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19 Princelet Street
© Andy Parsons

So you've never been to... 19 Princelet Street?

Explore a 1719 Huguenot silk merchant’s home at 19 Princelet St, AKA The Museum of Immigration and Diversity

Written by
Louise Schwartzkoff

What's this, then?

19 Princelet Street is a Spitalfields townhouse, built in 1719, that’s seen better days.

What's so special about it?

It might not look like much from the outside, but step over the threshold and you’ll find one of the most intriguing and evocative exhibition spaces in London: Britain’s Museum of Immigration and Diversity.


© Andy Parsons

What's on show?

The house is packed with fascinating old objects. A stone sink in the basement kitchen has been there since the place was built and was home to a Huguenot family, who had escaped persecution in France. Wooden pews and a handsome candelabra in the central room date from the nineteenth century, when the house was transformed into a synagogue by Eastern European Jews. The rooms are dark and supported here and there by scaffolding. Every corner whispers of lives lived years ago.


© Andy Parsons

Are there actual exhibits?

Yes, but they’re subtle and blend into the building. The ‘Suitcases and Sanctuary’ show is a collaboration by artists and and local kids, exploring how immigration has shaped Spitalfields. One display features a suitcase full of potatoes, on which children have written the reasons that forced Ireland’s starving refugees from their homes in the nineteenth century. A screen downstairs shows footage of students of different ethnic backgrounds reciting an old Jewish tale. It’s all about empathy and the similarities between diverse groups.


© Andy Parsons

When can I pay a visit?

It’s rarely open. The space needs repairs and the charity that runs it needs £3 million before it can open permanently. The good news? There are open days on June 19 and 26 2016, then September 4 and 11 2016. It’s also open to groups who book ahead.

Previously: So you’ve never been to… Royal Vauxhall Tavern?

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