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Charles Skilton’s London Life

August 14, 2019
by the gentle author

Now that the summer visitors are here and thronging in the capital’s streets and transport systems, I thought I would send you this fine set of postcards published by Charles Skilton, including my special favourites the escapologist and the pavement artist.

Looking at these monochrome images of the threadbare postwar years, you might easily imagine the photographs were earlier – but Margaret Rutherford in ‘Ring Round the Moon’ at The Globe in Shaftesbury Ave in number nine dates them to 1950. Celebrated in his day as publisher of the Billy Bunter stories, Charles Skilton won posthumous notoriety for his underground pornographic publishing empire, Luxor Press.

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Dan Jones Portraits

August 13, 2019
by the gentle author

In recent years, Dan Jones has painted a magnificent series of portraits from different eras for East End Tales by the Speed History Writers Group. Many of these are well known but others less familiar, so you can click on any of the names below to learn more about the subjects.

Ayub Ali

Surat Alley

Clement Attlee


Dr Thomas Barnardo

Julie Begum

Pearl Binder

David Bomberg

Lilian Bowes-Lyon

Sister Christine

Rose Cohen

Alexander Cooke

Meg Cornwall

Harry Costin

Siddy Costin

Lily Cove

Boxer Davey

Toni Davey

Tommy Flowers

Charlie Goodman

Eva Amy Harkness

Elizabeth Holdsworth

Tunde Ikoli

Joseph Ha Kahone

Oona King

Charlie Magri

Gladys McGee

Grace Mills

Anna Nadel

Jacob Ornstein

Chris Searle

Lao She

Police Constable James Stewart

Maudie Thomas

Matilda Towns

Wouter Van Den Bergh

Samuel & Yeta Wassersug

Manny Weinberger

Rabbi Avraham Aba Werner

Eva Mary Towns White

Portraits copyright © Dan Jones

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Eleanor Crow’s Bakers’ Shops

August 12, 2019
by the gentle author

Years have passed since we first featured Eleanor Crow’s beautiful watercolours of East End shops in these pages and Spitalfields Life Books is now publishing a handsome hardback collection of them SHOPFRONTS OF LONDON, In Praise of Small Neighbourhood Shops in collaboration with Batsford Books.

You can preorder to support publication and you will receive a signed copy in the first week of September. Click here to preorder for £14.99


Beigel Shop, Brick Lane

Eleanor’s richly-hued watercolour paintings of favourite East End Bakers set my stomach rumbling just to look at them . “I live in a bakery-free part of the East End and popping out for decent bread usually involves a cycle ride,” she admitted to me, “So I’m always on the lookout for good bakers and I wish we still had a proper bakery in every neighbourhood like they do in the rest of Europe.”

In common with Eleanor, I also plan my routes around the East End using the bakers’ shops as landmarks – so that I can take consolation in knowing the proximity of the nearest one, just in case the desire for something tasty from the bakery overtakes me.

One of my regular bus routes has The Baker’s Arms as its final destination and close by is a beautiful set of almshouses, built by the London Master Bakers’ Benevolent Institution in the nineteenth century,” Eleanor informed me, elucidating bakers’ lore,  as she took the first bite of a freshly baked Hot Cross Bun still warm from the oven.“Luckily people always want bread, so the traditional bakeries can still thrive alongside new businesses – but I do recommend sampling the goods a few times in each one, just to be sure which is the best…”


Robertsons, Lea Bridge Rd



Novelty Bakery, East Ham



Jesshops, Newington Green



Rinkoff’s, Vallance Rd



Goswell Bakeries, Canning Town


Akdeniz Bakery, Stoke Newington



Star Bakery, Dalston Lane



Fabrique Bakery, Hoxton



Raab the Bakers, Essex Rd



Percy Ingle, Lea Bridge Rd



Anderson’s, Hoxton St



Daren Bread, Stepney Green



At a time of momentous change in the high street, Eleanor’s witty and fascinating personal survey champions the enduring culture of Britain’s small neighbourhood shops.

As our high streets decline into generic monotony, we cherish the independent shops and family businesses that enrich our city with their characterful frontages and distinctive typography.

Eleanor’s collection includes more than hundred of her watercolours of the capital’s bakers, cafés, butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers, chemists, launderettes, hardware stores, eel & pie shops, bookshops and stationers. Her pictures are accompanied by the stories of the shops, their history and their shopkeepers – stretching from Chelsea in the west to Bethnal Green and Walthamstow in the east.

A Bethnal Green Mulberry Calamity

August 11, 2019
by the gentle author

Yesterday I fell out of a Mulberry tree in Victoria Park while harvesting Mulberries for our campaign to Save the Bethnal Green Mulberry and broke my arm. One moment I was reaching from the top of ladder to pick the largest juiciest Mulberry. The next moment I lay on the grass with the ladder beneath and my right arm twisted at a painful angle.

Nine hours later, I was discharged from the Royal London Hospital with my arm in plaster. I shall endeavour to continue publishing daily in these pages but I know you will understand if it is a few weeks before normal service is resumed.

In the meantime, I need your help more than ever with our London Mulberry Harvest. We are collaborating with Kitty Travers of La Grotta Ices to make Mulberry ice cream for our campaign.

Pick Mulberries from any of the publicly accessible trees on this LONDON MULBERRY MAP produced by Peter Coles of Morus Londinium. Then deliver your Mulberries to Leila’s Shop, 17 Calvert Avenue, Boundary Estate, E2. The shop is open until 5pm today and from Wednesday to Sunday each week. Drop me a line so we can ensure you get some Mulberry ice cream further down the line.

Avoid becoming a Mulberry martyr, please do not fall off the ladder while harvesting Mulberries!

Illustrated London, 1893

August 10, 2019
by the gentle author

Marvel at London’s former manufacturing industry as exemplified by these progressive commercial enterprises from Illustrated London, 1893 in the archive at Bishopsgate Institute

Allen & Hanburys, Manufacturing Pharmaceutical Chemists & Wholesale Druggists, Bethnal Green - For the origin of this eminent firm we have to go back to as far as the days of Mr Silvanus Bevan who was admitted into the Apothecaries’ Company in 1715. Moreover, the firm does not neglect the requirements of modern enterprise . They are always progressive and their works at Bethnal Green are large and splendidly equipped, and are devoted to the  extensive manufacture of many important specialities

Messrs H R Mopsey & Co, Ironmongers, High St, Wandsworth – Founded in the year 1840, this firm embodies all the improvements which the interim of half a century has enabled the proprietors to introduce and  you will find the aspect of the firm’s handsome premises quite in accordance with the representative and leading position which the house has long occupied in this vicinity.

Messrs Culverwell, Brooks & Co, Brokers, Colonial & Foreign Hides, Skins, Leather, Furs, Taloow &c, Sunn & Toppings Wharves, Bermondsey - This is one of the most important businesses of its kind in London and it is still steadily growing in extent and importance. The partners are business men of sound judgement and marked enterprise, and are worthy representatives of the important branch of commerce with which they have been so long associated.

Messrs Morel Bros, Cobbett & Son Ltd, Importers & Purveyors of High Class Comestibles, Piccadilly - The extensive and mercantile concern now carried under the above title was formed several years ago by the amalgamation of two old-established and high class businesses long known in the West End. As purveyors to Her Majesty to the Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duchess of Albany, Prince Christian and Prince Henry of Battenberg, Messrs Morel Bros, Cobbett & Son Ltd enjoy the most distinguished patronage it is possible to secure.

Jay’s Mourning Warehouse, Regent St - The last half century has witnessed in London the creation of a number of unique mercantile institutions predestined to win fame and play the part of leaders in their departments of commercial activity. Undoubtedly, no other firm will more readily occur to our readers as answering this description than Jay’s, which has conducted over fifty years that great mourning house in Regent St. Recently, this noted firm sustained a loss in the death of its distinguished founder Mr W C Jay.

The Manufacturing Goldsmiths’ & Silversmiths’ Co, Regent St – Some of the finest business establishments in the world line the broad and fashionable thoroughfare of Regent St and the conspicuous feature in this brilliant array of shops are these showrooms with their unequalled display of beautiful and costly specialities.

Messrs Whitebread, Morris & co, Engravers, Steam Printers & Lithographers, Bookbinders & Export Stationers, Fenchurch St - In connection with the printing and lithographing art industries which are so extensively carried on in the City of London, a prominent position has long been held by this well known firm whose name is identified with the production of a large variety of high class work.

Herbert Finch & Co, Designers, Engravers & Colour Printers, Wholesale Manufacturers & Export Stationers, Specialists in Novelties for Advertising, Leadenhall St - In 1879, they erected this noble structure within which their trade is now carried on, and which forms one of the largest and finest printing offices in the City. Mr Herbert Finch is widely known in the trade and is thoroughly and practically versed in all its details, and he continues to take an active and supreme part in its management of the firm which owes its success and advancement to his energy and foresight.

The Great Tower Tea Co Ltd, Jewry St - To the enterprise of this firm, the public is indebted for a very marked and widespread improvement in the quality of tea.

Whyte Ridsdale & Co, Manufacturers’ Agents, Warehousemen & Importers of Fancy Goods, Houndsditch – For over twenty-five years, they have been involved in the business of preparing, collecting and distributing British and Foreign fancy goods, and they have been compelled – more than once – to increase their accommodation and pull down their premises. Still, the increase of their business outstrips the room which the enlarged premises afford and this year is to witness a further large addition to the building they occupy.

Mr Henry Conolly, Manufacturing Sanitary Engineer, Tolmers Sq - In connection with the great developments in sanitary science which have taken place during the past half century, no name is better known or enjoys a higher reputation than that of Henry Conolly.

Messrs John S Fitter & Son, Meat Salesmen, Leadenhall Market - Every visitor to the market is familiar with this fine establishment in the Grand Avenue .They were the earliest appointed agents in England for New Zealand and Australian frozen meat and, by their energetic advocacy of this valuable product and the splendid quality of the supplies they placed in the market, they speedily overcame the, altogether groundless and short-sighted, objections which at first met their endeavours to develop this new and useful trade.

Royal Rubber Co, Sloane St – Not so very many years ago, the waterproof garment was universally regarded as a necessary evil by travellers and persons whose business forced them to face inclement weather, because of its extreme awkwardness and uncompromising ugliness. Now the celebrated Royal Rubber Co brings forward perfect weather defences, in the form of graceful, elegant, artistic and essentially comfortable items of waterproof attire.

H Mallett, Window Blind Manufacturer  & Upholsterer, Finchley Rd - After nearly thirty years in the business, Mr Mallett, an expert and skilled workman, took the above premises and developed what has now become the most important business of its kind in London. Mr Mallett has shown much ingenuity in introducing many useful improvements and desirable novelties in his trade.

Messrs Symmons Bros, General Drapers, Hosiers, Silk Merchants, Lades’, Gentlemen’s & Children’s Outfitters, Finchley Rd - This establishment is splendidly appointed in the best modern style, served by numerous and highly efficient staff, and stocked with a choice selection of goods, that entitles it to comparison with the leading houses of the West End.

C Holz, Theatrical & Private Wig-Maker, Covent Garden – Although the modern perruquier is not so universally in demand as his predecessor of the ‘good old days,’ he is – if anything – called upon to exercise far greater skill in his art by fashioning wigs which cannot be distinguished from the natural normal head of hair and, among the cleverest exponents of the craft in the metropolis, a place of distinction must unquestionably be accorded to Mr C Holz, who entered upon his present prosperous career in Fulham twelve years ago and subsequently migrated to his current, eligibly situated, premises to give full scope to a rapidly-expanding business.

Wade & Co, Tailors, Habit & Breeches Makers, Colonial & American Outfitters, Gracechurch St – The founder, Mr Zachariah Wade, attributes its success to the recognition and application of the principle of cash payments applied to the production and sale of best goods only, a principle hitherto associated with what is known in the trade as slop-made articles.  Lighted with electricity, goods now may be selected during a London fog with almost as much satisfaction as upon a bright sunny day.

Images courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

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