London housing block named after British Indian spy Noor Inayat Khan

Camden Council unveiled the "Noor Inayat Khan House" at a ceremony on Wednesday attended by local Labour Party MP and Opposition leader Keir Starmer & Khan's biographer Shrabani Basu.
British Indian spy and descendant of Tipu Sultan, Noor Inayat Khan (Photo | Wikimedia Commons)
British Indian spy and descendant of Tipu Sultan, Noor Inayat Khan (Photo | Wikimedia Commons)

LONDON: A council housing block in north London has been named after British Indian spy and descendant of Tipu Sultan, Noor Inayat Khan, following a ballot of local residents to choose from a shortlist of the area's historic inhabitants.

Camden Council unveiled the "Noor Inayat Khan House" at a ceremony on Wednesday attended by local Labour Party MP and Opposition leader Keir Starmer, Khan's biographer Shrabani Basu and Camden Council leaders and residents.

Camden was the borough where young Noor lived with her family before she left for Nazi-occupied France in 1943 after being recruited as an undercover radio operator for Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE), becoming the first woman to be dropped behind enemy lines during the Second World War.

"It is wonderful that the residents of Camden voted to name the housing block after Noor Inayat Khan; the people of Camden have truly taken Noor to heart, and she is known and loved in the borough," said Basu, the London-based author of 'Spy Princess: The Life of Noor Inayat Khan'.

In her speech at the unveiling, she noted: "Today we remember Noor Inayat Khan as a heroine of the war, a young woman of Indian origin, who unhesitatingly gave her life in the fight against Fascism. But it is not just her bravery and loyalty that we remember. At a time when conflict is rife in the world, and countries and communities are divided by gunfire and walls, it is important to remember the values that Noor stood for. She was a Sufi, she believed in religious tolerance, she believed in non-violence and peace between nations. Today, let us take away her message for peace and harmony."

In 2020, the English Heritage charity unveiled a Blue Plaque at 4 Taviton Street in Bloomsbury to commemorate Khan's home in Camden, following a memorial installed nearby at Gordon Square by the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust in 2012.

The new housing block in the name of the war heroine shot dead aged just 30 at Dachau concentration camp in 1944 forms part of a social housing project to deliver more affordable homes in London.

"This isn't just about some bricks and some windows and a roof; this is about life chances, aspiration and equal opportunity for everyone. When I was growing up we didn't have a lot of money, but we did have a house. And that gave me the security to go on and do some of the things that I've done in my life. I want every child to have that chance," said Starmer, member of Parliament for Holborn and St.Pancras in Camden.

Each of the three new residential buildings at the Maitland Park redevelopment has been named after prominent local figures as part of Camden Council's strategy for diversity in the public spaces.

Besides Noor Inayat Khan, a second block commemorates Mary Prince - the first black woman to have an autobiography published in Britain and a third is named after Antony Grey - an LGBTQ+ activist whose work led to decriminalisation of homosexuality for men.

"Residents have shaped the legacy of where they live by helping to choose three remarkable figures from our local community to name their new buildings after," said Councillor Danny Beales, Camden Council Cabinet Member for New Homes, Jobs, and Community Investment.

The council said the redevelopment at the Maitland Park Estate in Haverstock is the latest social housing project to reach completion in Camden since the council announced the expansion of its house-building programme by committing an extra GBP 1.3 billion investment towards building new homes for residents.

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