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Charles Spurgeon’s Street Traders

March 20, 2017
by the gentle author

Charles Spurgeon the Younger, son of the Evangelist Charles Haddon Spurgeon, took over the South St Baptist Chapel in Greenwich in the eighteen-eighties and commissioned an unknown photographer to make lantern slides of the street traders of Greenwich that he could use in his preaching. We shall never know exactly how Spurgeon showed these pictures, taken between 1884 and 1887, but – perhaps inadvertently – he was responsible for the creation of one of the earliest series of documentary portraits of Londoners.

Champion Pie Man - W.Thompson, Pie Maker of fifty years, outside his shop in the alley behind Greenwich Church

Hokey-Pokey Boy - August Bank Holiday, Stockwell St, Greenwich

Knife Grinder - posed cutting out a kettle bottom from a tin sheet

Rabbit Seller

Toy Seller - King William St outside Royal Naval College, Greenwich

Ginger Cakes Seller - King St, near Greenwich Park


Shrimp Sellers - outside Greenwich Park

Crossing Sweeper (& News Boy) – Clarence St, Greenwich

Sherbert Seller - outside Greenwich Park

Third Class Milkman - carrying two four-gallon cans on a yoke, King William’s Walk, Greenwich

Second Class Milkman – with a hand cart and seventeen-gallon churn

Master Milkman - in his uniform, outside Royal Naval College, Greenwich

Chairmender - Corner of Prince Orange Lane, Greenwich

Kentish Herb Woman - Greenwich High Rd

Muffin Man


Try Your Weight - outside Greenwich Park


News Boy (& Crossing Sweeper) - delivering The Daily News at 7:30am near Greenwich Pier

Old Clo’ Man – it was a crime to dispose of infected clothing during the Smallpox epidemics of  the eighteen-eighties and the Old Clo’ Man plied a risky trade.

Blind Fiddler - outside Crowders’ Music Hall Greenwich

You may also like to take a look at

John Thomson’s Street Life in London

Henry Mayhew’s Street Traders

Adam Dant’s Map Of Shoreditch Old & New

March 19, 2017
by the gentle author

It is my delight to publish Adam Dant‘s map illustrating the evolution of Shoreditch through the ages

1. Iron Age Man establishes a track along what is now “OLD STREET”.

2. Christian Roman Soldiers worship at the source of the river Walbrook, now St Leonards.

3. Sir John de Soerditch rides against the French Spears alongside The Black Prince.

4. Jane Shore, a goldsmith’s daughter & lover of Edward IV dies in “a ditch of loathsome scent.”

5. “Barlow” the archer is given the dubious title “Duke of Shoreditch” by Henry VIII.

6. Christopher Marlowe murders the son of a Hog Lane innkeeper, he escapes prosecution.

7. Plague burials take place at “Holywell Mound” by the Priory of St John the Baptist at Holywell.

8. Queen Elizabeth I on passing by medieval St Leonards is “Pleased by its Bells.”

9. The sweet water of “The Holywell” is spoilt by manure heaps of local nursery gardens,

10. James Burbage’s sons Cuthbert & Richard dismantle “The Theatre” in two to four days & transport it to the South bank of the Thames where it is rebuilt as “The Globe”.

11.  William Shakespeare enjoys a “bumper” at an inn on the site of the present “White Horse.”

12. Local Huguenot weavers riot for three days protesting against & burning “multi-shuttle looms”.

13. Thomas Fairchild, a gardener, donated £25 to St Leonards for an annual Whitsunday sermon titled “Wonderful Works of God in creation” or “On the certainty of resurrection of the dead proved by certain changes of the animal and vegetable parts of creation.”

14. Militia are called from the Tower  to quell four thousand Shoreditch locals rioting against cheap Irish labour being used to build the new George Dance tower of St Leonards.

15. Large lumps of masonry fall onto the congregation during a service at the collapsing old St Leonards.

16. The Huguenot speciality “fish & chips” appear at Britain’s first fish & chip shop on Club Row.

17. The many murders & muggings at Holywell Mount lead to it being levelled.

18. Local theatres such as The Curtain sink to become “no more than sparring rooms.”

19. Brick Lane takes its name from local brickfields, occasional location of furtive criminality.

20. Visitors to James Fryer’s land at Friar’s Mount wrongly assume a monastery stood there.

21. Joe Lee, the local horsewhisperer, coaxes improved productivity from working donkeys.

22. “Resurrection Men,” notorious body snatchers pinch recent interred corpses from St Leonards, some coffins in the crypt are found to contain bricks instead of bodies,

23.  Four thousand people are dispossessed as Bishopsgate Goods Yard replaces streets around Swan Lane & Leg Alley.

24. Mary Kelly’s funeral procession leaves St Leonards amidst huge crowds. The poor victim of Jack the Ripper is given a second funeral at her own catholic cemetery.

25. Oliver Twist is said to have resided in Shoreditch. Many other unfortunate children arrive each morning at The White St Child Slave Market seeking work.

26. So many unruly pavement-side street vendors populate Shoreditch High St that a regular uniformed Street Keeper is employed.

27. Horse drawn trams add to the general commotion bustle and smell of the High Street.

28. Cats meat sellers, watercress hawkers & dog breeders all cram into the Old Nichol’s filthy tenements.

29. Sir Arthur Arnold, head of the LCC main drainage committee is commemorated at Arnold Circus.

30. For decades the chalk horse on Bishopsgate Goods Yard is redrawn by unknown local artist.

31. Enthusiastic Anarchists hoping to bring political awareness to the Old Nichol proletariat through their Boundary St printing operation find the task “like tickling an elephant with a straw.”

32. Artist, Lord Leighton calls the interior of Holy Trinity, Old Nichol St, “The most beautiful in England.”

33. Arthur Harding’s memories of his slum boyhood, “van dragging” etc are recalled in “East End Underworld.”

34. Arthur Morrison pens his slum tale “Child of the Jago” following Reverend Jay’s invitation to the Old Nichol.

35. The chapel dedicated to Shakespeare on Holywell Lane is destroyed by a WWII bomb.

36. Syd’s Coffee Stall, now Hillary Caterers, is saved from destruction during an air raid as two parked buses shelter it from a bomb blast. Thomas Austen’s medieval chancel window is less fortunate.

37. Novelist Arthur Machen identifies a “leyline” running through the mystic ancient earthwork Arnold Circus.

38. King Edward VIII officially inaugurates Boundary Estate from a platform on Navarre St.

39. The Red Arrows pass over the bandstand en-route once more to the Queen’s Birthday.

40. Protestors eventually force the closure of Club Row animal market, once home to dogs, parrots, pigeons and the occasional lion cub.

41. Navarre St is used as a playground by children who carve their names into the brickwork.

42. Artist, Ronald Searle visits Club Row animal market to illustrate Kaye Webb’s “Looking at London.”

43. The resident Bengali flute player of Arnold Circus is often heard across the Boundary Estate on warm Summer evenings.

44. The IRA bomb which explodes on Bishopsgate disturbs the rats in Shoreditch who emerge in large numbers from the drains,

45. The great train robbers plan their notorious crime upstairs in The Ship & Blue Ball, Boundary St.

46. Jeremiah Rotherham demolishes the Shoreditch Music Hall for another warehouse.

47. Joan Rose‘s father proudly displays his fruit & vegetables on Calvert Avenue whilst she is sent to buy more bags at Gardners Market Sundriesmen.

48. Every type of vacuum cleaner bag is sold by “Zammo from Grange Hill’s dad” at Shoreditch Domestics on Calvert Avenue.

49. The failed Suicide Bus Bomber is seen by security camera leaving the No 26 at Shoreditch.

50. Mono-recording virtuoso, Liam Watson strides past Shoreditch’s “Elvisly Yours” souvenir shop en-route to legendary Toe-rag recording studios in French Place.

Maps copyright © Adam Dant

You may like to take a look at Adam’s other maps of Shoreditch

Map of Hoxton Square

Map of Industrious Shoreditch

Map of Shoreditch in the Year 3000

Map of Shoreditch as New York

Map of Shoreditch as the Globe

Map of Shoreditch in Dreams

Click here to buy a copy of The Map of Spitalfields Life for £5, drawn by Adam Dant with stories by The Gentle Author

A Petition To Save The Bell Foundry

March 18, 2017
by the gentle author

Bell by Rob Ryan

Today the East End Preservation Society launches a petition to Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Culture, Media & Sport to SAVE THE WHITECHAPEL BELL FOUNDRY which is due to shut forever in May after five centuries in the East End.


“We the undersigned wish to publicly register our very serious concern about the imminent loss of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

Bells have been made continuously in Whitechapel since the 1570s. The business has been on its present site since the mid 1740s. It is one of just two remaining bell foundries in Britain, and the foundry is reportedly the oldest manufacturing company in the UK.

This is the foundry that made Big Ben in 1858, the world famous US Liberty Bell and many many more. The foundry is set to close at the end of March, and its contents sold at auction..

We are very concerned that we will lose not only specialized jobs and skills, but that this type of business and trade is part of the historic essence of our towns and cities. How is Britain allowing this national treasure to slip through our fingers?”


Photograph copyright © Shahed Saleem

Follow the East End Preservation Society


Click here to join the East End Preservation Society

You may also like to read about

Save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry

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Philip Cunningham’s Pub Crawl

March 17, 2017
by the gentle author

Shall we join Photographer Philip Cunningham for a pub crawl around the East End a generation ago? It starts at Phil’s local, The Three Crowns in Mile End Rd, very convenient for a quick pint when he was living in his grandfather’s house in Mile End Place in the seventies.

Ada & Polo, 1973

“When we moved to Mile End Place in 1971 our local pub, The Three Crowns, was just round the corner. We would go there often. Everyone used to go to the pub in those days, it was almost an extension of home. The Three Crowns was pretty rough.

It was run by a Jewish lady called Ada. Her elderly father helped behind the bar and she had a young Palestinian barman known as ‘Toffee.’ There was another barman, known as ‘Polo,’ who had a terrible stammer yet was very popular. And they all lived together above the pub.

There was a small snug in the middle of The Three Crowns which was highly sought after. It held about six people and was like being in your own private room. If it was occupied, you kept an eye out and, when it became vacant, you would run in quickly and take it.

One night, while I was drinking with my pal ‘John Boy,’ we were both potless and decided to pool our money, but found we did not have enough for another drink so we put it in the slot machine instead. To our amazement, we won the jackpot! Ada was not happy. She stormed over and unplugged the machine. She usually knew when the machine was about to give up the jackpot and would have it for herself. We spent all our winnings in her pub but, if Ada gave you a withering look, you knew you’d upset her.

There was a gambling club, The 81 Club, two doors away and people would often run in and hand Ada a bundle of notes, which she would stuff in her apron pocket. I think she was some type of banker. Ada made the best beef sandwiches I ever tasted. She was a fabulous character surrounded by other characters at The Crowns, real solid people that lived hard lives and knew who they were.

When Ada retired, The Three Crowns was taken over by Terry (known as ‘Turksie’) & Brenda Green. Terry had been a Docker and he and Brenda had a lot of work done on it, I believe out of his severance pay. I became friends with Terry’s brother, Jimmy. We would wander round the borough together and he would tell me tales of the old days, and van dragging – jumping on the back of a moving goods wagon and pulling off packages.

The Three Crowns was a successful pub but Terry & Brenda left to live in Portugal. The picture of Jimmy, the unnamed photographer and John the Fruit was taken just before they left. I cannot remember the photographer’s name but he told me I should buy a Zenza Bronica camera, which I did and have been using it ever since.

After the Greens’ departure, The Three Crowns changed entirely and the deafening music drove us away. The new tenants did not stay long and the place went down the tubes. When I returned years later, I was shocked to see that the fabulous tiled mural of the ‘field of the cloth of gold’ which adorned the entrance had been smashed up. Someone had tried to remove it from the wall but with the most destructive consequences. Only half the mural was left and the rest had been replaced by rendered cement. I doubt if they even got a single intact tile. It was the most pointless greedy vandalism.

I loved the East End, rough, tough, and mad – there was an energy about the place, but I think the East End I knew has mostly gone.” – Philip Cunningham

Jimmy, Terry & Brenda Green at The Three Crowns 1983

Jimmy Green, Unnamed Photographer & John The Fruit at The Three Crowns 1983

Interior at The Three Crowns 1983

The Three Crowns, Mile End Rd, 1983

The Queen’s Head, York Sq, Stepney, 1983 (Recently sold to property developers)

The former Lord Napier, Whitechapel -’The Lord Napier was never a pub in my time’ 1979

Formerly The Laurel Tree, Brick Lane, c.1985

‘I have never been into The Florist Arms in Globe Rd but I am determined to visit because I am told it is good fun’ c.1983

‘The Waterman’s Arms was just next to the school I was teaching in on the Isle of Dogs and I went in quite a lot. It was once owned by Daniel Farson and Shirley Bassey would come and sing there.”

Waterman’s Arms, c.1984

‘The Wentworth in Eric St was an OK pub but it always reminded me of my dealings with the District Surveyor, which was depressing’ 1980

‘I went into the Duke of York a lot as friends of mine lived in Antill Rd’ c.1980

‘The Oxford Arms in Milward St behind the London Hospital was always full of nurses and medics, very popular’ c.1984

‘The Old Globe in Globe Rd was a disaster in my time. The loud music they played could probably have been heard on the moon. There was always massive overspill onto the pavement and, in the morning, the entire area was covered in broken glass. It was a young people’s pub.’ 1979

The Bell, Middlesex St, c.1985

‘The Railway Tavern in Grove Rd was a nice pub and played a lot of jazz in my time’ c.1984

The Beehive, Commercial St, Spitalfields – seen from Christ Church yard

‘I thought The Old King’s Head was on Burdett Rd but I can’t find a trace of it, yet I do remember from my two visits that it was a nice pub’

‘The Lion in Tapp St was one of the grottiest pubs I’ve been into. If it still exists, I hope it’s changed. There were holes in the lino and the floor was sticky with beer. The beer was good but not much else.’ c.1985/6

‘The Three Suns in Aldgate had elaborate brickwork on it, but I could never understand this panel. It seemed to have something to do with a Shakespeare play.’ c.1986

‘I only went into the Forty Fives in Mile End Rd once with my friend Grahame, the window cleaner. We wanted to have a drink in every pub from The Three Crowns to the Whitechapel Art Gallery, but I don’t think we made it.’ 1985/6

‘The Albion in Bethnal Green Rd was one of my favourite pubs’

The Red Cow, Mile End Rd, 1986

Photographs copyright © Philip Cunningham

You may also like to take a look at

A Walk with Philip Cunningham

Philip Cunningham’s East End Portraits

More of Philip Cunningham’s Portraits

Yet More Philip Cunningham Portraits

A Lost Corner of Whitechapel

Philip Cunningham at Mile End Place

A Drink At The Hoop & Grapes

March 16, 2017
by the gentle author

David Milne, curator at Dennis Severs’ House in Folgate St, took me along to the Hoop & Grapes in Aldgate for a drink yesterday, revisiting a special haunt that he was introduced to by Dennis Severs back in the nineteen eighties.

We walked together from Spitalfields up through Petticoat Lane until we arrived at the busy junction in Aldgate where traffic careers in every direction.“This was the major road in and out of London and it would always have been as full of people as it is now.” said David, as he peered down the road towards Whitechapel, wrinkling his brow to imagine centuries of travellers, before fixing his gaze directly across the road at three of the last remaining timber frame buildings surviving from before the fire of London. The central building, squeezed between its neighbours like a skinny waif sat between two fat people on a bus, was the Hoop & Grapes.

It is the oldest licensed house in the City, built in 1593 and originally called The Castle, then the Angel & Crown, then Christopher Hills, finally becoming the Hoop & Grapes – referring to the sale of both beer and wine – in the nineteen twenties. The first impression when you turn your back on the traffic to enter, is of the appealingly crooked Tudor frontage with sash windows fitted in the seventeen twenties at eccentric angles, and of two ancient oak posts guarding the entrance, each with primitive designs of vines incised upon them.

Stepping through the heavy door patched together over centuries, the plan of the narrow house is still apparent even though the partition walls have been removed. A narrow passageway ran ahead down the left of the building with small rooms leading off to the right, a structure which is revealed today by the placing of the beams in the ceiling and the bulges in the wall where the fireplaces in each room have been sealed up. Opening to your left is the bar, where the premises have expanded into the next house and to the back is flagged floor next to the largest chimney breast in a space that was a kitchen in the sixteenth century.

David and I enjoyed the privilege of access to the cellar where the landlady led us through a sequence of narrowing brick vaults built in the thirteenth century, until we reached the front of the building where she pointed out an old iron hook in the ceiling, held back by a lead catch. “No-one knows what this was for,” she admitted, prompting David to look down at his feet where a metal cover was set into the floor.“There was a well beneath,” he said, speculating,“the Aldgate pump was not far from here and the water table is high.” Then the landlady released the hook to hang vertical and it hung directly over the centre of the cover, perfect for hauling up a bucket. We all exchanged a smile of triumph at solving the puzzle, and stood together to appreciate this rare medieval space, essentially unchanged since Elizabeth I met Mary Tudor fifty yards away at Aldgate in 1553.

Upstairs, the landlady pointed out the site of a listening tube, centuries old yet covered over when a speaker system was fitted recently. This tube enabled whoever was in the cellar to hear what was spoken in the bar and vice versa. David believes it was used in the days of Oliver Cromwell by the landlord, who was in the pay of the authorities, to eavesdrop upon conspirators who chose this pub just outside the City gate for illicit liaisons, and there is no doubt that – thanks to the sparse renovations – once you have been here for a while you can begin to imagine the picture.

We sat down at the quiet corner table next to the crooked window with our drinks. “Dennis and I had this way of looking at things and making it more than it is,” confessed David to me with a contemplative affectionate smile “and that’s what we called ‘the theatre of life’. I used to come and visit him, and we’d go for walks around Spitalfields and end up here for a pint. We were looking for what remains – the signposts to the great City of old –  the street that ran down to the City of London was full of houses like this. We would sit here and create a story about the merchants who lived in these ancient houses.”

In this no-man’s land between the City and Whitechapel, the Hoop & Grapes is a reliably peaceful place to go where just a few commuters drop in for a pint and tourists rarely appear – because it does not readily declare its history. Yet time gathers here in the stillness of this modest Tudor building – constructed atop a medieval foundation with eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth century accretions – while the world rushes past as it always has done.

Through his house in Folgate St, Dennis Severs’ reinvented the way that historic buildings are presented. When David Milne came here with Dennis Severs thirty-five years ago, all that was in the future, and today more than fifteen years after his death, David is one of those who maintains Dennis Severs’ creation. “He was a remarkable man,” confided David, as we took our leave of the Hoop & Grapes, “and now this place is a signpost to my past with him.”

David Milne first came here with Dennis Severs thirty-five years ago

The thirteenth century cellars

An ancient hook above the well in the cellar

Two venerable oak posts carved with vines guard the door, and sash windows added in the seventeen twenties sit within a crooked sixteenth century structure

An insurance plate from 1782 still adorns the frontage

The three sixteenth century timber frame houses in Aldgate, predating the fire of London which came within fifty yards. The house on the right was refaced in brick in the eighteenth century

Archive photograph of the Hoop & Grapes courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

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Sandra Esqulant at the Golden Heart

At the Grapes in Limehouse

At the Ten Bells

At the Carpenter’s Arms

Other Dennis Severs’ House stories

Isabelle Barker’s Hat

Simon Pettet’s Tiles

Dennis Severs’ Menagerie