Missing Identities: Two London Gems that Fill the Gaps

After the Grenfell Tower fire, Londoners’ origins and living conditions are back at the centre of public debate. Whilst the number of victims remains unclear, the disaster strikingly questions our own personal trajectories in and out of the capital. If, like me, you are searching for answers, two museums help in filling the gaps, by casting light on the lives of past Londoners. Looking backwards for a moment helps us remember our roots and where we are heading towards, in one of the busiest cities in the world. It is time to connect with and understand the reality of migrants and refugees who live next to us, and yet who become visible and identified as ‘like us’ when disappearing.

The glass roof of the synagogue. Photographer credit: Philip Black. 19 Princelet Street.

Right behind Spitalfields market, 19 Princelet Street hosts Europe’s first museum of immigration and diversity. Built in 1719, the house was the home of a family of Huguenot immigrants, fleeing the religious persecution plaguing France. Sounds familiar, right? Later waves of immigrants came to occupy the house, and in 1869 a synagogue was built over the backyard garden; the large basement underneath even turned much later into a refuge to fight against fascists. Run by a multi-cultural team