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The East End in the Afternoon

February 2, 2013
by the gentle author

There is little traffic on the road, children are at play, housewives linger in doorways, old men doze outside the library and, in the distance, a rag and bone man’s cart clatters down the street. This is the East End in the afternoon, as photographed by newspaper artist Tony Hall in the nineteen sixties while wandering with his camera in the quiet hours between shifts on The Evening News in Fleet St.

“Tony cared very much about the sense of community here.” Libby Hall, Tony’s wife, recalled, “He loved the warmth of the East End. And when he photographed buildings it was always for the human element, not just the aesthetic.”

Contemplating Tony’s clear-eyed photos – half a century after they were taken – raises questions about the changes enacted upon the East End in the intervening years. Most obviously, the loss of the pubs and corner shops which Tony portrayed with such affection in pictures that remind us of the importance of these meeting places, drawing people into a close relationship with their immediate environment.

“He photographed the pubs and little shops that he knew were on the edge of disappearing,” Libby Hall confirmed for me, ‘He loved the history of the East End, the Victorian overlap, and the sense that it was the last of Dickens’ London.”

In 1972, Tony Hall left The Evening News and with his new job came a new shift pattern which did not grant him afternoons off – thus drawing his East End photographic odyssey to a close. Yet for one who did not consider himself a photographer, Tony Hall’s opus comprises a tender vision of breathtaking clarity, constructed with purpose and insight as a social record. Speaking of her late husband, Libby Hall emphasises the prescience that lay behind Tony’s wanderings with his camera in the afternoon. ”He knew what he was photographing and he recognised the significance of it.” she admitted.

These beautiful streetscapes – published here for the first time – complete my selection of pictures from the legacy of approximately one thousand photographs by Tony Hall held in the archive at the Bishopsgate Institute.

Three Colts Lane

Gunthorpe St

Ridley Rd Market

Stepney Green

Photographs copyright © Libby Hall

Images Courtesy of the Tony Hall Archive at the Bishopsgate Institute

Libby Hall & I would be delighted if any readers can assist in identifying the locations and subjects of Tony Hall’s photographs.

You may also like to read

Tony Hall, Photographer

At the Pub with Tony Hall

At the Shops with Tony Hall

Tony Hall’s East End Panoramas

Libby Hall, Collector of Dog Photography

The Dogs of Old London

32 Responses leave one →
  1. February 2, 2013

    lovely stroll back in time.

  2. Ruth permalink
    February 2, 2013

    I’m wondering if some of the images may have been taken around Hackney Rd, Columbia Rd and London Fields? Could be wrong. Ridley Rd is instantly recognisable of course!

  3. nicholas borden permalink
    February 2, 2013

    fascinating

  4. February 2, 2013

    Great series, it really has been a pleasure to see. Thank you.

  5. February 2, 2013

    Marvellous photographs. Seeing them really gives a sense of how much has changed over the past fifty years.

  6. Susan Goldman permalink
    February 2, 2013

    Wonderful pictures, have loved looking through them, so nostalgic. Many thanks Libby Hall for sharing them with us.

  7. Colin Stevens permalink
    February 2, 2013

    I’m sure this is Royston Street. I lived at no:24 the house on the right nearest is no:26.

  8. February 2, 2013

    Looking at the children reminds me of my family. We were kids in the 60′s too and sported exactly the same hair cuts. One kid has only one roller skate. How endearing <3 <3

  9. John Campbell permalink
    February 2, 2013

    Wonderful photographs. Many thanks for sharing.

  10. annie permalink
    February 2, 2013

    Great photos!
    The archway to Gunthorpe Street is still the same.

  11. February 2, 2013

    The first one is Norah Street, Bethnal Green, now demolished. It was used as a location for a Mother’s Pride bread advert starring Dusty Springfield and can be found on You Tube.

  12. February 2, 2013

    I love all those old photos. I could gaze at them forever xx

  13. Chris Hall permalink
    February 2, 2013

    I don’t know if anyone is interested, but the lady in the picture by a dust shoot with the railings above her head, is Mrs Emma Green. The buildings then were Great Eastern Buildings , Quaker Street. Mrs Green had lived in those Buildings for many years and was my grandmothers friend.

  14. the gentle author permalink*
    February 2, 2013

    I think there is also a photo of Mrs Green in the pubs selection, holding a pint.

  15. February 3, 2013

    Juliet – thanks for that! Quite amazing that I lived five minutes walk from the place you’ve identified in those shots (on the corner of Kenworthy Rd and Mabley St) for twenty years! I even had friends that lived in Bushberry Road – but I don’t think I ever walked to the end of it.

  16. Libby Hall permalink
    February 3, 2013

    How wonderful to have Mrs. Green Identified. I’ve always admired the relaxed, assured way she was standing for that photograph. And also how she looks in the pub photograph. (The pub photograph was taken the same day. It is in the same strip of film, and Mrs. Green is wearing the same dress and cardigan.) I think she and Tony must have got on well together and enjoyed each other’s company.

  17. Libby Hall permalink
    February 3, 2013

    How pleased Tony would have been to have his photographs shared in this way, and how much he would have liked the Gentle Author’s thoughts about his photographs.

    I have just finished reading – for the third time in 40 years – the marvellous ‘East London’ by Robert Sinclair. Written just after the war, and published in 1950.

    Though both Tony and I grieved for what was being lost and has been lost from the East End, we both also found pleasure in what Sinclair said in his epilogue -

    ‘That is the end of the story. But it is only the end of the story about The Past. The really exciting story would be about the future of East London….All we can feel is that in the future of East London men and women will live intensely….. I assume too that East London will still turn her face to the east, for her heart has never been in Londinium. That elderly ghost will be at her back, the river on her right, the great plain under her feet, and the undulating fields of Essex stretching into the haze. Thus there will continue to be a social need for homes in a place which is neither too far west in the tired, over-used core of the old capital nor too far east in those rural spaces of Essex which human reason may to some extent preserve. …I suppose that men and women will endlessly make and re-make homes in the place that we call East London. … I wish I could see them.’

  18. AnnF permalink
    February 3, 2013

    wonderful pictures – and the price of the fruit and veg!!

  19. Phil Russell permalink
    February 3, 2013

    Shot 3 taken looking west at the southern end of Hayfield passage, showing the little street that joins the larger and smaller parts of Stepney Green at the northern end of the green.

    Cressy Buildings can be see at left edge of the shot.

  20. February 3, 2013

    The 3rd image from top is Clink Wharf.

    I was with Tony when he shot this image on his Pracktica Spr Tl / Flextogon 24mm lens.

    Great photos. Tony’s images make us all aware that we should be recording the social environment around us for future generations.

  21. Deborah permalink
    February 3, 2013

    Where is Clink Wharf. I agree with phil. I walked past that street every day, in Stepney. photo 4.

  22. Maurice Zeegen permalink
    February 3, 2013

    Lovely! What a treat it would be to find a photo of my forebears’ cigar factory, Zeegen Brothers, which stood in Chicksand Street. I live in hope.

  23. irene permalink
    February 4, 2013

    Thank you so much Libby for sharing with us these traces of time, shot with so much
    love by Tony. The children scenes touch me very much, I was a kid in Paris around that time and the streets were the world of our imagination in those days. Looking at these shots really speak to me. Irene

  24. February 5, 2013

    Great shot of the Roman Road branch library – which was located at the end of our street – Vivian Road E3. I always wondered what the building was – now I know! Sadly it has been knocked down and replaced with flats in the last year or so. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Don O'Key permalink
    February 6, 2013

    Great post, as always, thanks.

    The “Holly Villas” are on Clapton Passage, E5:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/69711221@N04/6755911045/in/pool-hackneyconservation%7C69711221@N04

  26. February 6, 2013

    Some info on the Stepney Green Mini registration plate:

    http://regarchive.com/plate/CCR694C

  27. Jennifer permalink
    February 6, 2013

    I have had a wonderful few hours looking through the pictures on the web site. I lived in Stratford which has completely changed now with the help of The Olympics. I worked in Holborn near the Viaduct. The pub in Stratford was the only one I knew but I had never seen inside it. Thank you.

  28. Pat permalink
    February 9, 2013

    I left a reply on 2nd February but it didn’t make it to the page for some reason. As Lesley says, the first picture is Norah Street. I lived there as a baby and my grandmother lived there for many years. I remember staying with my grandmother and playing in the square. I was so pleased to see that photograph.

  29. Pauline Allen permalink
    June 3, 2013

    I love these photo’s. They are the sort of photo’s that I would take. When I look at them, I feel part of them. As though all the people that have lived or used that building, have left a little piece of themselves within the structure, to make it what it is. They have the elegance of the working class, solid, strong, worn.

  30. Beryl Happe permalink
    June 8, 2013

    The opening picture is Norah Street now demolished, consisted of two squares with a road between them, no traffic in the squares. It was just off Old Bethnal Green Road. My aunt and uncle lived there until slum clearance came along.

  31. Ron Pummell. permalink
    June 8, 2013

    Photo 686 is in Hackney Road looking west with Columbia Rd on the left and the ‘Cats Park’ on the right.

  32. Ian Silverton permalink
    December 18, 2013

    Norah Street picture has Tommy G and Alan S,in it,with Mary S,in the background sweeping up,lived oppisite in The Westminster Arms,as a boy. great pictures.

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