In Celebration Of High St Traders
Yesterday, I walked over to Leadenhall Market in the City of London to buy some sausages and discovered that, after more than six centuries as a meat & poultry market, the last butcher has gone. Thankfully, Peter Sargent the Butcher in Bethnal Green is still in business, so I got on a bus at Liverpool St and returned home with my quest fulfilled.
The experience made realise the value of independent shopkeepers, who are currently struggling under increasing rents, business rates and competition from chains, so today I publish these die-cut Victorian scraps in celebration of traditional High St traders.
Enlarged here to several times their actual size, the detail and characterisation of these figures is revealed splendidly. Printed by rich-hued colour lithography, glossy and embossed, these appealing images celebrate the essential tradesmen and shopkeepers that were once commonplace but now are scarce.
In the course of my interviews, I have spoken with hundreds of shopkeepers and stallholders – and it is apparent that most only make just enough money to live, yet are primarily motivated by the satisfaction they get from their chosen trade and the appreciation of regular customers.
Here in the East End, these are the family businesses and independent traders who have created the identity of the place and carry the life of our streets. Consequently, I delight in these portraits of their predecessors, the tradesmen of the nineteenth century – rendered as giants by these monumental enlargements.
You may also like to take a look at these other sets of the Cries of London