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In Old Stepney

December 15, 2013
by the gentle author

Albert Gardens

In spite of the bombing, the slum clearances and redevelopments, the East End is still with us. My recent visit to Fred Wright, who has lived his entire life in the vicinity of Arbour Sq, inspired me to take a stroll with my camera around the surrounding streets that comprise his home territory. In Stepney, there is an entire quarter of early nineteenth century terraces and squares that have survived the changes of the twentieth century. They are magnificent examples of the human quality of streetscape that is cherished by East Enders, and also plangent reminders of what has been lost.

The Peacock, Aylward St

Corner of Antil Terrace and Senrab St

Corner of Antil Terrace and Dunelm St

Corner of Dunelm St

Corner of Head St

Senrab St

Who will rescue The Royal Duke, 474 Commercial Rd, designed by W.E. Williams, 1879?

Shepherd Boy in Albert Gardens, dated 1903, “Fonderies d’art du Val D’Orne, Paris”

In Albert Gardens

South East corner of Albert Gardens

North West corner of Albert Gardens

South East corner of Arbour Sq

In Arbour Sq Gardens

South West corner of Arbour Sq

North West corner of Arbour Sq

Terrace in East Arbour St

You may also like to read about

Fred Wright, Head Messenger

At the George Tavern

The Lost Squares Of Stepney

19 Responses leave one →
  1. Geraldine Moyle permalink
    December 15, 2013

    Thank you so much for this.
    Back in the very early 1970s, I did a teaching practice at Senrab Street Primary School (now Marian Richardson PS). You may know this, but “Senrab” is Barnes spelt backwards. The Barnes family were local builders who contracted with the Mercers Company to develop the latter’s land holdings on either side of Commercial Road.
    I’ve never forgotten the students in that school. I started my stint there with a stroke of luck: half my class of 9 year olds was gone away, on the annual school trip to a seaside town. As a result, I had roughly 20 or so little pupils in the too-small classroom, instead of the usual 40. When the full class was reassembled, the kids at the back of the room literally had to climb over desks to reach the blackboard, but by then I was, I suppose, bonded with half the class ~ I certainly don’t recall any discipline problems despite the overcrowding.
    As was routine at the time, I taught a little bit of everything, including history & not exactly biology per se, but some subject that involved animals (!). I remember drawing a rather splendid penguin on the blackboard, & being shocked when, on another occasion, a little boy asked me, quite seriously, how many teeth a chicken had. But I won particular acclaim, especially from the boys, for my depiction of a Tudor ship in full sail (no doubt for a history class on the Spanish Armada). I had spent the lunch break creating this image with different colored chalks, so when the kids returned from their lunch, there it was. I can still hear their approving chorus of “Cor, miss, did you do that?”

  2. December 15, 2013

    Good to see the houses looking so beautiful today. Pity you didn’t take a photo of the school building, which is a dominant feature in Arbour Square, although Raine’s school has now been moved – it is a very elegant building, where I spent 7 years. Valerie

  3. Belinda Harman permalink
    December 15, 2013

    I used to live in Stepney between 1980 and 2004 an elderly lady from Stepney once told me that when she was young she had lived in Barnes Street and her entire family including her parents and sister and brother in law and I think some children had been killed in Barnes Street when their house was bombed during WW2. She told me half the street was rebuilt after the war and they renamed that part of the Street Senrab St which is Barnes St backwards. I also had a friend who live next to Albert Gardens in the contrasting very modern ugly council estate. She told me that her council estate had been built where an ophanage had once stood, it may have been a Barnardo home? My friend said she had some pychic abilities that run in her family and she claimed that sometimes she had seen ghostly children running through her living room and in her hall.

  4. Joy permalink
    December 15, 2013

    Reminder of my chidhood .My nan and grandad lived just behide Arbour Square . We visited them and my uncle and Aunt who lived in Stepney Green every Saturday . Goid to see it all looking so clean .. Unlike where I live

  5. December 15, 2013

    I loved these pictures. I was deep in Spitalfields – metaphorically – when I came across them so they chimed beautifully. My current heroine comes from the district and strangely, was brought up in an orphanage in Spitalfields in the 1920s/1930s. I wonder if it was the same one as Belinda mentions?!

  6. Sonia Murray permalink
    December 15, 2013

    Lovely! It’s a shame that there is so much demolition and ugly rebuilding.

  7. Peter Holford permalink
    December 15, 2013

    It’s good to see that some of the East End is still standing proud and beautiful. Unfortunately so much green space, to some eyes, is a wasted opportunity for making money. The East End Preservation Society will have a lot of fights ahead to conserve areas like this. Sincerely, good luck!

  8. Joy permalink
    December 16, 2013

    My grandad sister work on arbour square police station as a cook and cleaner into her late 70 ..

  9. December 16, 2013

    Splendid photos, Gentle Author; astonishing that you have been snapping for only a few years because your eye for compositions is fully mature. Love the dignified reserve of the terraced streets, the half-bare trees and leaves on the ground. I periodically wander those areas with my camera; Albert Gardens is a little gem.

  10. December 18, 2013

    My grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather all lived round here and died here, and so did previous generations on the other side of my family. Not one of the houses they lived in is left, thanks to ‘slum clearance’, and their children were forced to move away. I sometimes walk round these little remnants of their community that they had so many good stories of and try to imagine it as it was, fill in the blighted gaps. It’s a mercy that some of it has survived, but it should have been more.

  11. May 23, 2014

    I am writing a book based on the connections between people and places that have been coincidentally of much impact in my life. In seeking material relating to my past, I came across this wonderful photo gallery that actually shows the house where I was born in Albert Gardens (at that time Albert Square) just across the street from the “water spout”. I left there when I was 3 years old. Might I have permission to reproduce 2 or 3 of the pictures as an appendix to my book, giving full credit to provenance, of course. Congratulations on a wonderful evocative study.

  12. Juliana permalink
    August 5, 2014

    My mum lived in the police flats in Arbour Sq between 1950 and 1962. Does anyone remember Martha Bunting? x

  13. Catherine permalink
    October 22, 2014

    My late mum went to senrab street school. She told me once she was punished for talking in class by being sat in a dustbin in the middle of the school hall. Didn’t stop her from talking!

  14. donna permalink
    October 28, 2014

    My great grandmother, Julia Reece, who was an 18 year old cigar maker, lived at 16 Albert Square with her parents John and Johanna in 1881. She married Robert Cloudy from Pennington Street in 1882. Thankyou for such great photos. Its good to see that the houses survived, although much gentrified from the time they were living there.

  15. Tamsin Ogilvie permalink
    April 26, 2015

    My mother-in-law went to Senrab Street School and lived on Heath Street (name has changed to Head Street. At the age of 7, she was taken in by an ‘Aunt’ & moved to Old Church Road as otherwise she was going to have to go to the Barnardos home. I wonder if this is the orphanage that Belinda mentioned in her comments? Although she thinks the Barnardos home was on Commercial Road. The day she moved from Heath Street was the last time she saw her brother, George Blake. Her name was Aida Margaret Blake.

  16. Sean Aylward permalink
    April 5, 2016

    Aylward Street was named after my family, they lived at 62 White Horse Road Stepney.
    They were very active in politics (Labour) in the early part of the twentieth century,and served
    as councillors and mayor/ mayoress on many occasions.
    My Grandfather was a founder member of the Limehouse Labour Party and introduced a young Clement Atlee to politics in the late twenties early thirties. Atlee went on to be PM after the second world war.
    There was also an Aylward Estate in Stepney but the Lib Dems changed the name in the 1980′s

  17. Annoymous permalink
    December 13, 2016

    Wow, having been born and bred in stepney just round corner from where the picks have been taken its some what of a culture shock!

    Never could imagine how things looked during the 90s as I’m only turning 21. Marion Richardson is obviously one of London’s finest primary schools with great teachers.

    But with such great history it is sad to see Stepney has become more hostile in recent years its not like how it was back then. You could call it the slums; Drugs, Violence, Stabbings, Gangs, the list goes on.

  18. Jillian Camp permalink
    January 6, 2017

    I lived in the house shown opposite Marion Richardson School (74 Senrab Street) from 1956 to 1983. Happy memories of that area.

  19. tony mersh permalink
    January 28, 2017

    I lived at 35 aylward st 1950 to 1960 and I went to senrab st school from 1955 to 1960 and I help the milk man around is area in 1959 / 1960 and played in Albert square and the police flats and aylward st and I married my wife Pauline who lived around the corner in Exmouth st in 1970.
    What a good time we had the house’s my have been old but the people were good .

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