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Sunday Morning Stroll With John Claridge

September 4, 2012
by the gentle author

Legs, Spitalfields 1960

Shall we join photographer John Claridge for an early Sunday morning stroll through the East End? Maybe John is coming back at daybreak from a party in Chelsea that he went to one Saturday night in 1960 and he stopped of at Rinkoff’s in Vallance Rd for a smoked salmon beigel on his way home to Plaistow? And maybe he looked up at a window in Spitalfields and saw these legs, and to this day he does not know if they were real or a mannequin? Or maybe John was out on his paper-round early one snowy day in the harsh winter of 1961 and he noticed an old bike frame abandoned on the Sewer Bank, and just in that moment it looked like a horse? Or maybe John was riding his motorbike along Narrow St in the dawn mist in 1963 and saw a ship emerging like a vision from the fog, and he stopped and got off his bike to capture it with his camera?

There is no doubt that John is a man of an early morning disposition, as these pictures – published here for the first time – testify. In John’s youth, when the London Docks were still in operation and the East End was full of manufacturing, people went to work early and the streets were crowded at six or even earlier on weekdays, yet Sunday morning stood in contrast as the time when there was almost nobody out. This was when John chose to explore with his camera, delighting in the surrealism of these hours at the crack of dawn when familiar places became strange and the territory was his alone. And the smog, and the fog, and the smoke, and the early morning mist all contributed to the melancholy beauty that John photographed in these soulful East End streets, when – emptied of people – they became the landscape of his dreaming.

Wapping, 1963 – “Can you see the ship just entering the river?”

White dog, E13 1978 – “A little bull terrier looking at the world.”

Hough’s Wharf in Narrow St, 1963.

Back door in Spitalfields, 1982 – “There was obviously a gate that had gone, and then they got this big door from a factory and wedged it in place.”

Three cranes, E16 1962 – “That morning light again, it just smells nice. There’s smoke in the distance, something was working.”

Queens Rd Market, E13 1959 – “I wonder what happened to all the old trolleys.”

Warehouse, Silvertown, 1963 – “I got off my motorbike, just to watch the light coming up in the mist.”

Horse, Sewer Bank Plaistow, 1961.

Torn Curtain, Spitalfields 1964 – “I walked by and I thought this was almost a piece of modern art – that very cheap plasticky ragged curtain was very beautiful in contrast with the bricks around it.”

Upton Park Station, E13 1969 – “There used to be old ladies sitting in there by the fire.”

Pie & Mash Shop, London Fields 1966.

Under the Railway, E2 1982 – “Drunks slept down there under the arches.”

Pony Cart, Spitalfields 1968 – “This guy kept this pony and on Sunday mornings he went for a ride.”

Dockside, E16 1968 – “It looks like they started work on the building and then left it.”

Gents, E14 1982 – “Very early morning when the street light hadn’t yet gone off.”

It’s Great, E3 1982 – “A fair set up on an old bombsite and I thought it was fucking ace.”

The Bridge, E14 1963.

Drain, E1 1970 – “I want to know what a 20% incline sign was doing in Wapping when there is no such gradient in the East End.”

Early morning fishermen on the Regent’s Canal beside Victoria Park, 1972. –“I asked this man, ‘Have you caught anything?’ He said, ‘I haven’t got a bait, I just like sitting here.’ You can’t argue with that.”

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

Views from a Dinghy by John Claridge

People on the Street & a Cat

In Another World with John Claridge

A Few Pints with John Claridge

A Nation Of Shopkeepers

Some East End Portraits by John Claridge

18 Responses leave one →
  1. Robert permalink
    September 4, 2012


  2. September 4, 2012

    Once again, wonderful photos. Thank you.

  3. September 4, 2012

    Empty streets, almost like being alone in the world, there’s always been something magical about empty streets, you notice different things as you walk by.
    Another fantastic set of prints from John Claridge, a photographer with such a natural eye for the things we would otherwise just pass by.
    I just love the bull terrier in the window, what a wonderful capture.

    I look forward seeing even more from John, it just gets better and better.

    Thank you John for sharing these marvelous images with us.

  4. September 4, 2012

    Love these especially Upton Park Station.

  5. September 4, 2012

    Love the three fishermen. The one who explained he was not so much fishing but sitting is quite the philosopher!

    It is many a year since I was out walking empty city streets. Wonderful. Thanks, John.

  6. September 4, 2012

    Grim beauty

  7. Alice permalink
    September 4, 2012

    Brilliant! I love the fishermen, they all look like how I remember my fathers father. I really like the honesty of the shot and the words. I also love the dog in the window. Obviously something caught its eye and thankfully it caught Johns’!

    Thanks again for keeping these coming, something to look forward to as autumn draws in.

  8. September 4, 2012

    Yet more wonderful pictures John.We used to visit my Gran in Leytonstone every Sunday – we would leave early and travel through the East End in dads Austin A35 I believe, passing these exact Landscapes. Even though I was very young I would love these trips because at the end of it was Sunday lunch in her tiny kitchen on cold days, with the coal fire burning and the hiss of the gas lamps!!
    I have never forgotten those times or that sound, and your pictures as ever bring them flooding back thankyou John

  9. Olga Secerov permalink
    September 4, 2012

    I love Upton Park Station and the Pie and Mash Shop. I often wonder what some of these places look like now. I will go and see for myself.

  10. September 4, 2012

    Wow, just look at those early morning fisherman. Again, beautiful work.

  11. Marien de Goffau permalink
    September 4, 2012

    A unique story written with a camera on a special morning in the 60’s in East End. A fantastic experience to be back. Marvelous.

  12. Chris F permalink
    September 4, 2012

    John is building up quite a fan base on here… The three fishermen… Compo, Foggy & Clegg….. Brilliant.

  13. Louisa permalink
    September 5, 2012

    Moments of tranquility. Time of peacefulness. A breath of gentleness. A sense of spirit and soul. All portrayed in shades of black and grey, captured forever but in the blink of an eye. So rich, so special.

  14. john edwards permalink
    September 5, 2012

    An elegy – a sonata – dulcet play misty for me soft grey s – the pregnant sound of silence.
    Even the seagulls have shut up . No rasping cough from an old ironsides hacking up
    a kerbside oyster here ….. a gauze veil of mercy is drawn over all – and there’s that delicious moment
    lightly entranced throughout – that of seeing say, someone swinging an axe on wood across the wide river and the sound of axe on log may not have arrived by the time we have moved on…. Beautiful John.

  15. September 5, 2012

    JC’s lens peers, as perceptively as ever, into the eery dawn gloom that was London’s East End all those years ago . . . praise, too, for the excellent opening comments from the “gentle author” . . . well written!

  16. Cindy S. permalink
    September 7, 2012

    JC delivers a sermon and I note the congregation are suitably roused.
    God bless you, my young sir!


  17. September 11, 2012

    Hi. i am simply amazed to see these photos. it will be nice to see some more photos of the Green Street and Queens Road market E13. This place has changed a lot since then.thanks

  18. debra williams permalink
    November 5, 2012

    all the old stalls in queens road i would bet more than half of them belonged to my grandad he used to rent them out from his home in queens rd and later the yard in western rd

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