10 May 2012

Rodinsky's Room and 19 Princelet Street, Spitalfields, London

19 Princelet Street was built in 1714 and was the home of the French Huguenot Ogier family, who developed a very successful silk weaving concern.

In 1839 there was a synagogue on these premises, and now this Grade II* listed building is the Museum of Immigration and Diversity.

David Rodinsky (1925–69), a reclusive Jew who understood a number of languages and whose papers reveal a knowledge of cabbalism, lived above the synagogue for many years until his death in a psychiatric hospital in 1969, although this was not discovered until some time after his room – left suddenly, a little like Dennis Severs' imaginary family left their rooms in Folgate Street (see link below) – was unlocked in 1980.

The book Rodinsky's Room (1999) is written by Rachel Lichtenstein (whose Polish grandparents came to the East End in the 1930s) and Iain Sinclair (who wrote an early article on Rodinsky's room) in alternating chapters, although most is written by Lichtenstein, who slowly uncovers the mystery of Rodinsky at the same time as she discovers her own past.

Dennis Severs' House (6-minute video)

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