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My Promise

Umbra Sumus – ‘We are shadows.’  These are the words on the sundial here in Fournier St.

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Over the coming days, weeks, months and years, I am going to write every single day and tell you about life here in Spitalfields at the heart of London. How can I ever describe the exuberant richness and multiplicity of culture in this place to you?  This is both my task and my delight.

Let me disclose to you the hare-brained ambition I am pursuing, which is to write at least ten thousand stories about Spitalfields life. At the rate of one a day, this will take approximately twenty-seven years and four months. Who knows what kind of life we shall be living in 2037 when I write my ten thousandth post?

I do not think there will be any shortage of material, though it may be difficult to choose what to write of because the possibilities are infinite. Truly all of human life is here in Spitalfields.

If you wish to direct me to write about someone in particular, please let me know, because the days go by quickly and I am always eager to discover more stories. And it is through meeting people and learning more that my understanding will grow, and this project can evolve. I am open to all approaches.

It is my custom to walk everywhere in London and I discover things on my walks, so you will also find stories here from places that are within walking distance of Spitalfields.

Like Good Deeds and Everyman in the old play, let us travel together. I promise to keep writing to you every day and it will be an eventful journey we shall have together.

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Your loyal servant

The Gentle Author

26th August 2009

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Read my Annual Reports

First Annual Report 2010

Second Annual Report 2011

Third Annual Report 2012

Fourth Annual Report 2013


138 Responses leave one →
  1. Beth Henley permalink
    October 25, 2009

    I love you gentle author. I read Spitalfields Life when my heart is worn. It makes me think of you and how remarkable the beauty. 2037 indeed. Hope I’m here.

  2. December 6, 2009

    I have just stumbled across your blog whilst checking out an email sent me by Spitalfields music – I am entralled! … love your posts and hope to follow them now I have found them….

  3. Anne Forster permalink
    December 9, 2009

    Gentle author, I have paused awhile to read what you have written, it seems only polite to do so. i don’t live in London but I was browsing around looking at Spitalfields history. I think it must be a wonderful place to live and so interesting as i love buildings of the 18th C. I suppose i got interested in the area knowing that Dan Cruikshank lives there in a house that is unchanged. I imagine the silk weavers going about their business and how different life must have been then, very hard i imagine.
    I shall look in again soon.

  4. Rhianwen Guthrie permalink
    December 20, 2009

    Gentle author…
    Your blog has become a daily joy I look forward to savouring. It’s a bit like a grown-up (and sometimes not-so grown-up) advent calendar. I open it with the same anticipation, and delight in all you share with us (whoever we all are)… You have brightened up my winter no end.
    Long may you continue feeding our souls with Spitalfields life.

  5. Ann Bergstrom permalink
    January 16, 2010

    I wonder if I am your only Seattle reader? I was introduced to your work by my daughter, an LSE grad student. Now, even at this great distance, I feel I have a London home in the sense that I know something of the soul of one wonderful neighborhood. I hope to visit sometime this year. Your daily observations are a pleasure for me to read. More interestingly, it has made me observe my own city in a different way. I am going to start a series of architecture tours to learn more about my own locale’s individual quirks. Best wishes to you and Mr. Pussy.

  6. Joe permalink
    January 20, 2010

    I have only just come across your blog, but like most of these other people find it heartwarming and very eloquently written. I look forward to many a future read!

  7. January 22, 2010

    I think Spitalfields has in you a worthy chronicler. When I first moved to London in the 1970s I might have taken up residence there but instead I have ended up in the Smithfield area! The scale of the recent redevelopment of Spitalfields is at first blush overpowering, but I find in your pen portraits you describe a place with deeper historic and human roots.

    Sam Ignarski

  8. March 7, 2010

    I am completely enchanted by your writing, it’s beautiful, poetic, honest and so completely different to anything I have seen out there in “blog land” Wow. I just don’t know where you find the time to write so much on a daily basis… I will keep reading and add you to my list of blogs. Thanks for all the wonderful stories so far.

  9. Ros permalink
    March 31, 2010

    What a delight to open up the computer to something of such quality as Spitalfields Life. I’m a new reader and your beautiful blogs are giving me great pleasure. Please go on and on….

    Ros

  10. March 31, 2010

    I have been following for a few weeks, and am delighting in all your posts. Having lived in London for over 30 years after arriving there as a student, I moved to Salisbury, a few years ago. I love your tales of Spitalfields which I have only visited a couple of times and both before the refurbishment of the market. Thank you!

  11. April 15, 2010

    I would like to add my heartfelt appreciation to those above for your eloquent words and glorious descriptions of life around you. Having found your site, it is a pleasure for me to escape to your world and read of the wonderful characters who inhabit it. Thank you

  12. April 16, 2010

    I’m sitting here in hot and dusty Qatar, thoroughly enjoying the read. I am also a walker and, on my trips home to London, exploring old haunts for changes and the changeless is my greatest pleasure. Thank you for creating this site!

  13. Davidde Grove' permalink
    May 8, 2010

    Thank you for the reminder that it is we, ourselves, who choose the lens through which we see life. You have introduced me to a London that is gentle, intrigueing and civilised rather than the less desirable option, that is often portrayed.

    So if you don’t mind, I will adopt a similar approach, as I say farewell to my beloved Africa, and start a new love affair with London.

  14. May 10, 2010

    How many weeks are there until 2037? How big is your garden?
    I am saddened that I am unlikely to be here to find that final post in which you are revealed. But you never know.
    In the meantime I am thoroughly enjoying the daily introduction and tour.
    Thank you.

  15. May 10, 2010

    Dearest gentle author,
    I live in beautiful North Carolina, US, and have always dreamed of traveling and living in the UK. I stumbled upon your blog last fall and committed myself to reading it every day-it’s like I live there, just outside London, too. Thanks for opening the window to a simple, yet rich, life.

  16. October 3, 2010

    I have an ancestor who lived close to you and left almost twenty diaries. The article on the mudlark struck a chord because my ancestor was an antiquarian and collector. When he worked at the East India Docks Company he was always being brought interesting finds to buy and identify.

  17. Mick permalink
    October 7, 2010

    Brilliant blog (the only one that I think is worth subscribing to). You’ll never have the time to go out and get a proper job.

  18. betsy barker permalink
    October 10, 2010

    what an enchanting blog….thank you for this delightful bit of living history.

  19. Margaret Lambert permalink
    October 15, 2010

    It might be possible for someone nearly anywhere to write the ongoing story of their neighborhood, but they don’t. I stumbled across your blog a while ago and it has become a part of my morning routine. Surely we all crave a sense of belonging somewhere, and having neighbors whom we would actually choose, for all their delightful variety? I am endlessly fascinated with your little corner of the world.

  20. Pete permalink
    October 21, 2010

    Gentle Author…
    I had the pleasure of meeting with you briefly when you attended the “Thames and Field” evening for your mudlarking piece. I’m now hooked on this wonderful blog and often find myself in a spare 15 mins picking my way through the archive pieces..such a pleasure. Long may you continue to shine a gentle light on Spitalfields and London life.

  21. October 26, 2010

    Dear Gentle Author
    I have recently discovered your blog and love reading it. Long may it continue, and thank you for making it so interesting. I’m learning photography on a City and Guilds course, and thought about concentrating on Spitalfields and markets as my theme for my end of course assessment. You make it all seem so interesting, maybe I will do it.
    Best wishes
    Martina x

  22. annie permalink
    November 17, 2010

    Gentle Author,
    I have just discovered your blog and enjoying reading some of your archives – very interesting and so well written with great photos!
    I am from the Midlands but now live in the London borough of Hackney and I often get the bus to Spitalfields for a walk around so I know quite a few of the places you write about. I look forward to reading future articles – thanks so much!

  23. November 19, 2010

    Bravo! It’s bloody brilliant what you’re creating here. Thank you and greetings from Melbourne, Australia.

  24. Barry Derbyshire permalink
    November 22, 2010

    Gentle Author

    Lovely to stumble across your blog and refresh the memories of the East End. Moved down to Brisbane from London a few years ago – nice to feel the heart and soul again. Please keep writing.

  25. Anne D. permalink
    December 3, 2010

    Je me régale chaque jour en vous lisant.
    Un autre monde s’ouvre à moi, plein de détails croustillants et de personnes chaleureuses. C’est un défi pour mon anglais mais j’ai un bon dico.
    Grâce à vous, je commence à voir d’un autre oeil les Anglais qui parfois, nous semblent si étranges. Humour et amour à toutes les pages. Comment faites-vous cela ? quelle créativité.
    Du fond de ma campagne au pied du Luberon.

  26. December 21, 2010

    Gentle Author,

    It was a great pleasure and lovely surprise to see what you have been doing these days. Knowing you, I can recognise the talent behind the writing. The photos are brilliant as well.

    With all best wishes,
    Daphna

  27. December 26, 2010

    Gentle author,

    For one year now I have been receiving your daily Spitalfields newsletter and I love it. It is always an interesting start of the day. It is very moving to read the portraits of the London inhabitants and their way of life, or to see the plants and flowers on Columbia Road. My husband and me even made a trip from Belgium to Spitalfields to learn more about that interesting and vivid part of the city. By reading all those articles, one can imagine what is going on behind closed doors and windows. Places I visited for the first time looked strangly familiar. You write with much love for people and places. I am sure your positive way of looking at life influences others more than you can imagine. When I look back on this past year with all it’s ups and downs, I come to the conclusion that many of those ups began with reading your morning pages. I want to thank you for that and congratulate you with your work. You make this world a better place.

    Best wishes for 2011.
    Ingrid

  28. December 28, 2010

    You should check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7hOO9e_dXo

    It’s an old Renegade Soundwave track about the Krays. It captures the dread I think. But your interviews/profiles of Criminal Life also catch the dread about the dread.

    This is brilliant stuff. My dad used to play snooker in South London and hang out with hard men in Battersea, though like you (and me) he found violence abhorrent.

    Your writing reminds me of things from my life in London, but also of a past that came before me. Thank you.

  29. Robert Dye permalink
    January 1, 2011

    I have to say that I love this blog. I have always loved London and the East End especially. I will confess my first interest involved that famous crimewave from yesteryear. I had a chance a few years ago to visit London and spent a very limited time in the East End. Your blog makes me see the living history and only increases my desire to get back to London and explore more and your blog will certainly help me when I do.

    Thanks for your effort and I LOVE your photographs

    Peace:Robert

  30. January 4, 2011

    In 2037 I will be a very old lady! but now I have found you, I will follow you as long as my life allows me.

  31. Amanda permalink
    January 9, 2011

    I arrived at your website from a Twitter post…..the wonders of modern technology! I have been completely captivated all weekend by your stories and photographs. So charming and eloquently written. My teenage daughter loves photographing old buildings and unusal features in architecture so she has loved some of the photographs you have taken. She particularly liked the manhole covers!

    I am working my way through the archives and enjoying every step through time. Just beautiful. Well Done and long may it continue.

  32. Laura permalink
    January 21, 2011

    Thank you! as a passionate seeker of stories, adventures, history and sights of east london & spitalfields life I am glad that we share the same interest. avid reader x

  33. Bari Watts permalink
    January 22, 2011

    This is one of the best sites on the net…….keep it up!

  34. February 3, 2011

    Dear Gentle Author,

    Thank you for such a nice blog. I recently started my own “blog”, but I am not a writer, so I just have pictures. You are a writer and you have very nice photos.

    Jean

  35. merzak permalink
    February 4, 2011

    i want to tell you something :) )).congratulations and prosperous health to you.
    cordialment

  36. JOAN BARNETT permalink
    February 4, 2011

    I came across your site by chance.Wonderful in every way the manner you describe the characters and their businesses is truly as is.
    Being in fashion design I am so PLEASED that you found the two greatest characters left in clothing fabrics.I mean Philip and Martin at CRESCENT TRADING in Quaker Street.Martin an eccentric 79 going on 50 year old whose experience of the textile industry is unreal and he is so happy to share it with you.Philip whose humour matches any comedian sells fabric in a way that you must purchase and I do.
    Textiles being a dying trade these two OLD CODGERS need to be made known to anyone in the clothing trade.
    Please silent author give them some credits,and to you, keep on finding more hidden gems.

  37. February 7, 2011

    Dear Gentle Author

    Because of you and your most excellent bloggage, I have found myself wandering the streets when I need to clear my mind from the toil and burden of the grindstone, in search of the places and people you describe.

    Thank you.

  38. February 7, 2011

    Your wonderful stories have hijacked my day, gentle author and I am very excited about your work which is utterly moreish. I know the thrill of storygathering as I’ve been doing that in Hackney, Newham and Waltham Forest while working as Writer in Residence with Immediate Theatre – some of the material is on the company’s website. Now I’m about to work with writers at Cardboard Citizens and maybe you could meet some of them…although you seem to already know the extraordinary Terry O’Leary. Despite my deep envy of your lucid, vivid and personable writing I am unable to stay away from your blog. Good hunting!

  39. Elaine Chalus permalink
    February 9, 2011

    Lovely, gentle, insightful historical fragments, oddities and tales. Thank-you!

    I was brought to the blog via Twitter and am sharing the gift by passing the link on to my friends, my uni students and ex-students.

  40. Bruce Mack permalink
    February 10, 2011

    Dear Gentle Author,
    Thank you for the plenitude and warmth. Wintry Minnesota is London for a few minutes every day.

  41. Suemck permalink
    February 20, 2011

    Thank you so much for your commitment to this beautiful blog. It lights up my day!

  42. March 10, 2011

    In direct contrast to many of your neighbours, I grew up in England but have spent over half my life in Asia. However, after “discovering” your blog today, I have a sudden urge to move back to London. Wonderful stuff!

  43. Marc permalink
    March 26, 2011

    Discovered your site by the little/long blue flyer on a visit to the market last year and have dropped in sporadically ever since. I have to commend your diligence and fortitude in this great endeavour, keep at it so I can live vicariously through these until I return. Really well written, lots of great human stories and photos, I think you are taking John Berger to the next level.

  44. Roger Stockley permalink
    April 4, 2011

    Love your site. My son Ben [Photographer] lives nearby. Always wonder whether other Stockleys are related in some way.

  45. Moira Allen permalink
    April 10, 2011

    What an amazing collection! I expect to spend some long hours reading these stories.

  46. April 10, 2011

    Oh, good. Insight into a far different and probably better culture than Alaska, (we have culture?), written by an articulate, observant person. What better way to live in a city without having to give up my magnificent mountains and large mammals? Thank you.

  47. April 12, 2011

    I am so pleased to have found your blog, every word rings true.

  48. Hex permalink
    April 14, 2011

    Gentle author,
    I live on the other side of the world, I might never make it to London (but it is, and always has been a dream of mine to do) reading this blog has made me intensely happy. Every time I read a new post it makes me want to travel more than ever, and in doing so encourages me to work towards my dream.

  49. jen permalink
    April 14, 2011

    beautiful writing. thanks for sharing your big and small thoughts and walks.

  50. April 26, 2011

    From the bottom of my heart – Thank You for this wonderful site and your passion for a story well told.

  51. Vicky permalink
    May 13, 2011

    What a wonderful writer our Gentle Author is! I’m new to this blog but am catching up fast; I could read this all day and get nothing else done. A poet, a lyricist, a wordsmith. A delighter of man. We lucky readers are the privileged few. I’ll be there to the end.

  52. May 26, 2011

    An incredible website. You clearly put a lot of effort into your articles and it really makes a difference to read something so well written and researched. Whenever I see my mum she often says excitedly, “have you seen Spitalfields Life today?!!” and tells me all about it if I haven’t had time to check my rss reader – she looks forward to her daily emails. Excellent job, keep up the fantastic work.

  53. Jackie Siess permalink
    July 3, 2011

    Dear Gentle Author, it is always such a delight to receive your e-mail every day. I don`t always read your blogs straight away but often leave them to savour later…..a little bit of East London in the Tirolean Alps.

  54. Paul permalink
    July 14, 2011

    Just a quick note to say that the Latin for ‘we are shadows’ would be ‘umbrae sumus‘. Umbra sumus‘ is actually part of a quotation from Horace: Pulvis et umbra sumus – ‘we are [but] dust and shadow’ (Diffugere Nives, ['The Snows Have Fled'] Odes: Book IV.vii, line 16). Having said all that, it’s only fair to mention that A E Housman, who thought this the most beautiful poem in classical literature, renders Pulvis et umbra sumus as: ‘We are dust and dreams.’

  55. Ruth permalink
    July 18, 2011

    Fabulous blog, always fascinating. A daily treat when I get up to see what you’ve written about this time. Won’t you publish a book? There’s a publishing company in Fournier St, Elephant Books.

  56. Sally Baldwin permalink
    July 21, 2011

    What a miraculous find!
    I’m starting at the beginning and catching up.
    I’ll be 100 years old in February 2037; I wonder if I’ll miss any final chapters?
    Thank you for this gift to the world.

    Belfast, Maine, USA

  57. Racheal permalink
    July 22, 2011

    Loving this concept. It reminds me to open my eyes to the world around me and that everyone and everything has a unique story. Its too easy to journey through life not noticing what is happening around us and your stories have inspired me to slow down and wonder more about the life around me. I look forward to the coming years.

  58. July 27, 2011

    What a wonderful blog, Gentle Author, it’s been a delight to find you.

    I wonder, do you know Thomas Hawk? he is doing something similar taking the most wonderful pictures around his home town of San Francisco. You two should meet!

    Thank you for breathing such depth of feeling into this blog. Your artistry becomes both you and the special place you live in.

  59. Bigbri permalink
    July 29, 2011

    O de li altri poeti onore e lume,
    vagliami ’l lungo studio e ’l grande amore
    che m’ha fatto cercar lo tuo volume

  60. Itziar Urrutia permalink
    August 18, 2011

    Thanks for the effort, creative and energy that goes into each blog entry. I’ve been enjoying discovering Spitalfields and the East End through your eyes and words enormously, despite having lived here for over 15 years and being fond of going on my own wanderings and discoveries. Thanks for Spitalfields Life!

  61. roger pettet permalink
    August 23, 2011

    Thank you for the continued daily pleasure that you give me.

  62. August 26, 2011

    Dear Gentle Author,
    you are my find of the year. I love your generosity and curiosity. What a project you have there. I can understand your infatuation with London. When my parents first moved to London in the early 1960′s, my father customised his bicycle by adding a child seat on the front of his bike. At weekends he would take us children in turn to explore London, all it’s nooks and crannies. As bored teenagers on a Sunday, when everything used to be shut, my brother and myself used to get on any bus and go to the end of the route. We would then find our way home without a map, winding our way through London, across the river and back to Brixton. This is how we found that the only cafe open for miles was The Dunkin’ Donut on Blackfriars Bridge, where we would invariably stop for refreshments.

  63. Ree permalink
    September 4, 2011

    This looks like it’s going to be a continual fun read with “Spitalfields Life”…Glad I found it today…Look forward to reading all the old posts and the future posts to come…I am SOOOOO jealous of those who get to live in MY LONDON…I’ve visited several times and look forward to more visits…Until I win the lottery and move to London to stay…Thank you Gentle Author…

  64. Lorraine permalink
    September 9, 2011

    Dear Gentle Author,

    Thank you for taking the train to forgotten Walton. Only ninety minutes as you say from London and yet worlds apart. Only a stones throw from the renowned Frinton on Sea and its well publicised “gates.” You have sypathetically touched on some of the many attributes of our little town.
    Many travel from London to the beautiful and famous Brighton, but forgotten Walton has some of the most beautiful and clean sandy beaches in the country.
    We are so glad that you found us and enjoyed your day.
    Come back again soon.

  65. Avis Judd permalink
    September 10, 2011

    I have just stumbled on this blog, it is just wonderful! I lived yards from Columbia Rd from 1985 to 2005. I moved there not knowing the flower market was so near, until I got up on my first morning in my new home and went foraging for milk and papers and thought ‘what’s that noise?’ and there it was. I still live nearby. Many of the places mentioned I know, I even know some of the people featured. This blog is a work of love and simply wonderful, keep up the good work. Wish I could take photographs that are nearly as good.

  66. October 7, 2011

    I love Spitalfields having lived around the corner off Bethnal Green Road over 8 years ago. You make the place come alive – a truly gorgeous blog.

    Thank you and I’ll keep reading

  67. Annie permalink
    November 12, 2011

    You and your blog are a panacea for all ills, the philospher’s stone, the elixir of life.
    When life seems a bit much, a stroll down the city streets with you fixes it.

  68. Irene permalink
    November 17, 2011

    I have just discovered your blog and am delighted to have done so. I am a Londoner but left the city for the countryside 35 years ago and miss its buzz. I am also an auto/biographer and oral historian and your daily blog is fascinating in that respect. All those lives recorded. I love it.

  69. January 4, 2012

    As a man Shoreditch-born who has gone sour on the Hoxton of his youth in recent (faddish and fashonable) years you might just sweeten me back up. Ta.

  70. January 10, 2012

    Spitalfields Life has changed my breakfast routine. Instead of the newspaper that rendered me simmering but helpless, I am now transported each morning to a place where history both recent and ancient lives and breathes, and that, gentle author, leaves me inspired. Thank you.

  71. Angela permalink
    January 12, 2012

    Dear Gentle Author,

    Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful images and words each day. It is a joy to read each day and “visit” these fascinating people and places that I hope to do in actuality one day. I look forward to the release of your much anticipated book. Have a lovely day from Detroit!

    Angela

  72. paul lucas permalink
    January 22, 2012

    As a resident of Spitalfields, thank you so much for your work on this website. Your work as an historian is immeasurable. Eagerly awaiting the book.

  73. Stuart Salmon permalink
    March 3, 2012

    I unearthed a single copy of the treasure that is Spitalfields Life in the Southend-on-Sea branch of T. K.Maxx for only £9-99. Without the money to buy it there and then, I hid the book behind larger designer cookery and travel books. Having to suppress my eager anticipation and fear of losing it, I had to wait almost a week before I could recover the volume from the safety of its hiding place and gorge on its contents.

    Markets are the street theatre of retail and independent / family traders are the more human face of commerce. Thank you for reminding us what we have lost and must strive to protect.

  74. Alexandra Mann permalink
    March 6, 2012

    I live in a little town in Australia, and was sent a link to you, by a friend in London.
    I look forward to checking my email each day, and reading your words and hearing
    your stories. It keeps me linked in to London, which I left 30 years ago. I would love
    have been at the book launch. It looks like it was a wonderful evening, filled with all
    those amazing people. Please don’t stop writing………… thank you.

  75. Ron Pummell permalink
    March 7, 2012

    Good Morning Gentle Author.
    I have enjoyed reading and making minor contributions to your site for about 2 years now but it is only today that I have read for the first time the messages shown above. You should be very pleased with yourself for the pleasure that you have given around the world.
    I also send greetings from my friend Mr. Max Lea MBE.

  76. March 15, 2012

    I saw your book in a window last week and was delighted by it. After doing a little research, I found your blog. Delightful!

  77. Eva permalink
    March 21, 2012

    I’m so happy I found your blog! One of my first jobs as a young engineer back at the tail end of the 1980s was the masterplanning for the redevelopment of Spitalfields Market. Back then it was the point where the old East End met the new brash city, and it was then that I fell in love with the area. I was broken hearted at the idea of the market being razed to the ground and replaced by the extension of the Broadgate buildings and ashamed of the role we were playing in it. Thankfully the plans ended up being toned down and thanks to your blog I’m delighted to see that the glorious and messy web of human relationships is still there. I can’t wait to work my way through your posts. Thank you.

  78. March 21, 2012

    I sense an immediate connection: I lived in and around Bethnal Green for over 15 years. Spitalfields and its wondrous characters thread in and out of my memories. I sensed that same vibrancy. I now write from Uganda, the Pearl of Africa, and I am similarly entranced.
    Churchill himself wrote: “Uganda is alive by itself. It is vital …”

  79. Nome De Plume permalink
    March 21, 2012

    Dear Gentle Author:

    Reading your words brought great joy – thank you!

  80. jiecin manadero permalink
    March 31, 2012

    Love to read all your story and achievements.

  81. charlesdickenslondon permalink
    April 22, 2012

    What a fascinating website good sir! Researching further for my Talks about the one and only Charles Dickens, I stumbled upon this delightful font of knowledge and experience. I am taking the liberty of referring to your site on my blog, for others to share, and look forward to visiting regularly. Marvellous, marvellous.

  82. Mary Bellingham permalink
    April 22, 2012

    Bless you for this blog. I may be a floating Angel by 2037, but soon as I arrive, I will join the army urging on the final publication of your completed Spitafields Life…

  83. Talitha permalink
    April 27, 2012

    I used to live at 79b Brick Lane and miss it very much, I have lived in many places and Brick Lane felt like home. I am a silk weaver so this may be why. I saw the article about this site in The Guardian and am hooked. Thank you Gentle Author XX

  84. Carole permalink
    May 1, 2012

    Your emails brighten up my day! I never know what to expect but they are all fascinating.

  85. Sarah Catterall nee ( Hooper -Gilvear) permalink
    May 1, 2012

    Dear Gentle Author ,
    I was brought to your blog last year by the article regarding Stanley Rondeau and the Heugenots . I am related to the Rondeaus and your article uncovered a wealth of information previously unbeknown to me and for that I thank you greatly.
    I now have another mystery to solve . My ancestor was one Benjamin Hooper who married Elizabeth Rondeau they had 13 children ( and Im still discovering more ) Their addressess are stated as Red Lion Court and Paternoster Row. I believe these to be between Brick Lane and Fleet Street.They were married at Christchurch Spitalfields and all their children were baptised there. His occupation was an Apothecary Chemist, The Royal Society does not have a record of him however I am keen to trace some information about him his family and his business as I am uncovering information about other Hoopers such as Hoopers Pills and a Joseph Hooper as on who was an apothecary chemist . I wonder if Culpepper was an apprentice of his and I know one of his sons was a Ships Surgeon. Any information gratefully received
    best regards
    Sarah Catterall

  86. Giuseppe Marini permalink
    May 15, 2012

    Carissimo Gentle Author,
    per un italiano amante dell’Inghilterra il Suo blog è un’occasione unica per approfondire la conoscenza di una piccola ma affascinante porzione del suo affascinante Paese.
    Grazie del Suo quotidiano lavoro, veramente pregevole nei testi e nelle foto

  87. Trish Urquhart permalink
    May 23, 2012

    I have just come across your blog (and most fabulous project) by way of the interview with Tim and the poster image on flickr. The joys of the internet – makes my heart sing. Thank you

  88. sigrid permalink
    June 11, 2012

    Love to read your stories – i hope till 2037.
    I´m from Austria and a great London fan.
    So, keep on writing and Thank you

  89. June 14, 2012

    found your page via retronaunt – what a wonderful site. thank you!

  90. isabella permalink
    June 18, 2012

    Thank you for this delightful blog I love the stories and enjoy the black and white photos.I love London and your blogs are a treat I am enchanted.

  91. Ruh Al-Alam permalink
    June 24, 2012

    As a local Spitalfieldian over at Folgate Street, I absolutely love this blog, will surely buy the map and book. Well done and keep it up. So much history, cultures and stories, simply captivating.

  92. June 26, 2012

    A truly superb website you have going here……

    I found you by accident…….what a stroke of luck…!!!

    Many names and faces I know from being a born and bred Shoreditch boy.

    Please feel free to get in touch if you need some future material I’d be only to pleased to help.

  93. July 5, 2012

    Gentle Author, I had a surreal few minutes in beautiful Christchurch church on Tuesday listening to a wonderful young pianist who had apparently “wandered in from the street”. This young fellow played the most hauntingly beautiful piece of classical music which had several people enthralled. Those who, like me, had wandered in to admire the lovely church interior sat in a pew and listened, and even gave him a round of applause as he got up and casually wandered back out onto the street. I e-mailed the church website, but they don’t know him either. I thought of you immediately, I really hope you read this e-mail as I’m sure there is a story in there somewhere! His photo is on my Deviant Art gallery.

  94. July 15, 2012

    Found you in the recent issue of “World of Interiors”. Looking forward to learning more. Are Hugenot silk weavers still a force in the neighborhood?

    Yours from Nagles’ Addition in Seattle,

    MCE

  95. leonie vingoe permalink
    August 24, 2012

    Dear Gentle Author
    Thank you for enveloping me in to a world of graciousness,timelessness and impeccability .I love how your pen and photographs colour,expand and still my world .whether drifts of bluebells or chefs from brick lane.
    Warm regards
    Leonie

  96. Jake Seaman permalink
    August 28, 2012

    Never stop writing and I will never stop reading………….thank you.

  97. September 5, 2012

    I regularly enjoy reading through your articles. I have been reading through this blog every chance I get. Thanks for the effort you put in. Cheers!

  98. Gerard permalink
    September 15, 2012

    Dear GA,

    I came across your site as a result of googling ‘London street cries’ and was immediately captivated by the blend of images, graphics and words. It is entrancing. I’m born and bred in Melbourne, Australia, but have always felt like a Londoner in exile. Your words and images conjure precisely what London means to me. Warmest regards,

  99. Hannah permalink
    September 23, 2012

    Dear Gentle Author,

    I received your book yesterday as a birthday gift from my children. I read your blog, if not every day, as many times during the week as I can and often mention posts I have enjoyed.

    I am thrilled to now have your splendid book and especially pleased that one of my very favourite blog posts is in there: the one about your quilt. It moved me to tears when I first read it and your description of your childhood and thoughts of your parents still touch me now.

    Thank-you for everything you do to enrich and edify the lives of your readers, I feel very fortunate to be one of them.

    with very best wishes,
    Hannah

  100. David Whittaker permalink
    October 18, 2012

    Wonderful site…so interesting.

  101. October 24, 2012

    How lucky for me that I accidentally stumbled across your marvelous site this past weekend!
    I’ve enjoyed strolling through Spitafield several times during my travels, and your stories remind me of the memories I made while I was there.
    Thank you for that!

  102. November 1, 2012

    Dear Gentle Author

    I can’t begin to express my feelings and appreciation of your wonderful photo’s and discriptions of this part of London, it fills my imagination with longing to return to my true spiritual home (I had to leave 7 years ago)
    My yearnings to again be one with the dear old city is great indeed, until that day comes, your wonderful and generous blogs, given freely for so many to enjoy is indeed a true labour of love, long may you continue to inspire and inform your readers of the area’s rich history.
    I feel really fortunate to have stumbled accross your website a year ago, so full of many wonderous stories of ‘the times’.

    sincere heartfelt thanks

    Margaret

  103. November 6, 2012

    Hi there, love all this my friend in Chicago put me on to this. I wondered if you heard of “the Vesta Tilly ” which was a drinking club in Spitalfields must be 70′s or 80′s, he was a loveable rogue called Johnny Bear. Best wishes RM

  104. George Lloyd permalink
    November 7, 2012

    Having lived in Whitechapel and Bow for a period of my life,when my environment was of secondary importance,despite an acute awareness of the “living history”surrounding me,your “Work”serves to emphasise how for granted I took thing then.

  105. November 24, 2012

    Hi there Gentle Author
    I feel moved to write since reading your post today 22nd November on the streets of Old London. I was born and have lived most of the past half century in Stepney. I love this area of London – its speaks to me and I am aware, like you of the layers of generations and past lives that have inhabitated the streets.
    I love the layers of grim, the closeness of buildings, the tooth by jowl proximity of different cultures and the stories of past generations that are but a scratch under the surface.
    I am also very proud of my East End heritage, not wanting to have come from a rich, privileged or honoured background, but happy with my honest, working class predecessors.
    Thank you for this vivid post, i recognise almost every scene – your blog brings these people’s existence alive again and us lucky people to have chanced on this portal should be less enriched without you. Keep writing :-)

  106. Amoret Tanner permalink
    January 21, 2013

    Dear, dear gentle author – However depressing life and the world may be, your daily posting puts it all into happy perspective – may it continue like this until 2037

  107. Liz St.John permalink
    January 27, 2013

    My apologies for coming in your back door when I was looking for a map of old Hackney – but now I’ve make myself comfortable in your front room. Thank you for such an intriguing site. I meant to stay just a few minutes, but…my research today has been blown off course as I enjoy your stories. Best wishes!

  108. February 19, 2013

    Dear Gentle Author,

    I am your Brazilian reader, but maybe not the only one in this part of the planet. Though I lived in the Marble Arch area from 1994 to 1998, and then again from 2003 to 2006, I enjoyed going to Spitalfields, mainly in the weekends. I had long walks around by the main historical and not so historical places in East End. Your blog helps me a lot to know more about London life and its real characters. I found very moving descriptions of people who are in fact quite interesting and would remain anonymous if you had not spotted them. I don´t see anonymity as a problem, but your blog simply shows me the diversity and depth of everyday life. Thanks a lot for your time and journalistic talent. I will be following you until 2037.

  109. Misty Poss permalink
    February 27, 2013

    I recently received my copy of The Book in the mail, here in the middle of Tennessee. I just wanted to let you know that it is already my favorite possession and has traveled side by side with me throughout every day since. Your website nourishes me, I sink into it after a long day and it takes me to a special place…I want to just LIVE inside of it. Now I can carry it around with me. :) I’ll be in London on my honeymoon in September, and have made special concession to visit the Antiques Market…I can’t wait. Maybe I’ll walk by you and not know it…

  110. Shelley Skrepnek permalink
    March 7, 2013

    Somehow I surfed in here while checking out Henry Walpole from p 325 of Nigel Jones’ “Tower An Epic History of the Tower of London.” There’s not much an Albertan has in common with Spitalfields but I could visit England vicariously through your blog. My great grandmother came to Canada from Durham via Scotland as a home child.

  111. Irene Manners permalink
    April 22, 2013

    I am thoroughly enjoying your book and believe my mother should be part of it. Briefly she was born in Spitalfields in 1920, the seventh daughter (no sons) of Isaac and Hannah Levy. She spent the first 35 years living ‘down the lane’ and then moved to Whitechapel. She now, aged 92, lives in Bow. If your are interested in my mum’s stories, of which there are many, please contact me.

  112. Jeff Skinner permalink
    April 22, 2013

    Sir:

    It is with no small amout of delight that I discovered your website during a moment’s idleness at work, and I am writing in the hope that you might be able to shed some more light on the details of my Spitalfields ancestors’ lives.

    I found through a recently published book, “American Phoenix” by Sarah S. Kilborne (my fourth cousin through the same ancestors) that the Skinner family had its origins in a silkweaving family who lived in Spitalfields in the 1820s and 1830s. The original Skinners, John and Sarah (née Hollins) were married in St. Leonard’s Shoreditch in June or July 1820. Among their children were three brothers – William, Thomas, and George B. – who emigrated to America in the 1840s. William went on to found and operate what would become one of the world’s largest manufacturers of silk goods in the 19th and 20th centuries; his brother Thomas (my great-great-grandfather) worked for him as the master dyer.

    If you have the opportunity and the inclination, any information you might be able to find on these three brothers, or their siblings, or the family in general, would be warmly welcomed.

    Thank you for your thoughtful and informative look back on the life and times of this corner of London. I look forward to browsing your site over the coming weeks.

  113. heather jones permalink
    May 26, 2013

    Have just come across this blog having read about Jocasta Innes in the Times this weekend . I live in Wales miles from a city and am interested in London. Thank you for a great blog

  114. Rosemary Hoffman permalink
    May 28, 2013

    My ancestors lived in Gun Steet and also in Brick Lane where my Gt Gt Gt grandfather had a glass warehouse. I lived briefly in Sptalfields in the 1950s, when my parents managed a pub.

  115. June 17, 2013

    The Gentle Author

    Although I know not of your name and even less if you have fame.
    The characters of the End End are a plentiful and varied.
    The pen it thrills with such delight, the mind it race at torments night.
    Oh gentle author you are a one, for you the word is like the sun, fired and flared, the imagination. For some it is just a wonderful read, to others it is a need to tell their story far and wide. No one exempt from their tale to tell. A history, a living hell, a nightmare or a journey fair. You had a dream of one day past, a story to tell that forever would last. Your pen, your mind, a tribute send. Oh gentle author indeed a friend.

    The Cockney Bard

  116. Jasper permalink
    June 20, 2013

    Dear gentle author

    What a fantastic website -fascinating, useful and credible. A very valuable piece of work.

    I wonder if you might be able to assist? I am trying to investigate ways of preserving Canalside Studios -a rather beautiful red, black and white building overlooking the Regent’s canal (south side) on Orsman road. Doubtless you will have seen how the rest of the canal has been rapaciously developed over the years. This is practically the last remaining original building on this stretch. It also has a vibrant , diverse and passionately local community. Sadly it also now has a greedy, insensitive and bullying landlord/owner who would ideally like to demolish the site but in the meantime is exploiting current high rents whilst allowing the building to slowly crumble. Any help or advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

    With kind regards

    Jasper

  117. Maria permalink
    August 4, 2013

    I feel I could look at this site forever, I never seem to tire of it. Thank you for enriching my mind.

  118. manolo permalink
    August 18, 2013

    Its seems as Umbra Sumus is part of another quote from Horace in his Odes:

    Pulvis et umbra sumus: We are but dust and shadow.

    Well, kind of dark meaning…Yes, our lives may look as such if we do not make them worth living…Like the lotus flower, we must overcome the mud of our lower emotions and mental self inflicted tortures and become mature spiritual beings…

    Thanks for mentioning this quote, it really has brought me some hope, light and peace when reflecting on it.

    All the very best to all in here!

  119. Swift Nick permalink
    August 19, 2013

    Dear Gentle Author,

    You write with great humanity and a profound understanding of the fabric of the community, both historic and current. There is a gentle eloquence that permeates your prose which slowly and systemically saturates the reader’s senses and stirs their spirit

    This is a rare gift indeed

    Thank you

  120. beth mcgowan permalink
    September 11, 2013

    Thank you so much for your fantastic web site! I was browsing the web the other day and happened upon it and was simply thrilled. I have traced my Fossey relatives back to the 1700′s, most of whom lived in the Tower Hamlets area for many, many years. Your site provides me with the opportunity to view their neighborhoods and important landmarks as they were then.

    What a jewel you have created!

  121. james miller permalink
    October 18, 2013

    Your blog is wonderful, I’m always impressed by the content and photography, but even more so by your choice of topics! Thank you.

  122. Christine Francis permalink
    October 25, 2013

    I think Spitalfields Life is absolutely brilliant! As a regular visitor to London from Derbyshire it gives me a real insight into Spitalfields life.

    Carry on the great work and THANK YOU!!!!!

  123. C.Band permalink
    November 2, 2013

    Came across the book “Spitalfields Life” and was fascinated. When in London in October I simply had to visit Spitalfields and some of the wonderful places “The Gentle Author” described. Now I regularly read the blog and love it!

  124. November 28, 2013

    Your blog is an inspiration to find interesting topics about which to write well. I’m so impressed by every aspect of it.

  125. Paul-o from Port Adelaide permalink
    December 10, 2013

    Dear Gentle Author,

    I recently discovered that my great x 6 grandfather was a blacksmith in Spitalfields who ended up dying in the Christ Church parish workhouse in 1808. Subsequent families lived in Shoreditch before my great x 3 grandfather became a child sailor and jumped ship here in Port Adelaide in 1854 at the age of 14.

    As such, I am a descendent of the Spitalfields diaspora.

    I wonder is there a person in Spitalfields, possibly even from Christ Church, who deals with enquiries from people such as me who are trying to find out information about their ancestors who were in the local workhouses. I understand there were a few in the area. Could you take us into the archives? Where were the workhouses? Does anything remain of them now? Do many people seek to find out what happened? What records are there? If I travelled to Spitalfields in the future is there a way for people like me to research those details? What might I discover?

    With regard to Shoreditch I am fascinated by the fact that it was a rival to the West End theatre district in the Victorian era. Is there someone who is expert on that era who has stories to tell about the theatre district, the types of shows they had and why it fell into decline?

    Information on these two issues would be much appreciated.

    Thanks and best wishes…

  126. Melanie Gadsdon permalink
    December 20, 2013

    Dear Gentle Author
    I want to thank you so much for writing about Peter Gadsdon and his article on The Gadsdons. You have made it so interesting and fascinating. Your website Spitalfields Life is excellent and so many facets to the social history. It is nearly always the people that make history so fascinating that everyone who is interested in this website wants to know more You write beautifully and almost poetically. Like you I have also got a passion for salt glazed pottery and I have got one, a Doulton blue bowl with very strange markings round the rim and rather curious because I don’t know what they are meant to be. I have tried to find the bowl in books but I can’t find it anywhere.
    Kind regards
    Melanie Gadsdon (Peter’s wife)

  127. Elaine thaddeus permalink
    December 31, 2013

    Hello Gentle Author
    I’m really enjoying your fascinating facts about Spitalfields – in fact, I’ve just sent off for the ‘Spitalfields Life’ book and I’m look forward to reading it when it arrives in a few days time.

    I love the history of London, and have a particular interest in your subject as we are related! I remember your dear mum, (great) Aunt Ada well – she celebrated many a Christmas with us at 168, being my nan’s sister. I often heard her mention Wag, but never met him, so it was good to put a face to the name when I saw his photographs here.
    My dad (Leslie) was your cousin (we did meet briefly when you came to his funeral in 1991)- I’m so pleased that you have created such a wonderful record of the family and the area- my dad would have enjoyed seeing all that you have written. My brother who lives in London got a copy of Spitalfield’s life for Christmas, which I know he will love.

    Keep up the good work Gentle Author.

  128. January 25, 2014

    Oh Gentle author. How I’ve loved sitting here in Northcote, Victoria, Australia and reading your beautifully written posts.
    I left England December 2012 after living there happily with my husband Richard (now deceased) for 10 years. Though I lived in a tiny village in Norfolk, your writing reminds me of all I loved about England. People in Australia often ask why I loved living there …. I’ll now direct them to your blog.
    It’s a large task you’ve set yourself to write every day, as you never seem to cut corners on the research. So take heart & keep up this wonderful work.
    Your ever-reading friend in Northcote.

  129. Wayne permalink
    January 28, 2014

    Dear Gentle Author

    You make my day I love reading all your posts
    Your warmth and commitment take me away from daily life
    Please keep writing and sharing all your treasures with us
    This is such a beautiful site and As I read your readers comments I can tell that they feel the same as I
    Thank you so much

    Wayne

  130. Mark C. permalink
    January 30, 2014

    I’m not sure HOW I stumbled across your site, but in my crossreferencing sites, came in the door, and am delighted with what I’ve read so far. I, too, am half a world away in South Central Tennessee, USA, and being allowed to walk through the streets of Old London has been an eye opener. Thank you for sharing your world with us out here in the ‘hinderlands’. I have enjoyed my stay so far.
    Regards!

  131. Trisha permalink
    February 3, 2014

    Gentle Author,
    I am one of your gentle readers, someone who begins each day here in Oregon, Wisconsin by checking out your site. It has been a constant source of delight meeting the many fascinating people you have introduced me to and making my way through the streets and shops of London. In fact I have become so “homesick” for the people and places you’ve written about that I am determined to plan a trip to London sometime this year just to experience some of your wonderful world for myself. …. and to purchase some of your books!

  132. April 21, 2014

    I was trying to find out if Syds coffee stall was still open as I have never seen it open as yet.That’s how I came across your blog and what a delight it was!

    I don’t know your age but you write as someone who seems very comfortable with life.Maybe its the title of your blog!

    Anyway,Keep writing and blogging……….. thank you

  133. Pauline Taylor permalink
    May 11, 2014

    Well, what can I say, I agree with every word written here, this is the most fantastic and interesting site, so well done gentle author, long may you continue to write all these fascinating articles. I would find it all a treat even if I did not have such strong family connections with the East End and even more with London in general, from an ancestor who was a waterman on the Archbishop’s barge at Lambeth, one who left so much money that his ‘poor relatives’ can still claim a pension after more the 300 years, and even one, who if I am right, was Handel’s favourite tenor and the manager of Covent Garden. With many others who were shipwrights, mariners and ferrymen I sometimes think that I may have Thames water mixed with blood in my veins, I know for sure that a love of London history is certainly there so thank you again for all that you are doing to add to my knowledge. Keep up the good work.

    Pauline.

  134. May 30, 2014

    I came across your website purely by accident. I was trying to research life in Chelsea around 1910 so I could get an impression of what life was like as I attempt to start writing my family history. So thank you for all those photo’s they really have helped paint a picture. I look forward to following your posts in the future.

  135. Jessica permalink
    July 1, 2014

    What a delightful find on my Tuesday afternoon. I hope I am here in 2037 to enjoy this…

    Could you please do a piece on the Roebuck Pub on Great Dover Street? I would love that.

  136. July 4, 2014

    What a wonderful story and how wonderful the pictures are. I am so impressed, both by the the look and stare of the children in Horace Warner’s portraits, but also by your blog and method. I would love to make something similar one day in my city, Stockholm.

  137. July 14, 2014

    I chanced here via some background research, as I am just starting to read the draft autobiography of a Cockney who once lived in Prince’s Square, before it became Swedenborg Square.

    It looks to be an interesting read, as is your site. Thank you!

  138. barry permalink
    July 15, 2014

    My nan was born in whitechaple infirmary 1884 when my g-nan registered her 3days later the address was 55 Flower and Dean Street I have just found this site .
    THANK YOU SO MUCH YOU ARE MAKING HISTORY COME TO LIFE
    ONCE AGAIN THANK YOU

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