Skip to content

Dog Days At Club Row

February 26, 2024
by the gentle author

“… furry faces peering incongruously from the jackets of hawkers.”

In 1953, Ronald Searle came here with his wife, Kaye Webb, to report upon the animal market in Club Row for their book, “Looking at London and People Worth Meeting.” A. R. J. Cruickshank wrote in the introduction, ”This book rediscovers for us some of the odd places and odd faces of London that most of us have forgotten, if we ever knew them. The warm-hearted humanity of Kaye Webb’s writing and the tender sympathy of Searle’s drawings are beautifully matched.”

Curious, considering our national reputation, that of all the street markets in London only one should sell dogs. This can be found any Sunday morning by taking a bus to Shoreditch High St and following your ears. a cacophony of whimpers, yaps, yelps and just plain barking will guide you to the spot where Bethnal Green Rd branches off to Sclater St.

There you may find them – the unclaimed pets of a hundred homes : new-born litters of puppies tumbling over each other in children’s cots ( the most popular form of window display) : “mixed bags” of less lively youngsters huddling docilely together in laundry baskets; lively-looking sheepdogs, greyhounds and bulldogs straining at the ends of leashes and furry little faces peering incongruously from the jackets of hawkers, who often look as if they’d be happier in the boxing ring.

The sales technique of their owners is almost as varied as the ware and almost always accompanied by much affectionate handling of the dogs. “It’s good for business and sometimes they mean it,” we were told by an impartial vendor of bird-seed who has been on the same pitch for twenty years. “Hi, mate, buy a dog to keep you warm!” said the man with the Chows to a pair of shivering Lascar seamen. “E’s worth double, lady, but I want ‘im to ‘ave a good ‘ome” or “Here’s a good dog, born between the sheets, got his pedigree in my pocket!” “Who’d care for a German sausage? – stretch him to make up the rations”, the salesman with the dachshund said, demonstrating too painfully for amusement.

R.S.P.C.A. interference is needed less often now. The days are gone when sores were covered with boot polish; when doubtful dogs were dyed with permanganate of potash; when, as tradition has it, you could enter the market at one end leading a dog, lose it half way, and buy it back at the other end. In fact the regular dog hawkers were never the ones to deal in stolen pets. “Stands to reason, this is the first place they’d come, and besides, look at the number of coppers there are about anyway.” But it is still possible to buy pedigree forms “at a shop down the road”, “just a matter of thinking up some good names and being able to write”.

The regular merchants, whose most frequent customers are the pet shops, are mostly old-timers ( some who have been coming for forty years and from as far away as Southend) and since a new law was passed insisting that all animal sellers should have licences, the ‘casuals’ are forbidden. But on the occasion of our visit the law had not yet been made and we passed quite a number of them. Most attractive was a red-cheeked lad with a spaniel puppy – “I call him Gyp; we’ve got his mother, but there’s no room for another, so my uncle said to come here.” Every  time he was asked: “How much do you want, son?” he stumbled over his answer and hugged the dog closer. And when the would-be buyer moved on, his eyes sparkled with relief.

That day the dog section of Club Row was not very busy; it was too cold. But the rest of the market waxed as usual. Unlike its near neighbour, Petticoat Lane, Club Row Market has a strong local flavour. The outsiders who make the long journey to its “specialised streets” are mostly purposeful men looking for that mysterious commodity known as Spare Parts.

In Club Row itself are to be found bicycles, tyres, an occasional motor bike or a superannuated taxi. The police are frequently seen about here looking for “unofficial goods”. Chance St sells furniture and “junk”, Sclater St is a nest of singing birds, rabbits, white mice, guinea pigs and their proper nourishment. In the Street of Wirelesses the air is heavy with crooning, and Cheshire St is clamorous with “Dutch auctions”, or demonstrating remarkable inventions like the World’s Smallest Darning Loom (“Stop your missus hating you … now you can say ‘you might darn this potato, dear, while I have shave’ … and she’ll do it before you’ve wiped the soap off!”).

We found one street devoted to firearms, chiefly historic, and another where secretive, urgent men offered us “a good watch or knife”, implying that it was “hot” and therefore going cheap. But we had learned that this was “duffing” and the watch was most probably exactly the same as those sold on the licenced stalls just up the street.

At ten to one the market reaches a crescendo. One o’clock is closing time and many of the stallholders won’t be back until next Sunday. This is the time when the regulars know where to find bargains, but it needs strong elbows. Our way out, along Wheler St, under the railway bridge and past the faded notice which says ‘Behold the Lamb of God Cometh”, brought us back to the dog market. It was surprisingly quiet. On the other side of the road we spotted a small figure hurrying off with the spaniel puppy. It looked as if Gyp was safe for another week anyway.

I hope you will not consider it vain if I reveal that Kaye Webb gave me this book and inscribed it under the title with my name and the text ” – also a person worth meeting!” It was my good fortune that Kaye, the legendary editor of Picture Post, Lilliput and Puffin Books, was the first person to recognise my work and encourage me in my writing. When I used to stay with her in her flat overlooking the canal in Little Venice, I remember she had some of Ronald Searle’s work framed on the wall in the spare room, and I spent many hours admiring both his Japanese prison camp drawings and his portraits of the bargees from the Paddington basin.

Kaye’s marriage to Ronald Searle ended in 1967 and she died in 1995. Today, I keep my copy of “Looking at London and People Worth Meeting” on the shelf as an inspiration to me now I write pen portraits myself, and I sometimes think of Kaye here in these streets over half a century ago and imagine Ronnie – as she referred to him – bringing out his sketchbook in Sclater St.

“…the rest of the market waxed as usual” – a bookseller in action on Brick Lane

You may also like to take a look at

Dragan Novaković’s Club Row

Alan Shipp, Hyacinth Grower

February 25, 2024
by the gentle author

‘I could not imagine what my life would have been like without hyacinths’

One blustery day, I took the train up to Waterbeach outside Cambridge to visit Alan Shipp, Hyacinth Grower who cultivates two hundred and forty-three different varieties of this favourite flower, which are coming into bloom now. I stood in the rain, inhaling the fragrance of the gentle breeze wafting over Alan’s field of hyacinths, flourishing in the rich soil of the silted water-meadows of the River Cam.

Alan Shipp is Britain’s only Hyacinth Grower and is also the Custodian of the National Collection of Hyacinths. He has the world’s largest collection of varieties and knows more about this intriguing plant than anyone else alive. In other years, Alan has opened his hyacinth nursery to the public at peak flowering time, drawing international press attention to the tiny village of Waterbeach for this celebrated event in the horticultural calendar, which can attract over a thousand enthusiasts – travelling from far and wide to gawp at this incomparable hyacinth spectacle.

The lines of multicoloured hyacinths stretch to horizon. They seem to sing against the black soil. The rain makes them shine and then the sun makes them glow, luminous with light beneath a dark East Anglian sky. Alan Shipp & I stood alone together in the field contemplating the hyacinths in silent pleasure – until the storm broke, when we took shelter in Alan’s greenhouse where he told me the astonishing story of his life in hyacinths, as the rain hammered on the glass and the wind rattled the panes around us.

“In the eighteen-eighties my grandfather, Thomas Shipp, won a pony and whip in a raffle. To put it to some use, he managed to borrow a harness and cart, and went round door to door selling vegetables. Then he bought a piece of ground and started growing his own, and that is this piece of ground. That was how it all started, growing fruit and vegetables.

Eventually when my father, Kenneth Shipp, got involved, he started wholesaling the produce we grew ourselves. In the fifties, we started selling imported fruit too which we used to bring up from Spitalfields Market on Monday and Wednesday each week.

At the entrance to the Floral Market on Lamb St in Spitalfields was the Floral Cafe and I can still remember the bacon sarnies. It was a whole slice of fried gammon between two pieces of bread. We used to try and get there at four-thirty or five – it was a wonderful atmosphere. The owner was a chap called Leonard Swindley. I said to him once, ‘I’ve seen the porters just walk behind the counter, make themselves a jug of tea and disappear. You can’t carry on like that, you’re being robbed!’ He replied, ‘Can you think of a happier way of losing money?’ I left the argument defeated.

We stopped selling produce after one of our salesmen left and set up on his own in opposition. We had been growing acres and acres ourselves but the method of vegetable production changed out of all recognition. We would have a little plot of a couple of hundred square metres of leeks that we would plant by hand but today, two miles away, there is a field of one hundred and forty-five acres of leeks. To get a reasonable living, we needed a larger farm but I know of no land that has come up for rent in Waterbeach in the last thirty years.

So in 1985, I decided I could best increase the output per acre by becoming a hyacinth grower. It was just sheer chance. There was a clearance sale at a bulb nursery at the the other side of Cambridge, including hyacinth bulbs. So I bought one hundred, twenty each of five different varieties, and planted them because I had always been a very keen gardener. After the leaves died down, I dug them up and moved them elsewhere but there was one that I missed. It had rolled under a shrub. When I found it next summer, it had put its roots down but the rest of the bulb had been eaten away where it was exposed and, upon this surface, small bulbs had formed. The slugs had actually illustrated for me the method of propagating hyacinths.

I thought, ‘I wouldn’t mind doing this,’ so I got a planting stock from Taylors Bulbs of Holbeach. Their general manager gave me advice, he said, ‘Alan, don’t grow many varieties.’ I didn’t really heed his advice because I now have two hundred and forty-three. And that’s how I got started!

I discovered there was a National Collection of Hyacinths at Barnard Castle and I got in touch to say that, as I was the only hyacinth grower in the country, I was willing to propagate for them free of charge. They brought me two bulbs each of fifty varieties that I propagated and which became the nucleus of my collection. I seemed to come up against a wall, regarding getting more varieties, after one hundred and eight varieties. Then I got a letter from a lady in Lithuania who had a collection of hyacinths that she had assembled from all over the former Soviet Union – things I’ve never heard of, things that we thought were extinct! She’d got the names but knew nothing but about them so I sent her my research and we exchanged bulbs.

I thought I had missed double-flowered yellow hyacinths by one hundred years but lo-and-behold she had got two – one with a name and one unidentified. The one with the name was in catalogues from 1897 and the other I grew as ‘unidentified double-yellow hyacinth.’ Then in 2013, by sheer chance, a friend of mine came across an illustration of it by Mary Delany in the British Library. That was the world’s first double-yellow hyacinth, introduced in 1770! When it was introduced, it was £800 a bulb yet Mary Delany had painted it, so I wondered how she got access. But it was reported she had contact with Court and it was George III’s bulb that she illustrated at the time he was at Kew Palace in Kew Gardens. So that was a breakthrough.

I am on the Royal Horticultural Society’s Bulb Committee. It was the ‘Daffodil & Tulip Committee’ but, in 2012, the remit embraced all bulbs and we had an intake of other specialists. One of them was Alan Street from Avon Bulbs who regularly wins a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show. ‘Alan,’ he said, ‘I’ve got an unusual hyacinth, it’s red and white. I can tell you’ve heard of it by the look on your face.’ It was Gloria Mundi.

Hyacinth Mania was a hundred years after Tulip Mania. It was started by the Scottish Horticulturalist Peter Voorhelm who found a white double hyacinth with a rosy coloured centre in 1708. Previously, all double hyacinths had been discarded as inferior because they are deformed by extra petals in the middle, but he so liked this one that he propagated it and called it Konig Van Groot-Brettanje in honour of William of Orange – and that started Hyacinth Mania for white doubles with coloured centres.

Gloria Mundi was a lost variety of white double with a coloured centre in the catalogues in 1767. Alan Street had a friend in Switzerland called Ingrid Dingwell and Ingrid had a gardening friend who was a lorry driver called Theo, who took a load of humanitarian aid to Romania during the Ceaucescu era to remote village with a population of three hundred and seventy-odd souls. Theo’s friend fell in love with a local girl and married her, and Theo was given hospitality by the bride’s father at the wedding. To show his gratitude, Theo gave the bride’s father a pocket watch and the old man asked Theo to help himself to any plant growing in the garden, including bulbs of a hyacinth called Gloria Mundi. Theo gave them to Ingrid who sent them to Alan Street who grew them for fifteen years, oblivious of what he had. The year after I identified them, Alan took a pot to the RHS and they were given an award, two hundred and fifty years after the variety had been lost.

I cannot say that what I do is much of a business, it is more a hobby that gives a little bit of income and the selling of the bulbs has financed the conservation scheme. Without my work, the National Collection of Hyacinths would have just disappeared. I have saved well over a hundred varieties of hyacinths from extinction. At eighty-one years old, the next problem I have is who is going to carry it on after me? I am looking for someone.

I love hyacinths. There is their fragrance, there is their beauty. There is no other flower that can give you this range of colours at the end of March. If someone gave me a paint chart, I could match every colour on it with hyacinths. I would have a job to get black but I could get pretty close to it.

They are so fascinating. They are all evolved from just the one wild species growing from eight hundred to a thousand metres in the hills at the border of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. It is believed that the Romans may have brought them to Europe because there is a sub-species which grows on the Mediterranean coast of France. How did hyacinths get from the Levant to there, unless they were taken as bulbs by the Romans and gone feral?

The first recorded introduction of hyacinths to Europe was by the Flemish Botanist Carolus Clusius who was appointed Prefect of the imperial gardens in Vienna in 1573 by Ferdinand II. Ferdinand’s ambassador to Turkey was Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq and he brought back tulips, crocuses, cyclamen and hyacinths to the palace gardens – all the bulbs from the Levant. Unfortunately, Ferdinand died that year but Clusius got a job at the botanic garden in Leyden and took the bulbs with him. That was the start of the Dutch bulb industry.

Clusius may have introduced hyacinths to Britain when he visited in 1590 and John Gerard records growing them in his garden in London in 1597. Hyacinths would undoubtably have been included among the ‘florists’ flowers,’ along with tulips, carnations, auriculas and roses, grown competitively in the East End during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In the Victorian era, florists’ competitions were rampant up and down the country, and hyacinths always featured.

Hyacinths have formed my life. They have got me onto the RHS Bulb Committee, brought me lots of friends and won me worldwide recognition – probably got me into the Rotary Club too. To be honest, I could not imagine what my life would have been like without hyacinths. How did I ever live without them?”

Alan Shipp, National Hyacinth Collection, Waterbeach, Cambridge, CB25 9NB.

You may also like to read about

The Auriculas of Spitalfields

In the Cherry Orchards of Kent

Dennis & Christine Reeve, Walnut Farmers

Thomas Fairchild, Gardener of Hoxton

In A Dinghy With John Claridge

February 24, 2024
by the gentle author

Ship maintenance, 1964

Take a trip down the Thames at a relaxed pace with Photographer John Claridge, in his tiny inflatable dinghy with outboard motor attached. The journey begins in 1961 when the London Docks were still working and ends in the nineteen eighties once they were closed for ever. This set of photographs are some of the views to be seen on that voyage.

Setting out at dawn, John’s photographic adventures led him through smog and smoke, through early morning mist, through winter fog and haze upon the river, all filtering and refracting the light to create infinite luminous effects upon the water. In the previous century, Joseph Mallord William Turner and James McNeill Whistler had attempted to evoke the distinctive quality of Thames light upon canvas, but in the mid-twentieth century it was John Claridge, kid photographer from Plaistow, who came drifting out of the London fog, alone in his dinghy with camera and long lens in hand to capture his visions of the river on film.

Look, there is a man scraping an entire boat by hand, balanced precariously over the water. Listen, there is the sound of the gulls echoing in the lonely dock. “It smells like it should,” said John, contemplating these pictures and reliving his escapades on the Thames, half a century later, “it has the atmosphere and feeling of what it was like.”

“You still had industry which created a lot of pollution, even after the Clean Air Act,” he recalled, “People still put their washing out and the dirt was hanging in the air. My mum used to say, ‘Bloody soot on my clean clothes again!'” But in a location characterised by industry, John was fascinated by the calm and quiet of the Thames. “I was in the drink, right in the middle of the river,” John remembered fondly, speaking of his trips in the dinghy, “it was somewhere you’d like to be.” John climbed onto bridges and into cranes to photograph the dock lands from every angle, and he did it all with an insider’s eye.

Generations of men in John’s family were dock workers or sailors, so John’s journey down the Thames in his dinghy became a voyage into a world of collective memory, where big ships always waited inviting him to depart for distant shores. Yet John’s little dinghy became his personal lifeboat, sailing on beyond Tower Bridge where in 1964, at nineteen years old, he opened his first photographic studio near St Paul’s Cathedral. John found a way to fulfil his wanderlust through a professional career that included photographic assignments in every corner of the globe, but these early pictures exist as a record of his maiden voyage on the Thames.

Across the River, 1965

Gulls, 1961

Quiet Evening, 1963

Smog, 1964

At Berth, 1962 – “It wills you to get on board and go somewhere.”

Three Cranes, 1968

Skyline, 1966 – “I climbed up into a crane and there was a ghostly noise that came out of it, from the pigeons roosting there.”

Steps, 1967

Crane & Chimney Stack, 1962


Spars, 1964

Barges, 1969

After the Rain, 1961


Capstan, 1968

From the Bridge, 1962

Across the River, 1965

Wapping Shoreline, 1961 – “I got terribly muddy, covered in it, sinking into it, and it smelled bad.”


Thames Barrier, 1982

At Daybreak, 1982

Warehouses, 1972

Photographs copyright © John Claridge

You may also like to take a look at

John Claridge’s East End

Along the Thames with John Claridge

At the Salvation Army with John Claridge

In a Lonely Place

A Few Diversions by John Claridge

This was my Landscape

John Claridge’s Spent Moments

Signs, Posters, Typography & Graphics

Working People & a Dog

Invasion Of The Monoliths

Time Out With John Claridge

A Walk Through Dickens’ London

February 22, 2024
by the gentle author

An occluded winter’s day when sunlight barely glimmered offered the ideal opportunity for a ramble through Charles Dickens’ London. Employing a set of cigarette cards from 1927 which Libby Hall kindly once gave me as my guide, I set out on a circular walk from Spitalfields through the City to Holborn, returning along Bankside, to photograph those locations which remain today.

Dean’s Court, EC4

Staple Inn, WC1

2 South Square, Gray’s Inn, WC1

48 Doughty St, WC1

57-58 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, WC2

13-14 Portsmouth St, WC2

Water Gate, Essex St, WC2

London Bridge Steps, Montague Close, SE1

You may also like to take a look at

Dickens in Wapping, Shadwell and Limehouse

Charles Dickens’ Inkwell

Raju Vaidyanathan’s Brick Lane

February 22, 2024
by the gentle author


JULIE BEGUM is giving an illustrated lecture outlining the long history of the presence of Bengali people on this side of London. IMAGES OF THE BENGALI EAST END is at 7pm on Tuesday 5th March at the Hanbury Hall as part of the Spitalfields series.


Click here to book your ticket


Back of Cheshire St, 1986

“I used to climb up on the railway bridge and take photos,” explained photographer Raju Vaidyanathan when he showed me this picture which he has seen for the first time only recently even though he took it thirty years ago. A prolific taker of photos around Spitalfields, Raju possesses over forty thousand negatives of people and personalities in the neighbourhood which, after all this time, he is now beginning to print.

“I was born in Brick Lane above the shop that is now called ‘This Shop Rocks,’ and I still live on the Lane. My father, Vaithy came to this country in 1949, he was brought over as one of the very first chefs to introduce Indian cooking and our family lineage is all chefs. They brought him over to be chef at the Indian embassy and the day he arrived he discovered they had already arranged a room for him and that room was on Brick Lane, and he lived there until he died.

In 1983, I managed to get hold of an old camera that someone gave me and I started taking photos. As a kid I was very poor and I knew that I was not going to be able to afford take photos, but someone said to me, ‘Instead of taking colour photos, why don’t you take black and white?’ I went to the Montefiore Centre in Hanbury St and the tutor said he would teach me how to process black and white film. So that is what I did, I am a local kid and I just started taking photos of what was happening around me, the people, the football team, the youth club – anything in Brick Lane, where I knew all the people.

Photography is my passion but I also like local history and learning about people’s lives. Sometime in the late eighties, I realised I was not just taking photographs for myself but making a visual diary of my area. I have been taking photos ever since and I always have a camera with me. I am a history collector, I have got all the Asian political leaflets and posters over the years. In the Asian community everyone knows me as the history guy and photographer

Until a few years ago, I had been working until nine or ten o’clock every night and seven days a week at the Watney Market Idea Store but then they restructured my hours and insisted I had to work here full time. Before, I was only working here part-time and working as a youth worker the rest of the time. Suddenly, I had time off in the evenings.

People started saying, ‘You’ve got to do something with all these photos.’ So I thought, ‘Let me see if I can start sorting out my negatives.’ I started finding lots put away in boxes and I took a course learning how to print. For a couple of years, I went in once a week to print my photos and see what I had got. I bought a negative scanner and I started scanning the first boxes of negatives. I had never seen these photos because I never had the money to print them. I just used to take the photos and process the film. So far, I have scanned about eight thousand negatives and maybe, once I have sorted these out, I will start scanning all the others.”

Junk on Brick Lane, 1985

Outside Ali Brothers’ grocery shop, Fashion St 1986. His daughter saw the photo and was so happy that his picture was taken at that time.

Modern Saree Centre 1985. It moved around a lot in Brick Lane before closing three years ago.

BYM ‘B’ football team at Chicksand Estate football pitch known as the ‘Ghat’ locally, 1986

108 Brick Lane, 1985. Unable to decide whether to be a café or video store, it is now a pizza shop.

‘Joi Bangla Krew’ around the Pedley Street arches. The BBC recently honoured Haroun Shamsher  from Joi (third from left) and Sam Zaman from ‘State of Bengal (far left) with a music plaque on Brick Lane

Myrdle Street, 1984. Washing was hung between flats until the late nineties.

Chacha at Seven Stars pub 1985. Chacha was a Bangladeshi spiv and a good friend of my father. Seven Stars was the local for the Asian community until it closed down in 2000.

Teacher Sarah Larcombe and local youths (Zia with the two fingers) on top of the old Shoreditch Goods Station, which was the most amazing playground

Halal Meat Man on Brick Lane, 1986

Filming of ‘Revolution’ in Fournier St, 1986. The man tapping for cash was killed by some boys a few months later.

Mayor Paul Beaseley and Rajah Miah (later Councillor) open the Mela on Hanbury Street, 1985

The Queen Mother arrives at the reopening of the Whitechapel Gallery, 1986

Raju Vaidyanathan on Brick Lane, 1984

Photographs copyright © Raju Vaidyanathan

You may also like to take a look at

Phil Maxwell’s Brick Lane

Colin O’Brien’s Brick Lane

Marketa Luskacova’s Brick Lane

Homer Sykes’ Spitalfields

Lew Tassell’s Day Trip

February 21, 2024
by the gentle author

Lew Tassell sent me these pictures that he took on a trip to London at fifteen years old in 1966

Old London Bridge

‘These pictures were taken in March 1966 with my first proper camera, albeit only a Zeiss Ikon Ikonette with a 35mm fixed lens viewfinder that cost me £7 secondhand. I loved that camera and wish I still had it, it had no metering or any features so it taught me a lot.

Film and developing were very expensive, so I had to be frugal with my picture-taking and then wait for them to be developed to see if I had judged the exposure correctly.

I was fifteen years old, living with my parents in South London and just about to leave school. I used to catch a train from Elmers End to Charing Cross – returning via London Bridge – and explore, usually taking in a visit to the National Gallery.’

‘My school friend, Paul, on one of Landseer’s Lions in Trafalgar Sq, he was instantly told to ‘get orf’ by a policeman’

‘I always found Piccadilly Circus magical and ever-changing. There was not much neon during the sixties and the buildings were generally dirty and grey, but the West End was a place with lively streets, especially this spot with the cinemas and theatres.’

The classic Coca-Cola sign

‘Carnaby St was a tremendously exciting place for a teenager to wander about. I didn’t have the money to buy anything but just to be there was enough’

John Stephen’s celebrated menswear shop in Carnaby St, clothes worn by The Who, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones and The Small Faces

‘Spot the Rolls Royce coming round the corner’

‘Spot the sandwich man for ‘Champagne Temps”

Looking across Carnaby St to Foubert’s Place

Lord Kitchener’s Valet sold military uniform as fashion, customers included Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and Mick Jagger

Crowded pavements in Carnaby St

Old Cannon St Railway Station from Southwark Bridge

Eastcheap corner of Pudding Lane

Guy’s Hospital under construction by London Bridge Station

Tower of London in the mist

Old men sitting by the Tower

Cannons on the waterfront at the Tower

A foggy, soot-stained Tower Bridge

‘In the Pool Of London – one of my earliest memories is standing in this spot with my father, watching the ships being unloaded in the centre of the City’

‘Police launch on the Thames – four years later I joined the City of London Police’

Photographs copyright © Lew Tassell

You may also like to take a look at

On Night Patrol With Lew Tassell

On Top Of Britannic House With Lew Tassell

A Walk Around The Docks With Lew Tassell

Lew Tassell at Charles & Diana’s Wedding

Lew Tassell at the Queen’s Silver Jubilee

Roy Gardner’s Sales Tickets

February 20, 2024
by the gentle author

One shilling by Roy Gardner

Paul Gardner, the current incumbent and fourth generation in Spitalfields oldest family business (Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen in Commercial St since 1870 and now at Ruckholt Rd) was just thirteen when his father Roy died in 1968. So Paul’s mother ran the shop for four years until 1972 when Paul left school and he took over next day – running the business until now without a day off.

In the shop, Paul found these intricate designs of numbers and lettering that his father made for sales tickets and grocers’ signs which, in their accomplishment, express something of his father’s well-balanced and painstaking nature.

At one time, Roy bought small blackboard signs, that were used by greengrocers to price their stock in chalk, from Mr Patson in Artillery Lane. Mr Patson sliced the tickets out of hardboard, cut up motorcycle spokes to make the pins and then riveted the pins to the boards before painting them with blackboard paint.

In the same practical spirit of do-it-yourself, Roy bought a machine for silk-screen printing his own sales tickets from designs that he worked up in the shop in his spare time, while waiting for customers. Numbers were drawn freehand onto pencil grids and words were carefully stencilled onto card. From these original designs, Roy made screens and printed onto blank “Ivorine” plastic tickets from Norman Pendred Ltd who also supplied more elaborate styles of sales tickets if customers required.

Blessed with a strong sense of design, Roy was self-critical – cutting the over-statement of his one shilling and its flourish down to size to create the perfectly balanced numeral. The exuberant curves of his five and nine are particular favourites of mine. Elsewhere, Roy was inspired to more ambitious effects, such as the curved text for “Golden Glory Toffee Apples,” and to humour, savouring the innuendo of “Don’t squeeze me until I’m yours.”  Today, Paul keeps these designs along with the incomplete invoice book for 1968 which is dated to when Roy died.

No doubt knocking up these sales tickets was all in day’s work to Roy Gardner – just one of the myriad skills required by a Market Sundriesman – yet a close examination of his elegant graphic designs reveals he was also a discriminating and creative typographer.







Designs for silk-screen by Roy Gardner

The finished silk-screened signs by Roy Gardner

Pages from the Ivorine products catalogue who could supply Roy’s customers with more complex designs of sales tickets than he was able to produce.

Roy Gardner stands outside Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen in the nineteen forties – note the sales tickets on display inside the shop.

Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen, 78 Ruckholt Road, Leyton, E10 5NP

You may like to read these other stories about Gardners Market Sundriesmen

Paul Gardner, Paper Bag Seller

Paul Gardner’s Collection

At Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen

Joan Rose at Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen

James Brown at Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen

Vigil at Gardners’ Market Sundriesmen