Skip to content

Andrew Baker At Hiller Bros

January 6, 2017
by the gentle author

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

You may also like to might to read my original story

So Long, Hiller Bros

3 Responses leave one →
  1. January 6, 2017

    I have such memories of that junction, Squirries At and Bethnal Green Rd. For years there was a ladies shop on one corner called Leslie’s and my nan worked there. They had a glass counter cabinet that was filled with different colour chiffon blouses and I loved looking at them, all sorted in colour order. This would have been in the 1960s and 70s.

    I remember the market stalls that ran all the way along the south side of Bethnal Green Road and my nan knew everyone and they all knew her “tell them you’re Nell’s granddaughter”…
    The Old Maids chemist on the north side was a little Hobbit type shop but they had everything. My great, great, great grandfather, Charles Stanley ran a coffee house where the betting shop is now.
    I could wax lyrical and I love seeing the places I grew up on your blog, Gentle Author.

    Another end of a era with Hilliers gone..

  2. January 6, 2017

    Great pictures Andrew Baker. I know Mick to be the original Artful Dodger, a dying breed in east London!

  3. January 7, 2017

    Great photographs.

Leave a Reply

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

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS