At S.Festenstein & Sons, Furriers
Observe this young woman peering from the upper window of S.Festenstein & Sons in Banner St, Bunhill Row, around 1900. She looks a little precarious, as if she had climbed up onto a table in her curiosity to look down at the photographer below. She did not know that Mr Festenstein was standing in the doorway in his top hat, three floors below, and I wonder if any comment was made when the photograph was shown to the proprietor later. Yet she had won her place in eternity, which is surely a satisfactory outcome from taking a five minute break?
Danny Tabi, the last furrier in the East End, told me that in 1967 he worked at Gale Furs in Fournier St, when James Mason was filming The London Nobody Knows in the street outside. There is a famous tracking shot that captures all the factory workers as they crowd the pavement and lean from the windows. Danny can name all of them and now regrets that – unlike the woman at Festensteins – he forsook his opportunity to be captured on film, just because he wanted to finish his piece of work in hand.
The fur trade flourished in East London for centuries, working with imported skins that came through the London Docks – and these photographs of Festenstein & Sons, one among hundreds of similar companies, record a trade that no longer suits the sensibility of our modern world and has almost vanished entirely today.
S. Festenstein & Sons, 31 & 33, Banner St, Bunhill Row, Ec1
Is this Mr Festenstein in his silk hat?
Factory workers step outside to watch the photographer
In the Factory
In the Skin Department
In the Showroon
Home Order Department
Overseas Order Department
Images courtesy Bishopsgate Institute
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