historic England Archive DP163037

The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) was founded in London in 1844 to ‘provide low-cost housing in a safe Christian environment for rural young men and women journeying to the cities’.

The Indian YMCA was founded in London in 1920 by KT Paul who wanted a social and cultural centre for young Indians studying in London. It became an important venue for meetings, lectures and debates around the issue of Indian Independence.

The current building opened in 1953 and is Grade II Listed as a well-designed early post-war building with adventurous internal spaces.

The British & Foreign Sailors Hostel

London first Chinatown was formed in Limehouse in the East End by Chinese, due to its proximity to the docks. A small Chinese community formed here before later, and larger waves of immigration to Soho after the Second World War.

© Charles Watson

The British & Foreign Sailors Hostel was opened in 1901 and is today home to the Chinese Association of Tower Hamlets, which provides support for the local Chinese and Vietnamese communities.

Bradford Synagogue

The northern city of Bradford is unique in building a Reform synagogue before it acquired an Orthodox synagogue. It was Britain’s third purpose-built Reform synagogue (after Manchester and West London) and is Listed at Grade II*.

© Historic England Archive aa038926

Built for a progressive German Jewish congregation attracted to the city by the flourishing textile industry in the 19th Century, the congregation has since dwindled to just 45 members and the building was at risk of being sold as repairs became unaffordable. Members of the local Muslim community stepped in to help and supported a fundraising campaign to save the synagogue

In 2018 the synagogue was renamed ‘The Bradford Tree of Life Synagogue’ in memory of those killed at The Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, USA.

Shah Jahan

The Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking was the first purpose-built mosque in Britain and northern Europe. It is a highly accomplished and little altered building in late-Murghal style, with sophisticated exterior detailing.

© Historic England Archive DP148108

Earlier mosques were built in converted houses or other public spaces, and from 1887 to 1939 there were just a handful around the country. Shah Jahan was commissioned by Dr Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner, an Hungarian Jewish linguist with ambitions to establish an educational Oriental Institute to enhance the study of culture and history of India, and the Islamic world.

A view of the ceiling dome © Historic England Archive DP148113

Some funding for the mosque came from Sultan Shah Jahan Begum, the female ruler of the Indian princely state of Bhopal. In 2018 the mosque was upgraded to Grade I.

Further Reading

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