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Wakefield Sisters By Horace Warner

October 25, 2014
by the gentle author

Wakefield Sisters

In his Spitalfields albums, Horace Warner collected together all the portraits that he made of the people who lived in Quaker St around 1900 and, because he captioned some of them with their names, we have been able to trace the biographies of his subjects in the public records.

When you see this tender portrait of Jessica Wakefield in her clean apron and her younger sister Rosalie in her check dress, poised upon the threshold of life, it is impossible not to wonder what happened to these two and thus it imbues the photograph with an even greater resonance to discover that they lived to the ages of ninety-four and eighty-four respectively.

Observe how Jessica places her arm protectively around her little sister who was four years and half years younger than she. Jessica had been born in Camden on January 16th 1891 and Rosalie at 47 Hamilton Buildings, Great Eastern St, Shoreditch on July 4th 1895. They were the second and last of four children born to William, a printer’s assistant, and Alice, a housewife.It seems likely they were living in Great Eastern St at the time Horace Warner photographed them, when Jessica was ten or eleven and Rosalie was five or six.

Jessica married Stanley Taylor in 1915 and they lived in Wandsworth, where she died in 1985, aged ninety-four. On July 31st 1918 at the age of twenty-three, Rosalie married Ewart Osborne, a typewriter dealer, who was also twenty-three years old, at St Mary, Balham. After five years of marriage, they had a son named Robert, in 1923, but Ewart left her and she was reported as being deaf. Eventually the couple divorced in 1927 and both married again. Rosalie died aged eighty-four in 1979, six years before her elder sister Jessica, in Waltham Forest.

These bare facts deliver a poignant dramatic irony to Horace Warner’s photograph, once we know what life had in store for the Wakefield Sisters. We hope they remained close and were able to support each other through the travails and joys of life. Once Jessica & Rosalie come alive to us as individuals, we are left to contemplate the moment of stillness in 1900 that was captured for eternity by this picture.

Vicky Stewart worked with Helen Green, Lesley Law and Jacqueline T Ward for months this summer researching the biographies of the Spitalfields Nippers and, although Horace Warner only named a few of his subjects and we were not able to trace all of these, we hope those published in the book comprise a representative selection which may suggest a broader picture of the lives of the children in the photographs.


You can see more of Horace Warner’s SPITALFIELDS NIPPERS and read their biographies in today’s edition of The Guardian Magazine


All Publication Rights in these Photographs Reserved

Click here to order a copy of SPITALFIELDS NIPPERS by Horace Warner


My SPITALFIELDS NIPPERS lecture at the Bishopsgate Institute on 4th November is sold out, but I shall also be showing the photographs and telling the stories at WATERSTONES PICCADILLY on WEDNESDAY 19th NOVEMBER  at 7pm. Admission is free to this event and tickets are available but must be reserved

You may also like to read about

An Astonishing Photographic Discovery

In Search of Horace Warner

An Old Tin Badge


Faber Factory Plus part of Faber & Faber are distributing SPITALFIELDS NIPPERS nationwide – so if you are a retailer and would like to sell copies in your shop, please contact who deals with trade orders.

Colin O’Brien In Whitechapel

October 24, 2014
by the gentle author

For the past two and a half years, Contributing Photographers Colin O’BrienAlex Pink have been documenting Whitechapel, recording the changes delivered by the 2012 Olympics and the imminent arrival of Crossrail. Now they are showing this work from the first time in Whitechapel: A Look Back at the Darnley Gallery until 7th November. Today I publish a selection of Colin O’Brien’s photographs from this project, complementing Alex Pink’s pictures which I showed yesterday.

Photographs copyright © Colin O’Brien

WHITECHAPEL: A LOOK BACK BY COLIN O’BRIEN & ALEX PINK runs at the Darnley Gallery, 1a Darnley Rd, E9 6QH until 7th November

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Colin O’Brien at the Whitechapel Mission

Colin O’Brien at the Blind Beggar

Alex Pink In Whitechapel

October 23, 2014
by the gentle author

For the past two and a half years, Contributing Photographers Colin O’Brien & Alex Pink have been documenting Whitechapel, recording the changes delivered by the 2012 Olympics and the imminent arrival of Crossrail. Now they are showing this work from the first time and readers are invited to attend the opening of  Whitechapel: A Look Back at the Darnley Gallery from 6-9pm tonight. Here you can see a selection of Alex Pink’s photographs from this project which will be complemented tomorrow by Colin O’Brien’s pictures of Whitechapel.

Photographs copyright © Alex Pink

WHITECHAPEL: A LOOK BACK BY COLIN O’BRIEN & ALEX PINK opens tonight at the Darnley Gallery, 1a Darnley Rd, E9 6QH and runs until 7th November

You may like to look at these other pictures by Alex Pink

Alex Pink’s Spitalfields, Then & Now

Alex Pink’s East End Pubs, Then & Now

More of Alex Pink’s Pubs, Then & Now

Alex Pink’s Fournier St, Then & Now

Adam Dant At Lloyds Of London

October 22, 2014
by the gentle author

Double-click to enlarge and study the details

Have you ever wondered what goes on inside that gleaming steel tower on Leadenhall St which houses Lloyds of London? Thanks to the superlative talent of Spitalfields Life Contributing Artist, Adam Dant, we are now able to reveal this startlingly crowded vision of the hidden dramas that take place, usually concealed from the public gaze by Richard Rogers’ elaborate web of service ducts which covers the exterior of the building.

“I am using similar means to the pamphleteers of the eighteenth century who portrayed the life of the underwriters and brokers,” Adam admitted to me, “and I’ve learnt that many of the characters are eternal – you always had a self-important broker and a bullying underwriter.”

“It’s all observed from life in the three pubs that the brokers drink in, The Lamb, The Grapes & The New Moon,” Adam explained, “I solicited lists of types of people they had known and observed, and incidents from the history of Insurance. They told me that nobody sets out to work in Insurance, they all ended up there by accident – they say they are too stupid to go into banking and too disorganised to go into the army.”

Drawing copyright © Adam Dant

If you are interested to acquire a copy of the limited edition of Adam Dant’s LLOYDS OF LONDON print, email

You may also like to take a look at some of Adam Dant’s other maps, prints & cartoons

Adam Dant’s Map Of The Coffee Houses

The Meeting of the New & Old East End in Redchurch St

Redchurch St Rake’s Progress

Map of Hoxton Square

Hackney Treasure Map

Map of the History of Shoreditch

Map of Shoreditch in the Year 3000

Map of Shoreditch as New York

Map of Shoreditch as the Globe

Map of Shoreditch in Dreams

Map of the History of Clerkenwell

Map of the Journey to the Heart of the East End

Map of the History of Rotherhithe

Map of Industrious Shoreditch

Adam Dant’s Map of Walbrook

Adam Dant’s Map Of Budge Row

Soerditch by Dant (Chapter One)

Soerditch by Dant (Chapter Two)

Soerditch by Dant (Chapter Three)

Soerditch by Dant (Chapter Four)

Soerditch by Dant (Chapter Five)

Soerditch by Dant (Chapter Six)

Click here to buy a copy of The Map of Spitalfields Life drawn by Adam Dant with stories by The Gentle Author

In Old St

October 21, 2014
by the gentle author

Old St

In my mind, Old St is interminably long – a thoroughfare that requires me to put my head down and walk doggedly until I reach the other end. Sometimes, the thought of walking the whole length of Old St can motivate me to take the bus and, at other times, I have been inspired to pursue routes through the side streets which run parallel, in order to avoid walking along Old St.

Yet  I realised recently that Old St is short. It only extends from Goswell Rd, on the boundary of Clerkenwell, to the foot of the Kingsland Rd in Shoreditch – just a hop, skip and a jump – which leaves me wondering why it seems such a challenge when I set out to walk along it. Let me confess, I have no love for Old St – that is why I seek alternative routes, because even the thought of walking along Old St wears me down.

So I decided to take a new look at Old St, in the hope that I might overcome my aversion. Over the last week, I have walked up and down Old St half a dozen times and, to my surprise, it only takes ten minutes to get from Goswell Rd to Shoreditch Church.

Old St was first recorded as Ealdestrate around 1200 and as Le Oldestrete in 1373, confirming it as an ancient thoroughfare that is as old as history. It was a primeval cattle track, first laid it out as a road by the Romans for whom it became a major route extending to Bath in the west and Colchester in the east. No wonder Old St feels long, it is a fragment of a road that bisects the country.

Setting out from Goswell Rd along Old St on foot, you realise that the east-west orientation places the southerly side of the street in permanent shadow, only illuminated by narrow shafts of sunlight extending across the road from side-streets on the southern side. This combination of deep shadow and the ferocious east wind, channelled by the remains of the eighteenth and nineteenth century terraces that once lined Old St which are mostly displaced now by taller developments, can be discouraging.

Of course, you can take a detour along Baltic St, but before you know it you are at St Luke’s where William Caslon, who set up the first British Type Foundry here in Helmet Row, is buried. Nicholas Hawksmoor’s obelisk on the top of St Luke’s glows in the morning sunlight shining up Whitecross St Market, which has enjoyed a revival in recent years as a lunchtime destination, offering a wide variety of food to City workers.

Between here and the Old St roundabout, now the focus of new industries and dwarfed by monster towers rising to the north up City Rd, you can pay your respects to my favourite seventeenth century mystic poet Christopher Smart who was committed in his madness to St Luke’s Asylum and wrote his greatest poetry where Argos stands today. Alternatively, you can stroll through Bunhill Fields, the non-conformist cemetery, where Blake, Bunyan and Defoe are buried. Seeing the figure of John Bunyan’s Christian, the Pilgrim of Pilgrim’s Progress, upon the side of his tomb always reminds me of the figure of Bunyan at Holborn, and I imagine that he walked here from there and Old St was that narrow straight path which Christian was so passionate to follow.

Crossing the so-called Silicon Roundabout, I am always amused by the incongruity of the Bezier Building that for all its sophisticated computer-generated geometry resembles nothing else than a pair of buttocks. Taking a path north of Old St, takes you through Charles Sq with its rare eighteenth century survival, returning you to the narrowest part  of our chosen thoroughfare between Pitfield St and Curtain Rd, giving an indication of the width of the whole street before it was widened to the west of here in the nineteenth century.

The figure on the top of Shoreditch Town Hall labelled ‘Progress’ makes a highly satisfactory conclusion to our journey, simultaneously embodying the contemporary notion of technological progress and the ancient concept of a spiritual progress – both of which you may encounter upon Old St.

Hand & Feathers, Goswell Rd

Central Cafe

Helmet Row, where William Caslon established his first type foundry

St Lukes Churchyard

St Luke by Nicholas Hawksmoor

The White Lion, Central St

At Whitecross St

In Whitecross Market

Mural by Ben Eine

In Bunhill Cemetery

John Bunyan’s tomb in Bunhill Fields with the figure of the pilgrim

John Wesley’s House in City Rd

Old St Gothic on the former St Luke Parochial School

Emerging from Old St tube

The Bezier Building has a curious resemblance to a pair of buttocks

Entrance to Old St Tube

Eighteenth century house in Charles Sq

Prince Arthur in Brunswick Lane

Old House in Charles St

Street Art in Old St

Figure of Progress on Shoreditch Town Hall

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In Old Clerkenwell

In Old Rotherhithe

In Fleet St

In Mile End Old Town

In Old Stepney

In Old Bermondsey

In Old Holborn