It often gets featured and it often gets visited, in fact no self respecting street art connoisseur misses it when visiting the area and that’s because the Seven Stars car park at the end of a tiny alley just off Brick Lane is one of the best places to spot street art in the city.
And what’s more its ever changing. The brickwork left following the demolition of the buildings which once occupied the site now actually form some pretty decent canvases for any visiting artist to come and paint onto.
It’s become one of the most recognised spots on the street art scene in the East End of London, if you go there it’s likely that you’ll be joined by street art tours, photographers, selfie queens and even the odd aspiring model posing against the ‘edgy’ urban backdrop of the east end.
Although it doesn’t look like it now, the Seven Stars was first established in 1711 supposedly by an early French Huguenot settler who came from Paris called John Raby. The huguenots settled extensively in the area so it’s not far fetched and evidence of their buildings can still be seen nearby. The current building was rebuilt in 1937 and closed in 2002.
Back in the day it was a popular drinking spot on Brick Lane which had a couple of bars and a reputation for erotic dancing and prostitution. Rachel Lichenstein in her book ‘On Brick Lane‘ recalls a story about going for a drink there, she describes a large barren saloon bar, with red carpet, neon strip lighting and a pool table in the centre. Whilst there a woman walked out in high heels and performed a striptease.
The place also gained a bit of a reputation as a hang out of the National Front, particularly active in the area in the 1970’s it was also a favoured haunt of a former bodyguard of Oswald Mosley, known as the Wolfman. Meetings in the room at the back were according to Ed Gilnerts East End Chronicles, “full of hardcore zealots”.
Randomly though it’s most famous claim to fame might just well be it’s links to the pop group the KLF and their supposed live burning of a million pounds on the Scottish island of Jura. You can hear them talk about it it this youtube clip here.
The alleged burning of the money which had been earned as a result of their successful career in music was filmed and shown to around 400 people who crammed into the downstairs bar of the Seven Stars. The screening however had to be abandoned for reasons not entirely clear, some say it was because the police turned up or it might just be because 400 people in a small basement room was never going to work and they gave it up as a bad job. According to Derelict London, which features this story, all that was left of the million pounds was a brick made from the ashes.
So that’s a little bit of history and no doubt the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stories of the East End of old. Now it has a very different role to play and that’s as a cool spot at the heart of London’s street art. So it you haven’t been down there, pop down to take a look, you can also find it on this ‘Street art tour of Brick Lane‘.
The Seven Stars car park was visited on Saturday 21 May 2016 and all photos featured in this post were taken at the time.
Seven Stars gallery