|All the World's a Coalhole! - Brick Lane|
There was nothing else around to give any clues as to what else it might be though, so I had to wait until I was home to find out what it was I'd actually stumbled over.
What I found after a bit of searching was that it wasn't a coal-hole but something called a 'Spitalfields Roundel', one of a series of 25 individual images by local artist Keith Bowler that were created and placed as the result of the Bethnal Green City Challenge in 1995. This was a five year regeneration project for the Bethnal Green area and the roundels were one aspect of much of the work that took place in the area. The roundels were cast in iron locally and depicted scenes and images of importance locally. The globe outside the mosque was there to signify the historic importance of immigration to the area
The 'Know Your London' website has lots more information on them including some nice sepia photographs. One thing that I did wonder and which wasn't clear on the website, was whether these roundels were sited in existing coal-holes or were they in effect plaques embedded in concrete? What I also find quite surprising and a little sad is that of the 25 roundels put in place in 1995, only 12 are still known to be in existence. Presumably the others have fallen victim to pavement repairs or rebuilding and their fate is not known. With 13 gone within 15 years you'd better get looking quick if you want to see any of the rest!