Andrew Baker At Hiller Bros
Photographer Andrew Baker went along to capture the last days of Hiller Bros Market Barrow Makers in Bethnal Green after reading about the closure of the workshop last November on Spitalfields Life and here are a selection of his pictures
“As a kid I would see Market barrows all the time, wooden-wheeled with steel tyres, usually painted with lead paint in green and red, when I was out with me mother and grandmother (or Nan as I called her) during our regular visits to the High Street, Walthamstow Market or during occasional trips to Romford and the much heralded ‘The Roman’ – Roman Road Market. Now I only see three original barrows: one at Chrisp Street Market, pictured below, another on Bethnal Green Road, and one at Queens Market.
So when Hiller Brothers’ workshop was being cleared out I went to take a look. They were moving to new premises, after seventy-odd years. A familiar smell of damp wood and oxidised steel added to the cold November morning. There were a couple of blokes inside. Joe was the first I spoke to, after he finished talking to a woman, who seemed to be the guvnor. It was left to me to decide, after the other nodded and gestured ‘It’s him you need to speak to,’ when I asked to take a few photographs. ‘Quick’ the women said to me, ‘it,s all going, going forever!’ with a hint of excitement, pleased with a trophy she had just acquired .
What I found most surprising was the industry behind these barrows. To this day. the barrows are rented out and maintained by Hillers, with their leaf spring suspension, wooden wheels with steel tyres, made by a wheelwright – another artisan trade of the past – and crafted handles. These are heavy carts and cannot be maintained by just anyone.
The skill and craftsmanship that Hillers maintain to this day is remarkable. The name ‘Hiller Bros’ is always carved, free hand, by one of the Hillers, ‘Wouldn’t even be marked out with a pencil’ Mick told me.
I asked Mick how long he had worked with Market barrows and he replied, ‘Well I don’t know, but my daughter was conceived on one and she’s forty-seven!’”
- Andrew Baker
Hiller Bros barrow in use in Chrisp St Market
Photographs copyright © Andrew Baker
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