Last Updated on 21. February 2021
Altab Ali Park is located in Whitechapel, opposite the Whitechapel Gallery. Since the Middle Ages, there has been a church on the site, which is even responsible for the name of the area. Find out why the green space is now called Altab Ali Park and what else there is to see here in this post.
Table of Contents
Origin of the name Whitechapel
Between 1250 and 1286, the site of the park was the location of the white church of St. Mary Matfelon. It got its name because its walls were painted with whitewash and it was recognized from afar as a white building. Over the years, the church building was rebuilt several times as fires destroyed the old churches. The Second World War – the church was hit on 29.12.1940 – eventually led to the church not being saved again. It was demolished in 1952. Today, only a few old graves and a few floor slabs remind us that this used to be a church area. After the demolition of the church ruins, the public St Mary’s Park opened in 1966.
The renaming St Mary’s Park to Altab Ali Park
In the mid-1990s, St Mary’s Park was renamed Altab Ali Park and the reason for this is a tragic one. For the renaming was to dedicate the park to Altab Ali, a 25-year-old Bangladeshi man who was murdered by three teenagers on Adler Street on May 4, 1978. Altab Ali was on his way home to Wapping after a shift as a machinist in a garment factory. Racist attacks were unfortunately not uncommon in London’s East End in the late 1970s, but the fatal attack on Ali led to a turning point. 10 days later, over 7000 people marched from the East End to Hyde Park to publicly mourn and demand police protection. A Bengali movement emerged to oppose the right-wing scene.
Special entrance arch at Altab Ali Park
Artist David Peterson created a special arch for the park’s entrance. The design features Bengalic styles and represents the interplay of different cultures in London’s East.
Lines of poetry on the ground of Altab Ali Park
On the ground in the middle of the park you can see the words “The shade of my tree is offered to those who come and go fleetingly”. They are parts of a poem by the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore.
The Shaheed Minar replica in the park
The Shaheed Minar stands in Dhaka and is a memorial to all those students who died in demonstrations in February 1952 while fighting for Bengali to become an official language in Pakistan (Bengali Language Movement). In the South-East corner of London’s Altab Ali Park is a smaller replica of the monument in Dhaka. It symbolizes a mother and her martyred sons.
Useful things to know when visiting Altab Ali Park
- The park is open around the clock
- The entrance is free of charge
- It is located in Adler Street
- It is about a 4 minutes walk from Aldgate East Station
- There are several benches and play areas for kids
Have you been to this park before? Do you have any other questions about the story? Feel free to leave a comment below the post.
This post is also available in: Deutsch