Skip to content

Dan Cruickshank’s Spitalfields Photographs

May 24, 2015
by the gentle author

Dan Cruickshank took these photographs – many of which are published here for the first time – between 1969 when he first came to Spitalfields and 1977 when he led the campaign to stop British Land destroying Elder St. “I did it to document the buildings that were here then,” he explained to me in regret, “but sometimes you’d go back the next Saturday and there’d be virtually nothing left.”

Barrowmakers in Wheler St

Baker in Quaker St

Quaker St and Railway Dwellings

Junction of Bethnal Green Rd & Redchurch St

Weaver’s House at the corner of Bacon St & Brick Lane

Weavers’ houses in Sclater St, now demolished

Weavers’ houses in Sclater St, only those in foreground remain

Weavers’ houses in Sclater St, now demolished

Corner of Sclater St & Brick Lane

Houses in Hanbury St, now demolished

Houses in Hanbury St, now demolished

Old House in Calvin St, now demolished

Elaborate doorcase in Wilkes St, now gone

Brushfield St

Brushfield St, buildings on the right now demolished

Brushfield St, buildings on the right now demolished

Buildings in Brushfield St, now demolished

Brushfield St, buildings on the left now demolished

Looking from Brushfield St towards Norton Folgate

Selling Christmas trees in Spital Sq

Spital Sq with St Botolph’s Hall

Folgate St with Dennis Severs’ House in the foreground, houses in the background now demolished

House in Folgate St, now demolished

5 & 7 Elder St during squat to prevent complete demolition by British Land

Partial demolition of 5 & 7 Elder St

Rear of 5 & 7 Elder St during partial demolition

Inside 7 Elder St

Douglas Blain of Spitalfields Trust reads a paper in the loft of 7 Elder St after the roof was removed

Alleyway off Folgate St

Photographs copyright © Dan Cruickshank

You may also like to take a look at

Philip Marriage’s Spitalfields

Val Perrin’s Spitalfields


Tower Hamlets Council Planning Committee will make a decision on Norton Folgate on 21st July so you have until then to object. Click here for your guide to how to object.

18 Responses leave one →
  1. Robert Green permalink
    May 24, 2015

    Fantastic photos, I never fail to be amazed when images like these appear from out if the blue to shine a new light on memories from the past, thank goodness people like Dan Cruickshank took the trouble to preserve these images at the time, photo no 7 of Sclater St must have been taken virtually from my pitch because I recognize the man in the photo who use to stand next to me, I never thought I would see that scene again my eyes nearly poped out of my head when I saw that one, I remember the old weavers cottages being pulled down from the top, although I think from memory it was well into the 1980s before they finally pulled them down at ground level and cleared the site completely, I think im right in saying that the shoe shop on the corner of Bacon St and Brick Lane use to be a record shop previously up until the early 1960s I think, I remember going in there with my dad, I could go on for ever about these pictures but I don’t want to bore everyone, Lovely Lovely photo’s, thank you for managing to bring them to a wider audience GA.

  2. May 24, 2015

    Wonderful photos from Dan. Shame on the vandals and thugs from British Land. Valerie

  3. May 24, 2015

    These photos of destruction provide such a strong argument for the total preservation of what little remains!

  4. Annie permalink
    May 24, 2015

    Watched with quiet pleasure and indignation, odd combo for an early Sunday. Rather well crafted missive (if I say so myself) now emailed to lodge protest. Keep the flag flying in the face of Thatcher’s Grandchildren, GA!

  5. Tony McSweeney permalink
    May 24, 2015

    This is exactly how I remember Spitalfields when I moved to London 40 years ago. I still find it hard to believe that so many weaver’s houses were demolished at the time, but on a lighter note, I also remember the filming of ’1984′. There were posters of Big Brother on crumbling buildings for months after filming.

  6. May 24, 2015

    Truly superb photographs by Dan: finely observed and meticulously composed. I especially admire the foreground barrows and bollards, the solitary figures in the streets, the heaving market crowds, and the backdrops of utter ruination.

    Note the perfectly positioned young boy, bottom right-hand corner, approaching the baker’s shop in Quaker Street. And everywhere rich textures, jagged edges, brimming atmosphere. Marvellous.

  7. May 24, 2015

    Many of the properities do look terribly run down and decrepit but one wonders what could have been with achieved with some of these properties through sensitive restoration. The architects and developers of the 60s and 70s were brutal in their thrust for profit and modernity. Whilst it may have been the case that some of these properties needed demolishing, it is clear from the photos of Brushfield St and Folgate St that others did not. The old house in Calvin St, looks as if it might have been a fine place to live in its day.
    Fire, bombing and demolition have removed so many of London’s older buildings. And now British Land are back with more unsympathetic plans. Good luck with your campaign.

  8. May 24, 2015

    What wonderful photos! Thank you so much for posting them for us to enjoy.
    And thank goodness for the likes of Dan Cruikshank.

  9. Jude permalink
    May 24, 2015

    Dan’s a photographer after my own heart! The desolate streets look so sad. What a waste that the owners, probably deliberately, let such fine buildings decay. My fave pic of them all is lone figure at at St B’s Hall, oh yes and the washing in the entry (but like them all, thanks for sharing)

  10. Jude permalink
    May 24, 2015

    Robert Green – didnt find you boring! Please continue your memories :)

  11. May 24, 2015

    Such evocative photos. I hope the Norton Folgate plans don’t go through. Was on a National Trust heritage bus tour recently of London’s old buildings and the guide was not optimistic. But perhaps wasn’t aware of the campaign spitlefields life and others are doing to help prevent the redevelopment.

  12. May 24, 2015

    I went down to Norton Folgate to paint the other week.

    I wanst totally sure of its location thoughI ran into a fella entering his house and asked him precisely where it was. To my surprise he spun around and it was Dan Cruikshank. The very man.

    I explained I was looking to paint Norton Folgate and I asked him the way. He did more than that. He was good enough to take me down there and gave me a full half hour “Dan Cruickshank history of Norton Folgate” personal tour. Very inspiring it was too.

    What a man, and what a worthwhile cause. Fingers crossed!

  13. May 24, 2015

    Twenty five years ago I was a Market Constable or “Beadle ” don’t hear that word much these days !! I worked at Spitalfields Market before it relocated to the Marshes there were so many characters and so much life to be seen from the traders buying there goods to the ladies of the night wandering about to the packs of scavengers adults and children going through discarded or spoiled fruit for anything salvageable to eat or resell elsewhere, lorries and vans everywhere hustle and bustle truly memorable times, driving a cab for over twenty years now have seen our city change so much not all for the good.

    Wish Dan and the gang all the best for the future.

    Lee

  14. JGV permalink
    May 24, 2015

    Many thanks to Mr. Cruickshank for his photographic preservation of Huguenot weavers’ homes fast disappearing from Sclater Street and environs, and to the gentle author for posting them here. On a purely personal level, these images are especially poignant, as multiple generations of my father’s Huguenot family lived and worked there; residing in the States, as I do, this bit of heritage can seem very remote.

    Similarly, images and history of Norton Folgate are much appreciated. I hope I am not learning about this colorful piece of heritage only to see it demolished. Fingers crossed that preservation efforts will succeed.

    I recently unearthed a quaint 1793 advert in The Times noting the upcoming sale of two adjacent leaseholds on “Brick-lane, Spital-fields”, held by one Boniface Claisse (a many-times grandfather, and, unsurprisingly, a silk weaver). The sale, handled by agent Mr. Winstanley, was to occur at the fancifully named “Flower Pot, the Corner of Cock-lane and Brick-lane, in the Road leading from Shoreditch to Bethnal-green”.

    After a moment’s confusion, thinking this was a literal flower pot (!), I poked around a bit online and found that an historic pub called the Flower Pot was situated at what is now 120 Bethnal Green Road, just a few steps from Brick Lane, and was present by 1800, when it hosted meetings of a local Huguenot society. It survived as a pub until at least 1917, but is now long-closed and in retail use…at least I hope it is still standing!

  15. Alex permalink
    May 24, 2015

    These are wonderful pictures. I am a new resident in the area and was born abroad, so it is very nice to see how my new neighborough looked like decades ago.

  16. May 25, 2015

    This is for JGV in America, an image of the Flower Pot Pubhttp://www.closedpubs.co.uk/london/e2_bethnalgreen_flowerpot.html

  17. February 15, 2016

    Weavers weaving ? Move to here in sudbury suffolk.we have 3 silk weaving companies still here,

  18. Peter Montagu-Williams permalink
    February 2, 2017

    Dan Cruickshank has done a wonderful job in drawing attention to this, fast disappearing, part of London. “Authentic London”. An area of London where many immigrants came to ply their trades, with success, before moving onwards and upwards when, toward the later part of the 19th century the area declined badly. It was then that my great uncle worked for many years as a Magistrate at the Worship Street and Thames Police Court. Here he was able to help so many of the poor and destitute of Spitalfields and surrounding areas. He became known as “The Poor Man’s Magistrate”. That which has not been demolished is Authentic London of which too much has already been brutaly destroyed. Enough destruction has already been carried out. Lets retain just a small part of domestic history.

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS