Thursday, February 05, 2009

The religious extremes of Fournier Street in Spitalfields

Christ Church Spitalfields from the Market Cafe
11" x 8", pencil and coloured pencils in sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Last month, I went with the RWS Friends to Spitalfields for our monthly sketching trip. I did three sketches, nearly lost my sketchbook and acquired some new alpaca fingerless gloves with mitten enhancement!

There are religious buildings at either end of Fournier Street in Spitalfields. At the eastern end, where I started, there is a Grade 2* listed building which has been, in turn:
  • a Church for French Huguenot silk weavers - who settled in the area in the seventeenth century
  • a Great Synagogue for the Jewish community who began to live in the area in the middle of the nineteenth century
  • a Mosque for the latest wave of immigrants to the area - the Bengali community from Syhlet in Bangladesh who started to settle the area in the late twentieth century.
A building with a history - Spitalfields Mosque
11" x 16", pencil and coloured pencils in double page sketchbook

copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I stood to do this sketch in Brick Lane which is now a well know place to go for a curry in the East End. I used to go to the Clifton in Brick Lane some 30 years ago when it was still essentially a lunchtime cafe for garment workers and used to have formica topped tables, the most amazing murals of ladies reclining on the walls - and the one of the best tandoori in London!

Fournier Street
itself contains some very fine eighteenth century terraced houses built for the master weavers - with garret workshops with very large windows for the silk weaving. They're now all Grade II listed buildings. Fournier Street is also home to Gilbert and George (no. 12) and Tracey Emin.

At the western end of Fournier Street is what is regarded as Nicholas Hawksmoor (1661-1734)'s masterpiece - Christ Church, Spitalfields. It's Grade 1 listed which means it is of exceptional historical interest and was built between 1714 and 1729. British History Online has details of the craftsmen's accounts for the building of Christ Church.

I sat outside the Market Cafe in Brushfield Street which has the best view of the front of the church. Not to be confused with The Market Cafe in Fournier Street which used to be frequented by Gilbert and George and is now officially a "lost caff"

I'm going to save my people sketching for another post!



  1. Amazing to see the three Abrahamic religions so close to each other.
    Nice sketches!
    I can't wait to be somewhere where I can go out and sketch like this. Gilbert and George were part of my research at University - haven't heard anything about them in a long time!

  2. They're not so much close to each other as having succeeded one another in occupying the same building

    I don't think I've ever come across another religious building which has changed hands in this way. It might quite possibly be unique!

  3. Hi Katherine,
    I like your perspective on the first drawing and the color. The Mosque drawing is great for detail! Wasn't it chilly to stand so long? I get cold out in the snow, but I also use the fingerless gloves with mitten tops you mentioned, I wore them in the last post I did about hiking on my land. Sometimes I wear fingerless gloves in my studio when it's extra cold!


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