Starting at seventeen years old, photographer Steve Lewis took all these pictures while he was working for the Ilford Recorder and the Newham Recorder in the nineteen-sixties.
Tom Duncan, Editor of the Newham Recorder, was keen to tackle social issues and the reality of working class people’s lives in the East End, that were barely touched by London’s “Swinging Sixties.” “He was very go-ahead and he asked me to take a picture every week as a way to record what was going on and he called it ‘Lewis’ View’” recalled Steve, “I was not really aware what I was doing at the time, fitting in these pictures whilst I was putting together other stories for the paper.”
In a halfway home in Newham
Alfred Davies had been delivering milk from this handcart to homes in Forest Gate for over thirty years
Sisters Rose Walsham & Susan Lawrence, lifelong customers at the Duke of Fife
Street trader selling vegetables in Barking
In Whitechapel, a group of National Front supporters came by night to nail their message of racial hatred to the door and fire bomb this family
This urban beachcomber was a familiar sight upon the streets of Whitechapel and Stepney
John Loftus of the Manby Arms in Stratford adopted “Bass” a retired donkey
David Bailey and his American girlfriend Penelope Tree
Mrs Mary Riley, caravan dweller, peeling potatoes in Barking
A Gipsy family on Beckton Marshes
A street trader from the 1960s who – from his appearance – could equally belong to the 1860s
In the “Swinging Sixties”
Homeless children in a halfway home.
Leslie Lucking combined the roles of Lollipop lady and mother to her daughter Tracey
An ambitious rag and bone man advertises “COMPLETE Homes Purchased”
Photographs copyright © Steve Lewis
Steve Lewis’ books LONDON’S EAST END – A SIXTIES ALBUM and LONDON’S EAST END – THEN & NOW are available direct from his website www.stevelewisphotography.com
Wright & Wright’s new proposal with the Marquis of Lansdowne in the top left corner
Last week, the Geffrye Museum revealed its new development proposal by architects Wright & Wright, including the restored Marquis of Lansdowne which was to have been destroyed as part of the previous plan by Sir David Chipperfield.
Thanks in no small measure to the large number of objections made by readers of Spitalfields Life, Hackney Council refused permission for demolition of the Marquis of Lansdowne last year and this welcome new scheme, which saves the 1838 pub, is a significant improvement on its predecessor in many ways.
Gone are the bombastic concrete blocks of the rejected proposal and instead, with laudable ingenuity and restraint, Wright & Wright have devised a means to deliver the additional gallery and library space that the museum requires by putting the basement and attics of the old almshouses to use. Rather than adding an extension to the existing extension, they propose a creative internal reorganisation of the buildings that already stand, leaving more garden space for visitors to enjoy.
Perhaps no-one is happier that the Marquis of Lansdowne is to be restored than George Barker who was born there in 1931 and whose family ran the pub for three generations, from before 1915 until after World War II, serving the joiners, wood turners, cabinet makers and french polishers of Haggerston.
The Marquis of Lansdowne
George Barker was born in the upper room of The Marquis of Lansdowne in 1931. It was his family home, spanning three generations of Barkers – his grandfather William who came from a village in East Anglia at the end of the nineteenth century, his mother Lilian who ran the pub alone through the war and opened up every day during the Blitz, and lastly himself, the one who got a grammar school education and a Masters degree in Maths and has lived for the last fifty years in a beautiful house in Chorleywood.
No infamous killer took his victim to The Marquis of Lansdowne for her last drink. Charles Dickens did not visit The Marquis of Lansdowne and base a character in one of his novels upon a local eccentric discovered propping up the bar. In fact, the story of The Marquis of Lansdowne is a more important one that either of these, it is that of the working people who lived in the surrounding streets, for whom it was the centre of their community and meeting place for their extended families. In this sense, it is a quintessential East End pub and the history of this place cannot be told without reference to these people.
Haggerston has changed almost beyond recognition in recent decades and, all this time, The Marquis of Lansdowne has remained as the lone sentinel of a lost world. Yet when George Barker told me the story of his family and the life they led there, he brought that world alive.
“My earliest memory is of being a kid playing on the street, everybody played on the street in those days. A couple of times, I went into the Geffrye Museum and we collected caterpillars in the gardens. They used to have a playground with swings and a place to play football at the back of the museum.
I was born at The Marquis of Lansdowne in February 1931, but my family’s involvement with the pub goes back to the beginning of the century. My grandfather William George Barker told me that the Barker family came from a group of villages near Ipswich, moving to Hoxton at the end of the nineteenth century. He came to London in 1899 and worked as a barman for a year in the East End before becoming a policeman for twenty years.
Frederick Daniel Barker, my grandfather’s brother, was licensee of The Marquis of Lansdowne until he died of TB in 1919, when my grandfather took it over from Frederick’s wife Mary Ann. Then, when my grandfather died in the thirties, my father George Stanley Barker took it over until he died in 1937 when my mother Lily ran it. She remarried in 1939 and, as Lilian Edith Trendall, she held the license until 1954 when her husband Frederick Trendall took over after her death. I think they all made a living but it wasn’t a terribly easy life.
We had a side bar and then another one on the corner we called the darts bar, as well as the front bar and the saloon bar. Even then, there were redundant doors which meant that at one time the pub was divided up into more bars. The saloon bar had upholstered bench seats and bar stools, but the other bars just had wooden benches with Victorian marble-topped tables. The curved bar itself was in the centre, spanning all the divisions with a tall central construction for display of spirits and optics, and the beer pumps were in the front bar. I remember, as you came in the side door from Geffrye St, the wall had a large decorative painted panel advertising Charrington’s Beer and there were mirrors at the rear. The pub windows were of etched and cut glass, and above the main door was an illuminated panel with the words ‘Toby Beer.’ It was a Charrington pub and a wagon came with dray horses to deliver once a week from the brewery in Mile End. Further down Cremer St was the Flying Scud, a Truman’s pub, and the Star & Pack, a Whitbread pub.
On the Geffrye St side of the building was a kitchen which was – in effect – where we all lived, and an office. Above the kitchen was my bedroom, with a window looking onto Geffrye St and the railway arches. On the first floor at the corner was the front room where we didn’t go very often, and the main bedroom – where I was born – was on Cremer St, divided from the front room by a construction of wooden panels, as if it once had been one big room. All the arches were coal depots in those days. It was brought by railway every morning at six thirty and all the coal men would be filling sacks, and bringing their horses and wagons to carry it away. But it never woke me up though, because I got used to it.
In those days, on one side of the pub was a terrace of houses and on the other there were three shops. I remember Mrs Lane who ran the sweet shop next door and Mrs Stanley who had a cats’ meat shop where they sold horsemeat. In the thirties, there was a couple of fellows making springs for prams in the building across the road which became a garage in the nineteen forties. I recall there was a baker’s on the other side of the street too and H.Lee, a big furniture manufacturer, on the corner of the Kingsland Rd.
My mother, Lily, ran The Marquis of Lansdowne singled-handed through World War II. It was heavily bombed in the surrounding streets and, when there were raids, she took shelter in the spirit cellar which had been reinforced with stanchions. She had grown up in the area, and most people knew her and she knew them, and they had been to school together. She was quite an outgoing woman who enjoyed a bit of banter and a lot of chat with the customers. She was the daughter of James Wilson who ran the scrap iron yard opposite across Cremer St under a couple of arches. He started the business there and he had a place in Tottenham, so he left his three sons to run it.
There was a friendly community on our doorstep, she ran the pub and her three brothers ran the scrap iron business across the road, and there was another uncle called Harmsworth who had another two arches where he ran a furniture business – one of my aunts married him. All my uncles and aunts lived within about one hundred yards of each other. They were the Barkers, the Wilsons and the Cheeks. A Barker married a Wilson and then a Wilson married a Cheek and then a Cheek married a Barker. My mother had another three children with my stepfather in the forties, and we all lived together in the Marquis of Lansdowne. There was me and my sister Eileen, plus the twins Maureen and Christine, and their younger brother Freddie.
At the age of eight, I was evacuated during the Blitz, but when I came back it was still quite dangerous so I went to stay with an aunt in Kensal Green. I never lost contact because I cycled over at weekends and moved back at the end of the war when I was thirteen.
In the fifties, the business started to drift away. People didn’t have much money and television came along, so it could be quiet on week nights but it was always busy at weekends, and for celebrations like VE Day and the Coronation we got a special licence and opened from midday until midnight. Even if people had moved away, they came back for Saturday evenings to meet with their relatives and friends. I would be serving behind the bar – probably a little younger than I should have been – and by the age of eighteen I was regularly working there. I always looked after the place when they went in holiday.
My mother died in 1954 and my stepfather took over the pub. I studied for a Masters Degree in Maths at Woolwich Polytechnic and I was away from 1954-56 doing National Service. In 1957, I left The Marquis of Lansdowne forever – I was working for Hawker Aircraft in Langley by then. I only went back occasionally after that, not too often. As people moved out, it started dwindling away and I think my stepfather sold it to a family called Freeland who had been coalmen under the arches and then he moved away too.
If it had been up to me, I probably would have become a publican but I wasn’t going to wait for everyone else to die off first and, because of the war, I went to grammar school and then to university. I haven’t been back to Haggerston since the nineteen sixties.”
George Barker in the yard at The Marquis of Lansdowne aged six in 1937
George Barker was born in the bedroom facing onto Cremer St, indicated by the window on the left.
At The Marquis of Lansdowne, 1957. George Barker on right, aged twenty-five, with sister Eileen, centre back. The other three are his half-brothers and sisters from his mother Lilians second marriage to Frederick Trendall. The twin girls are Maureen on the left and Christine on right, with their brother Freddie between them.
George Stanley Barker & Lilian Edith Wilson, married at St Leonards, Shoreditch on 7th September 1929. Lilian ran the pub after the death of her husband in 1937 until she died in 1954.
Ex-policeman William George Barker who ran The Marquis of Lansdowne from 1919 – photographed in 191o, with his wife Annie Susannah Oakenfold and son George Stanley Barker, who took over from his father and ran the pub until 1937.
20th December 1911, William George Barker is reprimanded for bring caught in pubs in Shoreditch and Spitalfields while on duty as a policeman – eight years later he became landlord of The Marquis of Lansdowne and spent the rest of his life in a pub. - “Inattention to duty and wasting his time by being off his Division and being in the White Hart Public House, High St, Shoreditch, out of the City from 3:30 to 4:50pm (1 hour & 2o minutes) while on duty on 13th instant. Also, being in the King’s Stores Public House, Widegate St, from 5:05 to 5:40pm (35 minutes) while on duty, same date.”
February 22nd 1919, William George Barker applies to leave the police to take over the running of The Marquis of Lansdowne from his sister-in-law after the death of his brother Frederick Daniel Barker. “I respectfully beg to apply to the Commissioner for permission to resign my appointment as Constable in the City of London Police Force, one month from the above date. My reason for doing so is that my sister-in-law Mrs Mary Ann Barker Licensee of The Marquis of Lansdowne Public House, No 32 Cremer St, Kingsland Rd, is unable to carry on the business in consequence of a nervous breakdown and she wishes me to hold the license and conduct the business on my own responsibility.”
May 9th 1919, Charrington’s, Anchor Brewery, Mile End, seeks a reference for William George Barker from the Commissioner of Police at Snow Hill. Presumably, the incidents of Christmas 1911 were discreetly forgotten.
Dating from the Regency era, The Marquis of Lansdowne is the only old building left on Cremer St
George Barker is delighted that his childhood home is saved
You can see more details of the new development proposal on the Geffrye Museum‘s website and readers are invited to attend an open evening on Tuesday 4th November 6-7:30pm, to meet museum director, David Dewing, and architect, Clare Wright, to hear more about their plans and give your feedback
You may also like to read about
In his Spitalfields albums, Horace Warner collected together all the portraits that he made of the people who lived in Quaker St around 1900 and, because he captioned some of them with their names, we have been able to trace the biographies of his subjects in the public records.
When you see this tender portrait of Jessica Wakefield in her clean apron and her younger sister Rosalie in her check dress, poised upon the threshold of life, it is impossible not to wonder what happened to these two and thus it imbues the photograph with an even greater resonance to discover that they lived to the ages of ninety-four and eighty-four respectively.
Observe how Jessica places her arm protectively around her little sister who was four years and half years younger than she. Jessica had been born in Camden on January 16th 1891 and Rosalie at 47 Hamilton Buildings, Great Eastern St, Shoreditch on July 4th 1895. They were the second and last of four children born to William, a printer’s assistant, and Alice, a housewife.It seems likely they were living in Great Eastern St at the time Horace Warner photographed them, when Jessica was ten or eleven and Rosalie was five or six.
Jessica married Stanley Taylor in 1915 and they lived in Wandsworth, where she died in 1985, aged ninety-four. On July 31st 1918 at the age of twenty-three, Rosalie married Ewart Osborne, a typewriter dealer, who was also twenty-three years old, at St Mary, Balham. After five years of marriage, they had a son named Robert, in 1923, but Ewart left her and she was reported as being deaf. Eventually the couple divorced in 1927 and both married again. Rosalie died aged eighty-four in 1979, six years before her elder sister Jessica, in Waltham Forest.
These bare facts deliver a poignant dramatic irony to Horace Warner’s photograph, once we know what life had in store for the Wakefield Sisters. We hope they remained close and were able to support each other through the travails and joys of life. Once Jessica & Rosalie come alive to us as individuals, we are left to contemplate the moment of stillness in 1900 that was captured for eternity by this picture.
Vicky Stewart worked with Helen Green, Lesley Law and Jacqueline T Ward for months this summer researching the biographies of the Spitalfields Nippers and, although Horace Warner only named a few of his subjects and we were not able to trace all of these, we hope those published in the book comprise a representative selection which may suggest a broader picture of the lives of the children in the photographs.
You can see more of Horace Warner’s SPITALFIELDS NIPPERS and read their biographies in today’s edition of The Guardian Magazine
All Publication Rights in these Photographs Reserved
My SPITALFIELDS NIPPERS lecture at the Bishopsgate Institute on 4th November is sold out, but I shall also be showing the photographs and telling the stories at WATERSTONES PICCADILLY on WEDNESDAY 19th NOVEMBER at 7pm. Admission is free to this event and tickets are available but must be reserved firstname.lastname@example.org
You may also like to read about
Faber Factory Plus part of Faber & Faber are distributing SPITALFIELDS NIPPERS nationwide – so if you are a retailer and would like to sell copies in your shop, please contact email@example.com who deals with trade orders.
For the past two and a half years, Contributing Photographers Colin O’Brien & Alex Pink have been documenting Whitechapel, recording the changes delivered by the 2012 Olympics and the imminent arrival of Crossrail. Now they are showing this work from the first time in Whitechapel: A Look Back at the Darnley Gallery until 7th November. Today I publish a selection of Colin O’Brien’s photographs from this project, complementing Alex Pink’s pictures which I showed yesterday.
Photographs copyright © Colin O’Brien
WHITECHAPEL: A LOOK BACK BY COLIN O’BRIEN & ALEX PINK runs at the Darnley Gallery, 1a Darnley Rd, E9 6QH until 7th November
You may also like to take a look at
For the past two and a half years, Contributing Photographers Colin O’Brien & Alex Pink have been documenting Whitechapel, recording the changes delivered by the 2012 Olympics and the imminent arrival of Crossrail. Now they are showing this work from the first time and readers are invited to attend the opening of Whitechapel: A Look Back at the Darnley Gallery from 6-9pm tonight. Here you can see a selection of Alex Pink’s photographs from this project which will be complemented tomorrow by Colin O’Brien’s pictures of Whitechapel.
Photographs copyright © Alex Pink
WHITECHAPEL: A LOOK BACK BY COLIN O’BRIEN & ALEX PINK opens tonight at the Darnley Gallery, 1a Darnley Rd, E9 6QH and runs until 7th November
You may like to look at these other pictures by Alex Pink