Tuesday 2 January 2024

Green London: Altab Ali Park in Whitechapel, East London

This small park on Whitechapel Road in East London has a poignant history. It's called Altab Ali Park, but it's only been that since 1998. Before then it was known as St Mary's Park as it was on the site of a 14th-century church, St Mary Matfelon, the whitewashed facade of which gave Whitechapel its name. The church was destroyed in WWII and all that's left is an outline of the floor and a few graves.

The reason it was renamed Altab Ali Park is to commemorate a young Bangladeshi Sylheti clothing worker who was murdered in 1978 in a racist attack - sadly not uncommon in the East End then. 

The photo to the right shows an arch created by David Petersen, which lies at the park's entrance. It's a memorial to Altab Ali and other victims of racism. The design is a Bengali-style pattern and aims to show the merging of different cultures in East London. Along the park's central path you can read: "The shade of my tree is offered to those who come and go fleetingly", from a poem by Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. The park is managed by Tower Hamlets.

I've been blogging regularly about London's green spaces in an effort to dispel a prevalent myth that the city is all just concrete, and continuing to do so is one of my 2024 resolutions. Parks like this are more than just places to enjoy nature in the heart of the city - they also give us a chance to contemplate London's heritage, history and communities.

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