Brick Lane: A History

Brick Lane lies at the heart of London’s rich culinary culture and is the main destination of our own London East End Food Tour. The area is renowned for its vibrancy, offering travellers of all types plenty to do. 

Possessing a fascinating history, the area is today famous for being home to the Brick Lane food market, top-class Bangladeshi and Indian restaurants (and plenty more international cuisine), vintage shops, and colourful street art. 

Whether you’re heading out for something to eat and a few drinks or simply want to spend an afternoon getting a feel of authentic London life, Brick Lane is an excellent part of London to explore.

Why is it Called Brick Lane?

In the 15th century, Brick Lane was known as Whitechapel Lane. It wound its way through fields on the eastern edge of what was then the City of London. 

The name Brick Lane came about following the Great Fire of London in 1666 as the area is situated on ground rich with clay, making it the ideal spot for the manufacture of bricks. 

Following the devastating destruction of the Great Fire, there was a huge amount of construction to be undertaken and so a brickmaking industry grew up here.

Brewing Comes to Brick Lane

Another early Brick Lane industry was brewing. 

Just after the Great Fire of London in 1666, a huge brewery opened up on Brick Lane. The site was first established by the local Bucknall family and in 1666 they hired the services of brewer Joseph Truman, who would take over the operation completely from 1679. 

The early brewery was known as the Black Eagle Brewery due to its premises being on the corner of Black Eagle Street and it came to establish itself as one of the world’s largest breweries (by 1748 the Black Eagle Brewery was producing 40,000 barrels of beer annually). 

By the mid-18th century, the presence of Huguenot immigrants from France greatly increased local demand for heavily hopped beer (much production before then would have been in unhopped ales). 

It was also around this time that the porter style of beer was developed, taking its name from the fact that the heavy-tasting beer was popular with local street and river porters. 

The Truman family initially imported all their hops from Belgium but before long Kent farmers were producing their own hops to meet the rising demand. By 1898, Brick Lane’s brewery covered an incredible six acres of land. 

Sadly, the long history of the brewery came to a halt in 1989 when production was stopped. As with many of London’s traditional industries, large multinationals had a monopoly on beer production.  

However, the story doesn’t end there. The Truman brewery is still on Brick Lane today, though many of the historic buildings are being used as an arts and events centre. 

Recently a group of local beer lovers purchased the Truman name and have had success in reviving the Truman brewery.

Early Immigration and Brick Lane

As touched upon above, in the 17th century French Huguenots escaped religious persecution in France and came to London. Brick Lane was where they settled. 

The Huguenots were skilled weavers and many of the weavers’ houses can still be seen on the roads around Brick Lane. You can see the top floors have large windows to allow as much sunlight in to help the weavers see their work. 

In the 19th century, many Jewish people arrived in London, escaping from pogroms within the Russian Empire. Again Brick Lane (being close to the docks) was a popular place to set up home. 

Today Brick Lane boasts two of the most famous Jewish bakeries in London and people come at all hours of the day to try their famous Beigels. 

You too can try them on our Eat the East End food tour.


The most recent wave of immigration into the area has come from Bangladeshis. 

Since World War II, many families from Bangladesh have escaped the troubles back home and moved to London. 

This wave of immigration has brought with it an exciting food culture and gifted Brick Lane with one of its greatest attributes: lots of fabulous curry houses!

Yes, the vibrant, bustling streets around Brick Lane are the perfect place to sample amazing curries in London. Of course, being a tourist centre, the quality can vary dramatically, so we recommend doing some research before choosing where to eat. 

We previously wrote a blog that could be of help: What Is The Best Indian Restaurant On Brick Lane, London?

Happy multiracial friends walking on brick lane

The Art and Culture of Brick Lane

Brick Lane is a hive of street art. From the world-famous Banksy to lesser-known local artists, art is just about everywhere you look in Brick Lane.

There’s always someone creating something when we’re out on our food tour – this celebration of arts, colour, and all things creative is a central part of the Brick Lane magic. 

Indeed, some companies offer walking tours focused exclusively on street art, such as the number of things to see. And the best bit? There’s always something new popping up!

In addition to looking at art, Brick Lane is an excellent place to shop for local crafts, with the streets being home to an array of indie businesses.

How to Get to Brick Lane?

Getting to Brick Lane is super easy, whether you want to cycle, take the Underground, catch an overground train, or jump on a bus. 

If you’re already in areas such as Shoreditch, Spitalfields, or Whitechapel, you’ll be able to walk to Brick Lane in ten to fifteen minutes.

If taking the Underground, you’ll want to get out at Aldgate East. If on the Overground, your nearest station to Brick Lane will be Shoreditch High Street. 

For buses, consult local timetables with Transport for London – several bus routes serve the area. 

If you’d like to learn more about Brick lane and try some of the amazing food in the area, why not join us on our Eat the East End food tour.

If you have any questions about Brick Lane or any of London Bites’ services, please get in touch

Brick Lane street sign