London – Tower Hamlets (Borough of) – Museum of London Docklands (Lascars Only Sign)

This sign is now on display at the Museum of London Docklands and it was also located here when it was being converted. It’s a sign that wouldn’t normally survive and it’s thought to be from a toilet block within West India Quays. Lascars were sailors from the India region, south-east Asia and what are now the Arab States. There were relatively large numbers employed during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the East India Company and they were primarily Muslims, although with some Christians from Goa employed as well.

The life of most sailors wasn’t one of wealth, but the Lascars fared badly and there were much poverty with the sailors and this was evident in their living conditions in London. The sailors were though well-regarded and the docks did make an effort to provide reasonable facilities for them. The facilities installed were squatting toilets and so it was more about meeting different cultural standards than segregation, but lascars did face discrimination in many areas.