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Philip Marriage’s Spitalfields

June 15, 2012
by the gentle author

On the corner of Gun St & Brushfield St, 1967

In Spitalfields, the closure of the Truman Brewery in 1989, and the moving of Fruit & Vegetable Market in 1991 and the subsequent redevelopment of the site in 2002, have changed our neighbourhood so rapidly that even the recent past – of the time before these events – appears now as the distant past. Time has mysteriously accelerated, and we look back from the other side of the watershed created by these major changes to a familiar world that has been rendered strange to us.

Such was my immediate reaction, casting my eyes over Philip Marriage’s beautiful photographs when they arrived in an envelope in the post recently, and which I have the pleasure of publishing for the first time today. Between 1967 and 1995, Philip visited Spitalfields regularly taking photographs, after discovering that his ancestors lived here centuries ago. And the pictures which are the outcome of his thirty-year fascination comprise a spell-binding record of these streets at that time, taken by one on a personal quest to seek the spirit of the place.

“I worked in London from 1959 to 1978 and, for the first ten years, I commuted from Enfield to Liverpool St Station. So I was aware of Spitalfields from that time, though my real interest started when I discovered that my great-great-grandfather was a silk weaver at 6 Duke St, Old Artillery Ground. And I found records of others sharing the Marriage (then French Mariage) surname in the area as far back as 1585.

My job – as a graphic designer and later Design Manager – for HMSO Books (the former government publishers) was based on Holborn Viaduct so I was near enough to Somerset House, the Public Records Office and the Guildhall Library to undertake family history research in my lunchtime. In the autumn of 1967, I visited Spitalfields with my camera for the first time to see if I could locate any of the places associated with my family. In those days colour print film was expensive and I mostly took transparencies, but later Ilford brought out a cheap colour film for a pound a roll which provided twenty small colour prints and each negative returned mounted in 2×2 cardboard mounts – quite novel, but affordable.

When I married in 1968 and moved to Hertfordshire, my family history researches came to an end. Then, in 1978, my job took me to Norwich where I’ve remained since. However, I occasionally found myself in London and, if time permitted whilst waiting for the Norwich train, I always nipped out of Liverpool St Station and down Brushfield St for a brief reminder of my favourite places.”

Crispin St, 1985.

Spital shop, 1970.

Parliament Ct, 1986.

H.Hyams, Gun St, 1970.

Corner of Fashion St & Brick Lane, 1979.

Fashion St, 1979.

Toynbee St, 1970.

The Jolly Butchers, Brick Lane, 1985.

The Crown & Shuttle, Norton Folgate, 1987.

Boundary Passage with The Ship & Blue Ball, 1985.

The Carpenter’s Arms at the corner of Cheshire St & St Matthew’s Row, 1985.

Brick Lane, 1985.

Tour in Hanbury St, 1985.

Corner of Wentworth St & Leyden St, 1990.

Brushfield St, 1990.

Mosley Speaks, 1967.

Fournier St, 1985.

Corner of Quaker St & Grey Eagle St, 1986.

Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, 1985.

E. Olive Ltd, Umbrella Manufacturers, Hanbury St, 1985.

E. Olive Ltd, Umbrella Manufacturers, Hanbury St, 1985.

Corner of Lamb St & Commercial St, 1988.

Brushfield St, 1990.

Spitalfields Market, 1986.

Brushfield St, 1985.

Gun St, 1985.

Brushfield St, 1985.

Christ Church, Spitalfields, 1985.

Photographs copyright © Philip Marriage

You may also like to look at

Alan Dein’s East End Shopfronts of 1988

Sarah Ainslie’s Brick Lane

Mark Jackson & Huw Davies, Photographers

Marketa Luskacova’s Brick Lane

C.A.Mathew, Photographer

Phil Maxwell’s Brick Lane

Colin O’Brien’s Brick Lane

The Ghosts of Old London

23 Responses leave one →
  1. Steve permalink
    June 15, 2012

    Wonderful piece. Thanks to Philip for recording Spitalfields back then. It’s fascinating to see now.

  2. June 15, 2012

    great to see the place in colour

  3. June 15, 2012

    Amazing pictures…

  4. June 15, 2012

    Fantastic series of Spitalfields, love the deep colour & light in these shots.

  5. Linda permalink
    June 15, 2012

    Thank you so much for sharing these wonderfully observed, evocative photographs.
    I only recently discovered my family’s connection as silk weavers in Spitalfields and then Bethnal Green. I no longer live in London but do occasionally visit. The change in the area in such a short time is almost unbelievable.
    Thanks to the G.A. for keeping the soul of people and place alive through this sharing.

  6. Ros permalink
    June 15, 2012

    More marvellous and evocative photos of a pre-gentrified Spitalfields. The spirit of the place in those years really comes alive. How amazing to see a ‘Mosley speaks’ poster still clinging on in 1967. The light on the rainy streets is particularly beautiful especially in the last picture. Thank you to Philip Marriage and to you, g.a.

  7. June 15, 2012

    Beautifully atmospheric pictures…I recognised some of the places from my own wanderings, but others will remain frozen in time by the pictures

  8. Barbara Bovington permalink
    June 15, 2012

    Interesting to see these . I doubt that Phillip would remember me but from 1971-1976 I worked for HMSO in Pubns (P1C).

  9. June 16, 2012

    Fantastic photos. This is the Spitalfields Market of my youth which I first encountered in the 1980s when I first started researching my family history. My ancestors – a Victorian grocer and tea dealer lived and worked in Brushfield St

  10. June 16, 2012

    Absolutely wonderful photographs. Could simply not pick a favourite – even though of course the London Fruit and Wool Exchange on a rain-slicked Brushfield Street in 1985 is sublime. (Let’s hope the London Mayor upholds Tower Hamlets Council’s Refusal for demolition of the 1929 Exchange next Thursday.) Agree with Jose about the colour and light of these images – Philip Marriage is a photographer of great expertise. Thank you for recording these streets and buildings of Spitalfields and for doing it with a fondness that gives each such beauty. All is mostly gone now, especially around the Market. These photographs, as a collection, could go on display and be published in a book, surely? Thank you to Philip and to the GA. Wonderful.

  11. Michael Shepherd permalink
    June 16, 2012

    These are extraordinary images. I lived by Spitalfields market in the latter part of the last decade and often wondered what life was like in the years before the area’s gentrification. These pictures are the answer to my question; I really can’t stop looking at them. Thank you Phillip Marriage for taking them and keeping them safe for all these years.

  12. June 22, 2012

    How fortunate Philip Marriage took these photographs – thank you!

  13. marilyn hearn permalink
    July 8, 2012

    Wonderful photographs and record of the East End of London where I was born. I have forwarded these on to my brother-in-law who is always interested in old photographs of the place where he grew up and is familiar with many of the streets photographed.

  14. Philip Marriage (really) permalink
    February 8, 2013

    I was just browsing and came across this name and website and just had to have a look as its the same as mine. Very good pictures. Thanks.

  15. February 8, 2014

    A wonderful record in colour.

  16. James O'Brien permalink
    August 26, 2014

    Great photos, I went to school in Gun Street early 60’s it was a convent school St Joseph’s, never seem to be able to find any pictures of it though, don’t know if it is still standing, although I had heard it ceased being a school many years ago.

    I lived behind Liverpool Street Station in Appold Street in a tenement block but that has also gone.

  17. david prescott permalink
    September 30, 2015

    wonderful photos memory blasters

  18. Carolyn Dominish permalink
    October 2, 2015

    I felt a sharp pang of deja vu whilst looking at these images. I have never been to Spitalfields, or, indeed, England.

    I have a descendant who was born in Spitalfields 1590. He was English and his name was John Smart. He was a silk merchant who.married the daughter, Sara, of another silk merchant by the name of Vercolge. The Vercolge family were Huguenots and had fled death and persecution in Belgium.

    Looking at these wonderful images took me back there in my dreams. btw I was born in Australia, but my father was born in England. Dad was born in Bromsgrove.

  19. Philip Marriage permalink
    September 28, 2016

    S. Spital, Tobacconist & Confectioner, April-May 1990
    I have never been able to place this shop but assumed it had been in Brushfield Street, however my walk that day went down Brushfield Street, past Fort Street, Gun Street to Toynbee Street, Thrawl Street, Fournier Street and finishing in Old Montague Street – so it quite likely is, as Bill Haynes says (in the comment on the actual photo), in Old Montague Street. The only clue is the end of the old Victorian street sign which says ‘ST. E1’. Some of the other Victorian street signs say E eg Gun St and Artillery Passage, whilst others say E1 like Artillery Lane, Fort Street, Crispin Street and Brushfield Street yet are next to each other. All very strange!


  20. January 3, 2019

    Is there a book of his photographs?

  21. January 7, 2019

    I was born in East London – please see my published memoir, Cockney Girl. We first lived in a flat above a Grocery shop on Vallance Road, Dad had a barber shop. Mum worked as a ladies
    hairdresser. I had a good friend, Joycey Kennel, we used to tour the Easat end on Saturdays, warned not to speak to strangers. WE visited the Children’s Museum where we played Hie andSeek. At age 4, Mum sent me to a Christian orphanage in Chingford that closed after two years. Home, delighted, I visited my grandparents who had a grocery on Cambridge Heath Road. Incidentally, one of the Breweries gave me a scholarship to Spitalfields High School, besides the full scholarship I won. My young uncle took me to the 1936 Cable Street Battle, Moseley’s attempted march through the Jewish East End, thwarted by Jews, unions and other groups, also described in Cockney Girl, with photos. Her served in the army in Egypt. Another uncle, a chemist, as blown up while doing secret work. Evacuated during the war, met Yanks, I returned to finish high school, loved passing Spitalfied Market, went to LondonSchool of Economics, when 21, emigrated to America. Now I am a retired PhD professor and author. Incidentally, grandparents came from Russian and Polish persecution to E. London Many Fascists led by Oswald Mosely.Parents,, grandparents, aunt and uncles all now deceased but one cousin, lived in East End. Gilda Moscovitch (Moss) Haber, PhD. (We last lived on Columbia Road, flower market on Sundays. ) I have always loved East London and London, though radically changed. Sundays, Dad took me to museums, Wed. half-day closing, to buy fags and condoms sold in his barber shop. Happy days long gone.

  22. April 12, 2020

    I adore these photographs too much of my favourite part of London plus where my ancestries herald
    And married christened buried in the Christchurch Fashion street is amazing – I wonder if anyone ( probably have ) taken the exact same photographs from the same POV in 2020 ? Would relish to do that

  23. Janet permalink
    February 20, 2021

    Could someone put me in touch with Philip Marriage with a view to exchanging genealogical information as we have ancestors in common. My 3x grandfather John Standish married Amelia Ann Marriage in 1824. For many years they lived in Vineyard Cottage, 1 Vineyard Gardens off Bowling Green Lane. I spent many hours poring over old maps and documents to locate the address which no longer exists and in doing so have become familiar with the East End. The Standishes and Marriages lived in the area for generations. Very recently I discovered the Mariage French connection and that they were silk weavers — very fortuitous or Philip’s reference would not have caught my attention.
    I spent most of my life in NZ and now am disabled and must rely on virtual visits to this area.
    Thank you Gentle Author and Philip Marriage

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