Skip to content

Working People & a Dog

June 18, 2012
by the gentle author

Groundsman, E.15 (1965)

“This is the groundsman at the Memorial Ground where I played football aged ten in 1954.”

Some of my favourite people are the shopkeepers and those that do the small trades – who between them have contributed the major part to the identity of the East End over the years. And when I see their old premises redeveloped, I often think in regret, “I wish someone had gone round and taken portraits of these people who once manifested the spirit of the place.” So you can imagine my delight and gratitude to see this splendid set of photos – published here for the first time – and discover that during the sixties photographer John Claridge had the insight to take such pictures, exactly as I had hoped.

When John went back ten years later to the pitch near West Ham Station where he played football as a child, he found the groundsman was just as he remembered, with his cardigan and tie, and he took the photograph you see above. There is a dignified modesty to this fine portrait – a quality shared by all of those published here – expressed through a relaxed demeanour.

These subjects present themselves to John’s lens as emotionally open yet retaining possession of themselves, and this translates into a vital relationship with the viewer. To each of these people, John was one of their own kind and they were comfortable being photographed by him. And, thanks to the humanity of John’s vision, we have the privilege to become party to this intimacy today.

Kosher Butcher, E2 (1962) – “The chicken was none too happy!”

Brewery, Spitalfields (1964) Clocking in at the Truman Brewery, Brick Lane.

Lady with Gumball Machine, Spitalfields (1967) – “She came out of her kiosk and asked, ‘Will you photograph me with my gumball machine?'”

Saveloy Stall, Spitalfields (1967) – “It was a cold day, so I had two hot dogs.”

Whitechapel Bell Foundry, E1 (1982) Established in 1598, where the Liberty Bell and Big Ben were cast.

Rag & Bone Man, E13 (1961) – “Down my street in Plaistow, there were not many cars about – all you could hear was the clip-clop of the horse on the wet road.”

Shoe Repairs Closed Saturday, Spitalfields (1969) – “I asked, ‘Why are you open on Saturday?’ He replied, ‘I was just busy.'”

Spice, E1 (1976) – “Taken at a spice warehouse in Wapping.  The smells were fantastic, you could smell it down the street.”

Portrait, Spitalfields (1966) – “This is a group portrait of friends outside of their shop. The two brothers who ran the shop, the lady who worked round the corner and the guy who worked in the back.”

Anglo Pak Muslim Butcher, E2 (1962)

Butchers, Spitalfields (1966) -“I had just finished taking a picture next door, when this lady came out with a joint of meat and asked me to take her photograph with it.”

Fishmongers, E1 (1966) Early morning, unloading fish from Grimsby.

Beigel Baker, E2 (1967) -“After a party at about four or five in the morning, we used to end up at Rinkoff’s in Vallance Rd for smoked salmon beigels.”

Newsagent, Spitalfields (1966) -“I said, ‘Shame about Walt Disney dying, can I take your picture next to it?’ and he said, ‘Alright.'”

Selling Shoes, Spitafields (1963) – “My dad used to tell me what his dad told him, ‘If you’ve got a good pair of shoes, you own the world.'”

Strudel, E2 (1962) – “You’ll like this, boy!’ I had just taken a photograph outside this lady’s shop. I said, ‘I think your window looks beautiful.’ and she asked me in for a slice of apple strudel. It was fantastic!  But she would not accept any money, it was a gift. She said, ‘You took a picture of my shop.'”

Number 92, Spitalfields (1964)

Tubby Isaac’s, Spitalfields (1982) – “Aaahhh Tubby’s, where I’ve had many a fine eel.”

Junkyard Dog, E16 (1982) – “I was climbing over the wall into this junkyard.  All was quiet, when I noticed this pair of forbidding eyes – then I made my exit.”

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

29 Responses leave one →
  1. Paul permalink
    June 18, 2012

    ‘Saveloy stall” – I don’t think I have heard (or thought of) the word ‘Saveloy’ for fifty years. A ‘Saveloy’ was a large-size, very thick hot dog/frankfurter (‘Vienna’), cooked by boiling. Made by Bloom’s kosher foods, as were the best Viennas and, of course, the best salt-beef sandwiches.

    A few minutes later: an online search tells me that ‘Saveloys’ are still well known — and the etymology is surprising: “The word is assumed to originate from the Swiss-French cervelas or servelat, ultimately from the Latin cerebrus; originally a pig brain sausage particularly associated with Switzerland.” Apparently known in UK fish and chip shops. One online commenter confirms that they are also known in an all-beef, kosher variety — which is how I knew them as a kid. The images on Google, BTW, seem to be long franks, not real saveloys….

  2. June 18, 2012

    Wonderful! I could almost smell the spices at the Spice Warehouse

  3. Ian Freeman permalink
    June 18, 2012

    Wonderful stuff, as alwsy, from this fine photographer. Tubby Isaacs…*sigh*…

  4. jo watts permalink
    June 18, 2012

    lovely interesting pictures 🙂

  5. June 18, 2012

    Another wonderful series.

  6. Marien de Goffau permalink
    June 18, 2012

    Unique portraits telling about the sixties by these wonderful prints. A great pleasure to listen to.

  7. June 18, 2012

    I’m speechless! …………..well, not quite. Wonderful images, these are not just pictures – they are a celebration!

  8. Matt Cogger permalink
    June 18, 2012

    What a fascinating series of photographs this has been. The grain of the print is almost touchable.

    Sublime stuff.

  9. Lee permalink
    June 18, 2012

    Truly classic shots of salt of the earth characters.

    Love it !


  10. June 18, 2012

    Wonderful stuff!………….How it has all changed!

  11. June 18, 2012

    The dog would surely have felt privileged to be in the company of such historically rich fascinating characters!

  12. Ree permalink
    June 18, 2012

    Love these old photos…I can just lose myself in the details…Imagine actually being there…

  13. Alice permalink
    June 18, 2012

    I love the Strudel lady, she looks like the archetypal nan! More beautiful portraits of real people from a real London. Keep them coming, it’s so important to remember what London was and still is like in some parts. I, and I know John, still go to Tubby’s!

  14. Adrian Taylor permalink
    June 18, 2012

    Thank you, John!
    Wonderful faces, colorful places.
    Jellied eel?

  15. Nick permalink
    June 18, 2012

    I love all John Claridge’s work………. I would like to add a nude to my collection………

    Really magical imagery……. amazing stuff………

  16. Chris F permalink
    June 18, 2012

    When I was about 4 or 5 years old and had a full head of ginger hair (White now), a chap used to come down our street selling fruit & veg from a horse drawn cart. I went to stroke the horse which promptly took a grip of my hair in its teeth! I yowled out for it to let go… The veg man said “Don’t worry, son. He thinks you’re a carrot!!

  17. June 18, 2012

    I’m curious if John took notes on the shots he took or if he’s got one of those incredible memories. Such detailed and vivid recollections! Love it all.

  18. June 18, 2012

    Laughed at that dog shot!! You were a bit of a bugger for climbing in that scrappy John!!

  19. June 19, 2012

    The photograhs are so engaging. they make me want to imagine what life must have been like in the East End during this time. I managed to get a snip of it in the 1980’s and I feel very luck y that I did. I just wish I took more photograhs. I use to live in Hoxton and will never forget the old Hitchcock Studios.

  20. June 20, 2012

    All the people above have said it all John, brilliant portraits. Back from Spain so catching up now.

  21. June 20, 2012

    Finally! We get to see the people of the street, what a fantastic set of prints, it fills me with joy, I just love the faces of the past, there was a reality to it all. Thank you John for this wonderful story, but you can keep the eels to yourself. Dog lurking amongst the cars, lovely shot.

  22. June 22, 2012

    great faces and characters – love the rag and bone man as well

  23. john edwards permalink
    July 3, 2012

    Another in memoriam – Whole place was jewish – Whitechapel Mile End awash with blood and sawdust.
    Bang the scrag end on the scales & shout ‘well over the odds there darling’ … Well under actually & they all knew the chiselling game. Roggs off commercial road was the last to go. Scummy barrels of herring & cucumber. Huge cat that lay on the pavement and would schlepp you into the black & white tiled shop if you stopped to have a look. I swear it did. Legend has it the only time the jews and irish had a truce was to make the greatest dinner ever – jews had fish – irish potatoes ….. ! Blooms went [ Torah had struck long before it shuffled of to Golders ] Tubby’s still there & just as awful – same with Rinkoffs long eclipsed by the 2 beigal / rye shops corner Brick Lane / Beth Grn Road.
    Will never forget Carrolls in Windmill st. [ up west] Can see the light pink quivering slab of perfect salt beef coming up on the wooden dumb waiter to be put on rye with mustard & beetroot horseradish. Heaven & you can’t get it – unless you make it yourself like me – but there’s no shiny suits slim jim ties razor cut singe hair saloons & photo’s of Kid Berg or Randolph Turpin on the wall and dinette stools to perch on to show off your Austin Drip Dry. And the smells Johnny Boy! Covent Garden!
    Brick Lane ‘ The Waste’ Old clothes & B.O. you could make soup from ….. You magic boy you.

  24. debra williams permalink
    July 12, 2012

    the man on the horse and cart is almost certainly my grandad i have pictures to compare it to taken by steve lewis from the newham recorder and family photoes.. hw lived as i still do in western rd plaistow and though he has been dead 40 years is still so well remembered it was great to come across this

  25. Sonia Murray permalink
    August 7, 2012

    I spent half the day looking… and looking… and looking. Going from one set of pictures to another, and back. It wasn’t all grunge – there was fine architecture and ironwork in the image of the lady on the balcony; one wonders that it hadn’t been taken care of, that it had been permitted to run down. The child at play on the step could have come from WPA pictures of the Great Depression in America. And the child on the rocking horse, his learning stunted by that terrible environment… Loved the strudel lady and the fallen angel. Such wonderful pictures, evoking memories of the people of a bygone time and place. A dear, dear friend, now gone, grew up in Plaistow. John, thanks so much!

  26. Miriam Delorie permalink
    February 11, 2013

    Absolutely wonderful photos…amost spooky – like those walls and areas still breathed and lived after so long. I don’t suppose you would have any old photos in your collection of Artillery Lane? My grandparents lived there in 1901. best regards, Miriam

  27. Ann permalink
    June 26, 2014

    As a small child I grew up in Wentworth Buildings and went to a school in Old Montague street in the late 1950’s.
    I remember a wonderful lady that owned/worked in a jewish fishmongers…her name was Kitty Bass…does anyone recall her?

  28. Tom Coster permalink
    July 17, 2014

    Absolutely brilliant!!

  29. Terry permalink
    July 29, 2019

    Looking for info on a William and Mary Lyons that may have had a Fruit Shop in the area in the early 1910’s They had a son Robert and possibly a daughter Rose or Rosie.. any help would be greatfull

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS