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Sandle Brothers, Manufacturing Stationers

January 27, 2020
by the gentle author

Not so long ago, there were a multitude of long-established Manufacturing Stationers in and around the City of London. Sandle Brothers opened in one small shop in Paternoster Row on November 1st 1893, yet soon expanded and began acquiring other companies, including Dobbs, Kidd & Co, founded in 1793, until they filled the entire street with their premises – and become heroic stationers, presiding over long-lost temples of envelopes, pens and notepads which you see below, recorded in this brochure from the Bishopsgate Institute.

The Envelope Factory

Stationery Department – Couriers’ Counter

A Corner of the Notepad & Writing Pad Showroom

Gallery for Pens in the Stationers’ Sundries Department

Account Books etc in the Stationers’ Sundries Department

Japanese Department

Picture Postcard & Fancy Jewellery Department

One of the Packing Departments

Leather & Fancy Goods Department

Books & Games Department

Christmas Card, Birthday Card & Calendar Department

A Corner of the Export Department

Images courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

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Roger Pertwee, Manufacturing Stationer

Terry Smith , Envelope Cutter

At Newmans Stationery

January 26, 2020
by the gentle author

Qusai & Hafiz Jafferji

Barely a week passes without at least one visit to Newmans Stationery, a magnificent shop in Bethnal Green devoted to pristine displays of more pens, envelopes, folders and notebooks than you ever dreamed of. All writers love stationery and this place is an irresistible destination whenever I need to stock up on paper products. With more than five thousand items in stock, if you – like me – are a connoisseur of writing implements and all the attendant sundries then you can easily lose yourself in here. This is where I come for digital printing, permitting me the pleasure of browsing the aisles while the hi-tech copiers whirr and buzz as they fulfil their appointed tasks.

Swapping the murky January streets for the brightly-lit colourful universe of Newmans Stationers, Contributing Photographer Sarah Ainslie & I went along last week to meet the Jafferjis and learn more about their cherished family business – simply as an excuse to spend more time within the hallowed walls of this heartwarming East End institution.

We thought we would never leave when we were shown the mysterious and labyrinthine cellar beneath, which serves as the stock room, crammed with even more stationery than the shop above. Yet proprietor Hafiz Jafferji and his son Qusai managed to tempt us out of it with the offer of a cup of tea in the innermost sanctum, the tiny office at the rear of the shop which serves as the headquarters of their personal empire of paper, pens and printing. Here Hafiz regaled us with his epic story.

“I bought this business in October 1996, prior to that I worked in printing for fifteen years. It was well paid and I was quite happy, but my father and my family had been in business and that was my goal too. I am originally from Tanzania and I was born in Zanzibar where most of my relatives have small businesses selling hardware.

I began my career as a typesetter, working for a cousin of mine in Highgate, then I studied for a year at London College of Printing in Elephant & Castle. My father told me to start up a business running a Post Office in Cambridge in partnership with another cousin. They sold a little bit of stationery so I thought it was a good idea but my mind was always in printing. Every single day, I came back after working behind the counter in Cambridge to work at printing in Highgate, before returning to Cambridge at maybe one or two in the morning. I did that for almost two years, but then I said, ‘I’m not really enjoying this’ and decided to come back to London and work full time with my cousin in Highgate again.

I wondered, ‘Shall I go back to Tanzania where my dad is and start a business there or just carry on here?’ After I paid off my mortgage on my tiny flat, I left the print works and I was doing part time jobs and working a hotel but I thought, ‘Let’s try the army!’ Yet by the time I got to the third interview, I managed to find a job working for a printer in Crouch End. Then I had my mother pushing me to get married. ‘You’ve got a flat and you’ve got a job,’ she said but I could not even afford basic amenities in my house. If I wanted to eat something nice, I had to go to aunt’s house.

I realised I needed a decent job and I joined a printing firm in the Farringdon Rd as a colour planner, joining a team of four planners. Although I had learnt a lot from my previous jobs, I was not one of the most experienced workers there and I found that the others chaps would not teach me because I was the only Asian in the workforce. I used to do my work and watch the others with one eye, so I could pick up what they were doing and get better. I think I was a bit slow and so, for a long time, I would sign out and carry on working after hours to show that I was fulfilling my duties.

We did a lot of printing at short notice for the City and my boss always needed people to stay on and work late. Sometimes he would ring me at midnight and ask. ‘Hafiz, a plate has gone down, can you come in and redo it?’ I always used to do that, I never said ‘No.’

After five years, the boss asked me to become manager but I realised that I wasn’t happy because there were communication difficulties – people would not listen to me. My colleagues did not like the fact that I never said ‘No’ to any job. So I felt uncomfortable and had to refuse the promotion. When I decided to leave they offered me 50% pay rise.

Then a friend of mine who was an accountant told me about Newmans, he said was not doing very well but it was an opportunity. We looked at the figures and it did not make sense financially, compared to what I had been earning, yet me and wife decided to give it a go anyway. It took us seven years to re-establish the business.

I am still in touch with Mr & Mrs Newman who were here in Bethnal Green twelve years before we came along in 1996. Before that, they were in Hackney Rd, trading as ‘Newmans’ Business Machinery’ selling typewriters. I remember when we started there were stacks of typewriter ribbons everywhere! Digital was coming in and typewriters were disappearing so that business was as dead as a Dodo.

It was always in my mind to go into business. My idea was simply that I would be the boss and I would have people working for me taking the money. After working fourteen hours a day for six days a week, I thought it would be easy. Of course, it was not.

We refurbished the shop and increased the range of stock. We had a local actor who played Robin Hood when we re-opened. We wanted an elephant but we had to make do with a horse. We announced that a knight on horseback was coming to our shop.

We deal directly with manufacturers so we can get better discounts and sell at competitive prices. I concentrate on local needs, the demands of people within half a mile of my shop. I go to exhibitions in Frankfurt and Dubai looking for new products and new ideas, I have become so passionate about stationery…”

Nafisa Jafferji

Marlene Harrilal

‘We wanted an elephant but we had to make do with a horse’

The original Mr Newman left his Imperial typewriter behind in 1996

Hafiz Jafferji

Qusai Jafferji quit his job in the City to join the family business

Qusai Jafferji prints a t-shirt in the recesses of the cellar

Photographs copyright © Sarah Ainslie

Newmans Stationery (Retail, Wholesale & Printing), 324 Bethnal Green Rd, E2 0AG

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From the Lives of Commercial Stationers

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Public Homes On Public Land

January 25, 2020
by the gentle author


Stop the Monster!

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Readers may recall that five years ago there was a plan to built a line of towers of luxury investment flats for the international market along the Bishopsgate Goodsyard which would cast the Boundary Estate into permanent shadow. In 2015, the Mayor of London called in the planning application to give it his approval personally but, fortunately, he ran out of time while he was in office and we were saved from this scheme which would have permanently blighted Spitalfields and Shoreditch.

Now that development has reared its ugly head again and, although it is not quite as bad as before, it is still a monster as you can see above.

Taking their inspiration from the Boundary Estate nearby, Weavers Community Action Group are saying that since this is public land it should instead become the location for public homes. If designed by an architect of vision this could become a flagship project, bringing hope to Londoners at the time of the capital’s worst housing crisis.

All are welcome at a public meeting to launch this campaign next Thursday 30th January at 7:30pm at St Hilda’s Community Centre, 18 Club Row, E2 7EY. Below you can read more about the monster development and how to object.

The Boundary Estate was Britain’s first Council Estate


Click on this image to enlarge

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The Bishopsgate Goodsyard Development

Towers Over The Goodsyard

A Brief History of the Bishopsgate Goodsyard

Ancient Arches

A Riverside Walk In the Eighties

January 24, 2020
by the gentle author

David Rees sent me these photographs – published here for the first time today – that he took in the streets within walking distance on either side of the Thames when he worked at Tower Hill in the eighties.

Cathedral St, SE1

“I took these photos when I was working at Trinity House in the early eighties just before the ‘regeneration’ of the London Docks. Crossing the river, it was five minutes’ walk to Shad Thames and ten minutes’ walk to the Liberty of the Clink. Walking east, it was ten minutes via St. Katharine Docks to Wapping where the streets smelt of cinnamon and mace on late summer evenings.” – David Rees

Winchester Sq

Borough Market

Borough Market

Borough Market

Rochester Walk

Nelson’s Wharf from Old Barge House Stairs

Anchor Brewery

Clink St

Mill St

Hays Wharf

Weston St

Church of the English Martyrs seen from Chamber St

Longfellow Rd Mission

Essex Wharf

Holland St

Wapping Old Stairs

Queen Elizabeth St

Billingsgate Market

Chambers Wharf

Crown Wharf

Green Dragon St

Free Trade Wharf

Oliver’s Wharf

Oxo Tower

St Benet’s Wharf

Photographs copyright © David Rees

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A Public Inquiry For The Bell Foundry

January 23, 2020
by the gentle author

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I am overjoyed to publish the news that – further to the Holding Order that he issued in December – yesterday Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government announced there will be a Public Inquiry into the future of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry.

After three years of campaigning and all the letters that you the readers of Spitalfields Life have written, this is a highly gratifying result.

The UK Historic Building Preservation have been invited to present their proposal for the future of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry as a proper working foundry at the Public Inquiry. This will redress the glaring omission at Tower Hamlets Planning Committee Meeting when this scheme was passed over without due attention in favour of the bell-themed boutique hotel. The hotel developers and their planning consultants may have been able to walk all over the council, but they will not be able to do the same at a Public Inquiry

When announcing the call-in yesterday, Robert Jenrick wrote, ‘In general, planning applications are only called-in if planning issues of more than local importance are involved.’ This comment reveals the Secretary of State’s recognition of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry’s national and international significance.

We will keep you informed once the date for the Public Inquiry is set and report upon it as it progresses. At this moment, let us celebrate that we now have real hope of saving the Whitechapel Bell Foundry to cast bells here in the East End for future generations to ring across the world.

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The Secretary of State steps in

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Save Our Bell Foundry

A Bell-Themed Boutique Hotel?

Nigel Taylor, Tower Bell Manager

Benjamin Kipling, Bell Tuner

Four Hundred Years at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry

Pearl Binder at Whitechapel Bell Foundry

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Hope for The Whitechapel Bell Foundry

A Petition to Save the Bell Foundry

Save the Whitechapel Bell Foundry

So Long, Whitechapel Bell Foundry

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At Barts’ Great Hall

January 22, 2020
by the gentle author

Yesterday’s clear January sunshine offered the ideal light for a visit to the Great Hall at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in Smithfield. This North Wing was the first part rebuilt by James Gibbs in his modernisation of the medieval hospital between 1738 and 1769 which delivered the elegantly-proportioned quadrangle at the heart of the complex. Here in the Great Hall three thousand names are recorded of the benefactors who made this possible.

Now an independent charity, Barts Heritage, has been formed to care for the Great Hall and the Hogarth Staircase, and renovate them in time for the nine hundredth anniversary of the hospital in 2023. I was privileged to have these magnificent airy chambers to myself yesterday and record the charismatic patina in advance of their forthcoming restoration.

The staircase painted with murals by William Hogarth

John Soane is recorded among the three thousand names of benefactors

Portrait of St Bartholomew over the fireplace

Looking out onto James Gibbs’ courtyard

Napkins and tablecloths for fancy dinners

The North Wing at St Bartholomew’s Hospital

Remember the Poor’s Box

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William Hogarth at St Bartholomew’s Hospital

Spitalfields Market In The Eighties

January 21, 2020
by the gentle author

Nearly thirty years have passed since the Fruit & Vegetable Market which had operated since 1638 left Spitalfields and now it has passed into legend. Yet I am frequently regaled with tales of the characters who inhabited this colourful lost world that has receded in time as the old market and its attendant buildings have been altered and rebuilt.

So you can imagine my delight when Stefan Dickers, Archivist at Bishopsgate Institute, showed me this photo album of portraits of market traders from the eighties, crammed with such vivid personalities it resembles a series of stills from a lost BBC comedy series of the era.

The fat album with gilt edges comes with its own box and a lock and key. Inside, a letter of dedication explains that it was presented by the Spitalfields Market Tenants Association to Charles Lodemore in 1987 upon the occasion of his retirement after thirty years as Clerk & Superintendent to the market. The photograph above shows the view across the Market from his office.

It was Marion Bullock, Charles Lodemore’s daughter, who presented the album to the Bishopsgate Institute. We do not know who took these characterful pictures and very few of the subjects are named, so I call upon my readers in the London fruit and vegetable business to come forward and help us identify these portraits.

Photographs courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

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Mark Jackson & Huw Davies at the Spitalfields Market