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Help me Intartubes, you're my only hope!

If Limehouse was the part of London popularly associated with Chinese immigration, opium dens, Fu Manchu and other sinister orientals born of Britlit folly, where would be the equivalent nexus of influence from the Indian sub-continent?

Please don't say Neasden.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 6th, 2009 12:46 pm (UTC)
Southall? In recentish history at least. Possibly not historic enough.
Feb. 6th, 2009 01:01 pm (UTC)
Thank you lovely one
I'm going to have to research Southall properly for this story. There's history but it's resolutely cheerful, even after bombings in WWII and such. Compared to the nasty spookiness of the old East End it's hopelessly happy.

I dread going there; I'm going to take one look at shop windows full of gulab jamun, rasmalai and kulfi, then I'm going to forget my research and stuff my face!
Feb. 6th, 2009 01:07 pm (UTC)
My initial thought is that Limehouse would still be the place you're looking for. It was a cultural melting pot because of all the sailors from the docks. It has been ten years since I last read all the Fu Manchu books so I can't remember exactly what Rohmer had to say about Limehouse.
Feb. 6th, 2009 01:19 pm (UTC)
He always responds to the bat signal...
Thank you my dear, yes 'The Strangers Home' and St Anne's still call to me, I'm just worried about bumping into Dickens/Rohmer territory and getting lost in the land of cliches.

I should investigate for myself but this means braving the DLR.
Feb. 6th, 2009 01:20 pm (UTC)
Forget what I said. Casual research online and in the Mystery of Dr Fu Manchu quickly proved me wrong. You've piqued my interest with your question and I shall dig further.
Feb. 6th, 2009 01:40 pm (UTC)
I've done some more digging and a possibility I've found is the area around the East India Docks at Blackwall. It was a centre of trade with India via the Honourable East India Company so there would have been a lot of Indian sub-continent sailors, much like Limehouse with Oriental sailors. I haven't yet found any hard evidence that this is the area you're looking for but it might be worth checking out.
Feb. 6th, 2009 01:46 pm (UTC)
Very interesting!

Thank you for this mon cher. I will indeed check it out.
I knew there was an East India dock, didn't know it was at Blackwall.

You're ever so good at this lark, you know!
Feb. 6th, 2009 02:00 pm (UTC)
Neasden. I just had to. Sorry.
Feb. 6th, 2009 02:12 pm (UTC)
With greater seriouness this might help start out the journey. Looks like limhouse again and hackney of all places...
Feb. 6th, 2009 03:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you, fascinating stuff!
Feb. 6th, 2009 03:39 pm (UTC)
*sigh* And then you wonder why you won't go to heaven...
Feb. 6th, 2009 04:36 pm (UTC)
Oh but I will. I am a catholic and confess all my naughty sins!
Feb. 6th, 2009 04:54 pm (UTC)
Saves me sitting on my hands at least! (So glad you beat me to it...) ;o)
Feb. 6th, 2009 04:56 pm (UTC)
Sadly always the case m'dear. And not something to be proud of! ;)
Feb. 6th, 2009 05:49 pm (UTC)
I dunno...you feed me glorious cheese starters, home made salmon ravioli poached in vodka, tiramisu, chocolates, and then you almost say Neasden.

Sometimes I think you're a very bad girl indeed.
Feb. 7th, 2009 12:37 pm (UTC)
This is going to be a 'multi-parter' reply as I find the subject interesting and so did a fair bit of research!

Most of the people from the Indian sub-continent pre the 1950s were sailors and logically you would be looking to the dock areas. Limehouse was a bit of a melting pot regardless, so you would have a mix there anyway as well. You would also be looking at Shadwell in the early part of the nineteenth century (and possible later as well) and generally anywhere near the East India Docks. If you are looking at the same kind of time period as the Fu Manchu stories (at least the early ones anyway) the term you are looking for is 'Lascars'. Note that Lascars included a lot of people from the general area, not just India. You will find there are plenty of mentions by Rohmer of Lascars, which was the term often used at the time for people from India.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lascar

Some handy links:
on the Chinese community:
and on the black community (including lascars):

and http://www.lascars.co.uk/plafeb1931.html
mentions the 'strangers Home' in West India docks road.

lists 'Tiger Bay' at Shadwell as having a Goan community, the Royal Sovereign Public House as a popular meeting place for Lascars, the 'Home for Asiatics, Africans, South Sea Islanders and Others' (strangers Home) on the West India Dock Road, the Isle of Dogs, The nearby area around Ratcliffe Highway (The Blue Gate public house was popular and a bit disreputable by the look of things), behind the Limehouse Basin and St George's Street at St Katharine's Docks.
The whole Port Cities site is very informative:
Feb. 7th, 2009 12:38 pm (UTC)
The preview of this book is interesting:


The East India Company was the principle source of Lascars entering London as sailors, and though they were supposed to also ship them home again, many were just dumped on London's streets and became homeless, hence the 'Strangers Home'. Many also deserted from their ships.

Everything I have looked at suggests Shadwell would be the main place to consider. Lascars are reported as having rioted there in October 1805 (for some odd reason people usually riot in their own areas), and also organised a religious parade there in April of the same year, again something that tends to happen on peoples home turf.

There are indications that they were a rough lot from the start - 1805 they also took control of streets of the Tower of London in protest to a sex worker having apparently robbed one of them, and there also accounts of general brawls, but from 1813 this got worse, with more brawls and several deaths. In September there were fights between Malay sailors and Arabs Chinese Tongs fighting each other (killing three and hospitalising seventeen), and then fights between the Chinese and the Lascars. Again, most of this seems to have happened around Shadwell. These are reported around page 162/3 of the book linked above.

Around 1815, following problems with lascars in Shadwell, the government and East India Company shifted as much as they could out of the area and toward the newly built East India Docks at Blackwell. The idea was that in relocating the companies activity the Lascars would shift with it and that they would be easier to police and deport from Blackwell (and less noticed by Londoners). There was even a plan to forcibly house Lascars on boats in the area but that never went ahead. Indians did decline in number after that in Shadwell, but were still present in 1817 in enough numbers to be noticeable in public houses as a nuisance. the large scale fights did seem to shift to the new depot though throughout the 1820s (and were still frequent).

A lodging house for Lascars opened in the 1820s at 72 the High Street, Poplar, apparently one of many in Poplar and Limehouse.In 1834 the East India Company had its charter temporarily suspended though, and the depot at Blackwell became useless and Lascars effectively unsupervised by the company. This led to Lascars being involved in founding the 'Oriental Quarter' around the East India Docks. Unfortuantely that was all I could get from this books preview... but then the book only goes up to the 1850s anyway.
Feb. 7th, 2009 12:52 pm (UTC)
Some more info (Am I overloading you? I hope not!)



(browsing around at other pages here is interesting, with sections on mixed marriages and the like - its worth remembering that a fair number of people of Indian origin in London were not Lascars, but wives of Englishmen married in India, mixed children and servants.


I could list more - googling 'Lascars in London' turns up a LOT of links. As always, knowing what to look for is what gets the results!

Really anywhere from Whitechapel along the Commercial Road and into East India Dock Road is where you find Lascars - originally more toward the Whitechapel end, but with some moving East along the road over time as the docks shifted. Limehouse ends up slap bang in the middle of that area. Its only a guess, but I would imagine that over time the Shadwell area was more likely to be settled by those who found family ties in the area, with the actual Lascar/sailors shifting East along the road and taking most of the trouble with them to Limehouse, which is why its such a bad area in the FU Manchu stories. You dont get proper mass immigration until the 1950s so inevitably if its mostly sialors the area would be pretty bad...
Feb. 8th, 2009 12:11 pm (UTC)
Wow! Completely astonishing, you have really helped me. This is fantastic, thank you for all this work:-)
Feb. 8th, 2009 12:25 pm (UTC)
I was having fun :)
Some very interesting material on some of those sites (I hadn't realised the extent to which inter-racial marriage was happening in the past, nor that while some people from different ethnic groups came to succeed financially/status-wise in the UK they often found they met prejudices and problems if they then went back to their country of origin).
Plus all the stuff about riots and fights was great- I did studies on riot, disorder and popular uprisings as part of an overall study of poverty and vagrancy in England from the middle ages up at University for my degree minor and love all that stuff.

I am also a big fan of those Fu Manchu stories-while they are full of stereotypes, I love the sense of desperation and mystery, and Nayland Smith and Fu Manchu are great characters-perfectly balancing each other but with both containing admirable and deplorable characteristics in equal measure.
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )



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