Helping to transform the intellectual landscape of the Bangladeshi community in the UK and celebrate the amazing British diversity

B r i c k  L a n e  C i r c l e

Project Completion

Woolwich February 1601 to Woolwich November 2017

Since the launch of the short historical fiction book called ‘Untold Stories and the East India Company’ on 25 March 2017, at the London Metropolitan Archives, we organised a number of book events in various places:

Strawberry Hill House event – 11 May 2017; Bangla Mela at Weavers field- 14 May 2017; Beethoven Centre event – 15 May 2017; Lambeth Library – 17 May 2017; Old Matthias Community Centre event – 23 May 2017; Wellclose Square Saturday Market event – 19 August and 2nd Sept 2017; Tower Hamlets Arts Development and Networking Event - 10 October 2017; Market Drayton Arts Fest event – 28 October 2017; Woolwich Central Library book event – 28 November 2017.

We thought that, as the First Voyage of the East India Company left Woolwich (South East London) in February 1601, with five ships, one of which was a victual vassal, under the leadership of Captain James Lancaster, it would be a good idea to end the project with an event in Woolwich.

With support from a local group called Greenwich Coalition for Equality and Human Rights, the Woolwich Central Library enthusiastically invited us to deliver a book event and an exhibition at the library. They were particularly interested in welcoming us due to the Woolwich connection with the First Voyage of the East India Company, which very few people in the area knew anything about.

We delivered our exhibition on the project at the Woolwich Central Library on 21 November 2017, which continued to be displayed until Christmas.  We delivered a book event, which included presentations, author readings and dramatised performance by some young volunteers.

The event was well attended and the discussion with the audience was extremely interesting and valuable
. Continued


The project volunteers will visit heritage institutions, receive training on archival research, get mentoring support and write short fictional stories, based on recorded facts, about people behind or impacted by the operations of the East India Company in London. Some of the records kept and objects collected by the East India Company, are now stored at British Library, National Maritime Museum, Victoria & Albert Museum and London Metropolitan Archives. In these institutions there are records of the experiences of dock / warehouse workers; British women going to India to find company approved partners; Asian seamen jumping ships; Security issues around goods transportation through small arterial routes; boardroom dramas, etc. 

The main focus of the project will be on the life and dramas of people and objects, and events and institutions associated with the operations of the East India Company in London - situated in the East India Dock; inside the tea exchange rooms; during quarterly auctions of goods; activities on the Thames River; dealings inside the East India Company House; etc. Although the project will primarily focus on the issues concerning East India Company, and the period of its active existence, covering 1600 to 1858, there will be scope to also include human stories beyond this time period should the heritage story writers wish to do so. The possible extension could be to cover associated interactions with institutions and individuals involved with slavery, trade with the West Indies, opening up of the continent of Australia, etc. 

The topics covered could include, which will depend on the interest of the individual community volunteers, trade; sea voyages and rough storms; Lascars in East End; planning the opium wars; prosecution of criminals; misfortunes; piracy on the Thames; people becoming famous; receiving news of the Battle of Plassey; impacts of eastern goods; migration to India and immigration into London; romance; British ladies travelling to India to get married to British officers; institutional reforms; hardship experienced; inter-racial relationships; experiences of racism, etc. 

Many people like to write and read stories and novels. This exciting new project is designed to engage individuals who are interested in improving their understanding of and story writing skills on heritage and history. 

Sue Bowers, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund London, said: “Volunteers from diverse local communities will be able to unlock details of this varied history and share their discoveries with a much wider audience.” 

or further details please contact:Brick Lane Circle by phone: 07914119282 or email:  

Notes to Editors 

About the Heritage Lottery Fund 

From the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife, we use National Lottery players' money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about.


An exciting new project - January 2015 - June 2016

The London-based East India Company had a major impact on Asian and British lives for more than two centuries and now a group of volunteer researchers from Tower Hamlets are setting out to uncover the human stories, backed by a £47,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Brick Lane Circle will engage twelve community volunteers (heritage interpreters) to explore East India Company records and objects, discover important information about events, individuals and institutions, and write about human stories behind the Company's operations that linked Britain with Asia from 1600 when the British first arrived until the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny in the British Indian Army, also considered by many to be the first war of independence. There will be a printed book of short stories, background factual information uploaded on to a website, and an end of project celebratory heritage literature festival held at the London Metropolitan Archives.

 The Indian subcontinent and Asia have more than four centuries of links with Britain. This long period of history can be broadly classified under three distinct phases. The first consists of the mutually beneficial trading connections (1600-1757), which started with the arrival of British ships into the Indian Ocean under the command of James Lancashire and ended with the Battle of Plassey and the conquest of Bengal in 1757. The second was the exploitative colonial phase that began with the British takeover as rulers of Bengal with the Plassey victory, which was subsequently extended to include the whole of the subcontinent, until partition of India and independence in 1947. The third is the post Second World War period with large-scale immigration of people from the Indian sub-continent into the UK, including many Bengali speaking people.