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story icon 79 Sinclair Road - Britain's First Sikh Gurdwara

Contributed by: Amandeep Madra
1940 - 1967


This site is a Georgian terrace in Shepherds Bush, just behind the Green.

Its relevance as a site of historical importance begins with its acquisition by Maharajah Bhupinder Singh of Patiala whose name became synonymous with the house, it later acquiring the title Bhupinder Dharamsala. Anecdotal evidence suggests that he used this as his London residence. It became a site of great social importance when Maharajah Bhupinder Singh donated the site to the then embryonic Sikh community for use as a Gurdwara or Sikh Temple. The house then became the first Sikh Gurdwara in the UK. There are currently over 200 Sikh temples in the UK today with almost a quarter being within the Greater London area.

quote... Many thousands of Sikh immigrants to the UK who settled in London and the Midlands from the 1930's onward can trace their arrival to this site either directly or indirectly ...unquote

The Temple became an extremely importance site for the very early Sikh immigrants. Living where there was work, the Temple became an immediate and vital centre of social interaction as well as a place of spiritual reflection. Immigrants, Sikh and Hindu alike, used the address of 79 Sinclair road as their first mailing address and domicile as they entered Great Britain often from a gruelling 10 week journey by steamer from India or Africa. In doing so it provided shelter and stability. Many thousands of Sikh immigrants to the UK who settled in London and the Midlands from the 1930s onward can trace their arrival to this site either directly or indirectly.

The site became a critical part of the lifecycle rituals of this early community hosting marriages, birth and funerary ceremonies when required. In an otherwise hostile London 79 Sinclair Road in one way or another was a safe haven for the rapidly growing Sikh community.

By the 1960s when Britain began to actively encourage immigration - specifically from Punjab with the introduction of the voucher system the house became far to small for the now burgeoning community. In 1967 building work was started on a new site in Queensdale Road, Shepherds Bush despite the protests from the local council. Despite the obstacles the site was complete and 79 Sinclair Road sold to assist in the building fund. Since then it has been in private hands.





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