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William Whiffin’s London

October 6, 2015
by the gentle author

William Whiffin (1878-1957) is one of the great unsung London photographers, which makes it a rare pleasure to present this gallery of his pictures from the collection of his granddaughter Hellen Martin, many of which have never been published before. Born into a family of photographers in the East End, Whiffin made his living with studio portraits and commercial commissions, yet he strove to be recognised for his more artistic photography. I recommend you visit the exhibition of William Whiffin’s East End at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives until November 19th.

Black Lion Brewery and the Shot Tower, South Bank

The photographer’s son Sid Whiffin at Cooper’s Stairs, Old Queen St

Off Fetter Lane

The Pantheon, Oxford St

In Princes Sq, Stepney

Figureheads of fighting ships in Grosvenor Rd

At Covent Garden Market

Milwall & the Island Horse Omnibus, c.1910

St Catherine Coleman next to Fenchurch St Station

In Fleet St

In Bukfast St, Bethnal Green

At Borough Market

In Lombard St

Rotherhithe Watch House

Wapping Old Stairs

Ratcliff Stairs, Limehouse

Ratcliff Causeway, Limehouse

Farthing Bundles at the Fern St Settlement, Bow

Houndsditch Rag Fair

At the Royal Exchange, City of London

Weavers’ House, possibly Brick Lane

Borough of Poplar Electricity Dept

Pruning in the hop gardens of Faversham

Photographs copyright © Estate of William Whiffin

Hellen Martin & I should be very grateful if readers can identify any of the uncaptioned photographs

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Horace Warner’s Photography

C A Mathew’s Photography

At Queens Market

October 5, 2015
by the gentle author

Asif Sheikh

Contributing Photographer Colin O’Brien & I spent our Saturday morning at Queen’s Market in Upton Park and we were inspired by the vitality of the place and the infinite variety of cheap goods on sale. Brightly-lit stalls gleam beneath a cavernous dark roof that seems to recede forever, sheltering an intricate labyrinth of booths, kiosks and shops offering some new wonder at every corner. It is one of those places where you can buy everything you need and want for nothing in life.

Like the porter at the gate, Neil Stockwell greeted us from the very first stall in the front of the market where he sells fruit and vegetables at bargain prices. “My grandfather was here before me in 1955,” he informed me, “As a child I worked with him, and when he retired in 1979 I took over his hawker’s licence and I’ve been here ever since.”

Understandably, Neil is very protective of his beloved market. “This is the jewel of the East End,” he assured me authoritatively, “Its survival has been very much to do with all the different people who have come here – once upon a time, we only sold apples, oranges and veg but now we sell everything. There’s no divisions in this market, it is a community within a community.”

With this in mind, Colin & I set off through the market and – even at that busy time – we received a welcome from the traders, graciously permitting us to take their portraits. We met Zulaikha, Qasim & Aisha Tasawer on their first day of trading and David Martin who has been selling fish for twenty-seven years, and it became evident that this is a prospering market.

Astonishingly, it might have closed forever if not for the tenacious campaign by Friends of Queens Market who fought for ten years to see off a high-rise development plan and get the market designated as an asset of community value. Now the future is secure, yet the level of maintenance has been pitiful and – as traders face another winter with leaks in the roof – a protest took place on Saturday in an attempt to underline the importance of this basic provision.

If you have not yet made the pilgrimage to Queens Market, then I encourage you to do so. Once you have been there, you will want to go back regularly. You can see life, get all your weekly supplies fresh and cheap, and never go near a supermarket again.

Neil Stockwell ‘This is the jewel of the East End”

Carol Porter has been selling fruit & veg for nineteen years in Queens Market

Zulaikha, Qasim & Aisha Tasawer on their first day as stallholders

Joan Thompson has been selling jewellery here for seven years and was in Brixton before

Ahmed Nassr has been selling olives and honey for just two months in Queens Market

David Martin has been selling fish in this market for twenty-seven years

Mrs Wheatley has been selling jewellery at Queens Market for thirty-two years

Mr Baig has been trading in textiles here for four years

Friends of Queens Market protest about the lack of repairs to the leaky roof

Photographs copyright © Colin O’Brien

Read about how Queens Market was saved on the Friends of Queens Market website

From The Lives Of Commercial Stationers

October 4, 2015
by the gentle author

Today I present an extract from my new book BADDELEY BROTHERS published on 15th October

Observe all the diners looking snappy and quite resplendent in their finery at a fancy dinner in 1956 to celebrate the centenary of Baddeley Brothers. Envelope makers, die sinkers and engravers present themselves to the camera with dignity and poise. Some of these people had stayed with the company, supplying commercial stationery to the City of London throughout the war, while others had returned afterwards as veterans to make a new start.

Baddeley Brothers’ factory in Moor Lane was destroyed in the Blitz of 1940 but, by 1946, David Baddeley had acquired the lease to 92 & 94 Paul St in Shoreditch, permitting the print works to leave temporary premises in Bishopsgate, opposite Liverpool St Station, where they had operated during hostilities. Like others in the company, David Baddeley never spoke about his service career, yet he had commanded a squadron of North Sea minesweepers on the East Coast off Harwich. They were old steam trawlers run by skippers who were barely susceptible to naval discipline yet he had to lead them into mined waters.

Thus, returning to the world of wholesale commercial stationery, David Baddeley did not suffer fools gladly and expected his jobs to take priority in the works. A few years later when his nephews, David & Roger Pertwee, walked into this building, most of the working practices and the arrangement of the workplace still followed those established in the nineteenth century. Although we cannot go back in time to see it for ourselves, David & Roger were able to describe for me what they discovered inside.

On the top floor sat a row of seven or eight engravers working at their benches, each with an anglepoise light and a magnifying glass. These engravers each had different specialities – one did various forms of script, especially copperplate, another did the different range of lettering styles for titles, another worked the pantograph which scaled letters up and down from the designs onto the metal plate, another did ‘ordinary’ lettering for addresses and lists of directors, and there was an ‘artist’ who could do preliminary drawings and illuminations, graphic lettering and elaborate calligraphic styles. They all took great pride in their work.

Ken Roddis, the foreman engraver, was in his sixties then. He always wore a suit and tie, and had joined the company at fourteen in 1920. Ken organised who was to going to engrave which part of a complete design according to their best skills. Everyone was paid by piecework  - so much per letter – and Roger always understood from Ken that this was how they got through the Depression of the thirties, by being careful to share out the work fairly so that everyone got enough to live.

Below the engravers, on the third floor, they did edge-gilding for cards, interleaving them with fine tissue and packed them. On the second floor, there were die-stamping machines and a hand die-stamping press, as well as litho and copperplate printing, and, on the first floor, there were offices divided by glass partitions. This was where you found Stan Woolley, the office manager, who had served in the Navy with David Baddeley and been recruited to Baddelely Brothers at the end of the war.

On the same floor, Charlie Ewin ran the litho department for fifty years. “He lived at the top of Shoreditch High Street on the right hand side by the church,” David Pertwee remembered, “Charlie’d say to me, ‘Come and have a drink on Saturday night,’ and I’d say, ‘Alright Charlie!’ and I’d have a fantastic evening. On Monday, I’d ask him, ‘Did you have a good weekend, Charlie?’ and, ’Yes,’ he’d say, ‘I picked a fight with the wife because she wouldn’t go out with me, so I stayed out the whole time the pubs were open.” Then I’d see him hanging onto the railings by Shoreditch Church to find his way home.”

“He used to take all the high pressure jobs like menus and table plans,” Roger added, “and every so often it would get too much for him and the whole lot would go up in the air. He was a great friend actually. He was never ever late, and you’d never notice he’d been on the tonk.”

When David Pertwee first arrived in 1956, Bill Steer was the factory manager, running both premises. “He was a small man, a bit like a ferret and a little brow beaten by my uncle I think,” David admitted to me,”My uncle relied upon him but as he grew older, he grew less reliable and there were three pubs in between our Paul St and Tabernacle St factories. Even so, he was a very good long-standing employee.”

With the development of trade in the City of London, extra capacity was required for modern machines and more room for envelope-makers to work. Thus, another factory in Tabernacle St was acquired in 1952, less than five minutes walk away. Most significantly, it had a coke furnace in the basement where dies could be softened and hardened, which meant that this essential part of the work need no longer be sent out. One of Roger’s first jobs was to order the coke for the furnace which was fired up every Tuesday and Thursday. On those days, there was always a film of smoke and an acrid smell – the whiff of cyanide – which told Roger that the hardening of dies was in progress.

At first, a rubbing was taken of the die as it was when it was received. Engraved dies are hardened with cyanide but equally they can be softened by exposure to heat. Once this is done, the original design may be scraped out and re-engraved before hardening again, and this process can be repeated over and over as required until the die becomes too worn and needs replacing.

The dies to be hardened were put into steel boxes and the cyanide was heated in a steel pot. Then the dies would be dipped in it for a second and cooled in a bucket of water afterwards. This achieved a surface of hardened steel and they were known as ‘case-hardened.’

To soften the dies again, they were put into a steel box known as a ‘saggar’, packed with layers of charcoal and sealed with fine clay, before being left in the furnace overnight. Thus the hardening of dies always came first and the softening was done at the end of the day.

The basement was also used for envelope-cutting, for guillotining and as a paper warehouse. The paper was delivered down a chute. The men would open up the cellar door and reams of paper would be thrown down from the lorry and stacked away. Roger remembers how, in the sixties, the men would stand under the trapdoor and watch the young women going by in their miniskirts. “Hackney girls started off working in overalls,” Roger confided to me, “but once they got the chance they started dressing up, as factory spaces around Old St were converted to offices and clerical work replaced manufacturing.”

On the ground and first floors were the new automatic die-stamping machines with five or six men minding them on each floor. Yet in spite of this new mechanisation, there was still Charlie Davis, an experience hand die-stamper who had been with Baddeley Brothers for his whole working life. If a crest consisted of five or six colours that had to be in register, his skill was such that, if you wanted two hundred and fifty copies, it was quicker for him to do it than a machine.

The second floor and third floors were a female preserve ruled by Mary Brandon who ran the department, as successor to the legendary Mrs Carter, with five or six women devoted to envelope-making and hand-folding. Mary Brandon came from another envelope-maker in Croydon who went out of business and was an expert at making any sort of envelope asked of her, whether a tissue-lined or gusseted or any other style.

Violet Rogers, who worked at Baddeley Brothers into her seventies and eventually retired in 1993, still talked about the bomb in December 1940. “We all turned up to work the next day but we could only get to the end of Moor Lane,” she remembered, “and they told us we couldn’t get any further.”

As the photographs of Baddeley Brothers’ dinners reveal, the opportunity for regular celebration was not neglected as the age of austerity passed away. “David Baddeley may have been a blunt Victorian,” Roger confessed to me,”but he was good at talking and mixing with people and, every year or so, he’d say, ’It’s time we had a firm’s dinner’ and we’d have it in one of the large eateries in Copthall Avenue in the City.”

Held on a Friday night, these dinners were formal affairs done in style with engraved invitations, at which employees dressed up and brought their husbands and wives, all the pensioners came back for a reunion, and speeches and votes of thanks were made. “It was a bit stilted to start with, but then after a couple of drinks people relaxed and had fun,” Roger recalled fondly, “I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves and there was a free bar which was open afterwards until either it was getting out of hand or people went home.”

The responsibility fell upon David & Roger to stay to the end of these parties. “There would be a bit of a sing song, and there was always one or two who went the extra mile, but no fighting, we all behaved ourselves,” David assured me.

“As a junior director, I was essentially an errand boy,” Roger concluded, “but it was apparent to me that the company was getting going in the sixties and had regained the momentum it lost in the war.”

Charlie Davis, hand die-stamping

David Bates working a proofing press

Graham Donaldson, engraver

Graham Donaldson scrutinises his work

Mary Brandon folding envelopes by hand

Alan Reeves, envelope maker

Baddeley Brothers at IPEX (International Print Exhibition) 1960

BADDELEY BROTHERS will be launched at St Bride Printing Library, Fleet St, on Thursday October 15th at 7pm

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Upon the Origins of Baddeley Brothers

JJ Baddeley, Die Sinker & Lord Mayor

Luke Clennell’s Dance Of Death

October 3, 2015
by the gentle author

More than ten years have passed since my father died at this time of year, yet thoughts of mortality enter my mind as the nights begin to draw in and I face the spiritual challenge of another long dark winter ahead. So Luke Clennell’s splendid DANCE OF DEATH engravings inspired by Hans Holbein suit my mordant sensibility at this season.

First published in 1825 as the work of ‘Mr Bewick’, they have only recently been identified for me as the work of Thomas Bewick’s apprentice Luke Clennell by historian Dr Ruth Richardson.

In recent weeks, I have presented his Cries of London and London Melodies in these pages, ascribed to their creator for the first time, and I am delighted to draw attention to the inspired work of this unjustly neglected artist whose engravings I am including in my CRIES OF LONDON published in November.

The Desolation

The Queen

The Pope

The Cardinal

The Elector

The Canon

The Canoness

The Priest

The Mendicant Friar

The Councillor or Magistrate

The Astrologer

The Physician

The Merchant

The Wreck

The Swiss Soldier

The Charioteer or Waggoner

The Porter

The Fool

The Miser

The Gamesters

The Drunkards

The Beggar

The Thief

The Newly Married Pair

The Husband

The Wife

The Child

The Old Man

The Old Woman

You may also like to take a look at

Luke Clennell’s London Melodies

Luke Clennell’s Cries of London

Scars Of War

October 2, 2015
by the gentle author

Taking advantage of yesterday’s bright October sunshine, I set out for a walk across London with my camera to see what shrapnel and bomb damage I could find still visible from the last century. Much of the damage upon brick structures appears to have gone along with the walls, since most of what I discovered was upon stone buildings.

Shrapnel damage at the junction of Mansell St & Chambers St from World War II

Shrapnel pock-marks upon Southwark Cathedral from February 1941

Damage at St Bartholomew’s Hospital from zeppelin raids on 8th September 1915 and on 7th July 1917

Damage at St Bartholomew’s Hospital from zeppelin raids on 8th September 1915 and on 7th July 1917

Damage at Stone Buildings, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, from a bomb dropped on Wednesday 18th December 1917 at 8pm

Damage at Stone Buildings, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, from a bomb dropped on Wednesday 18th December 1917 at 8pm

Repair of shrapnel damage from September 194o at University College London, Zoology Museum, Gower St

Damage at St Clement Dane’s in the Strand from 10th May 1941 when the church was gutted

Damage at St Clement Dane’s in the Strand from 10th May 1941 when the church was gutted

Sphinx on the Embankment with damage from the first raid by German aeroplanes Tuesday 4th September 1917

Cleopatra’s Needle with damage from the first raid by German aeroplanes Tuesday 4th September 1917

Damage at Victoria & Albert Museum from two bombs in Exhibition Rd during World War II

Damage at Victoria & Albert Museum from two bombs in Exhibition Rd during World War II

Damage at Tate Britain from September 16th 1940

Please tell me of more locations of visible bomb damage and I will extend this series

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The Bombing of Columbia Market

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