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For all your feathery requirements

October 27, 2009
by the gentle author


There was a saucy burlesque dancer by the name of Suki Sumatra doing a dance with Ostrich feathers at the Boom Boom Club at the Bathhouse last week and it reminded me of this photograph I took earlier in the Summer up in Hoxton. Here at the wonderfully named Plumage House in Shepherdess Walk was once the headquarters of H. Bestimt & Co Ltd  feather merchants, that disappointingly closed down in 1994. Tantalisingly, we shall never know what we missed.

Where else to go now for feathers, but to the ubiquitous Mr Ali who I photographed last Sunday in Columbia Rd? He has regularly been selling Peacock feathers that he imports from Bangladesh for years, here, on Brick Lane and sometimes outside the Spitalfields Market too. At just £2 for five, £5 for fifteen or £10 for thirty, it makes economic sense to buy in bulk from Mr Ali. Cutting a venerable figure with dispassionate poise, dapper dress sense, a stylish white beard and always proudly displaying an armful of dazzling Peacock feathers, Mr Ali is one of my favourite neighbourhood personalities. Entirely unwittingly, he has become a familiar icon of Spitalfields and I am always delighted to see him here on the street, resolute in a niche market that is all his own .


3 Responses leave one →
  1. October 28, 2009

    I have been enjoying your writing for some time now but this post made me long to explore Spitalfields. The prospect of buying peacock feathers from Mr Ali is irresistible.

  2. December 9, 2010

    My great, great, great grandfather, Thomas Jones was an Ostrich Feather maufacturer in Union Street, Spitalfields between 1830 and 1850.
    Your stories are so interesting.


  3. Shirley Cook permalink
    December 30, 2022

    Lesley, I was interested in your post as I am researching ostrich feather merchants. Can you email me please?

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