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A Walk Through Time In Spitalfields

December 5, 2012
by the gentle author

Sandys Row from the north

After seeing the work of photographer C.A.Mathew published on Spitalfields Life, Adam Tuck was inspired to revisit the locations of the pictures taken a century ago. Subtly blending his own photographs of Spitalfields 2012 with C.A.Mathew’s photographs of Spitalfields 1912, Adam has initiated an unlikely collaboration with a photographer of a century ago and created a new series of images of compelling resonance.

In these montages, people of today co-exist in the same space with people of the past, manifesting a sensation I have always felt in Spitalfields – that all of history is present here. Yet those of a hundred years ago knew they were being photographed and many are pictured looking at the camera, whereas passsersby in the present day are mostly self-absorbed.  The effect is of those from the past wondering at a vision of the future, while those of our own day are entirely unaware of this ghostly audience.

It is hard to conceive of the meaning of time beyond our own lifespan. But these photographs capture something unseen, something usually hidden from human perception – they are pictures of time passing and each one contains a hundred years.

Sandys Row from the south

Looking from Bishopsgate down Brushfield St, towards Christ Church

Steward St

Looking down Widegate St towards Sandys Row

Looking down Middlesex St towards Bishopsgate

From Bishopsgate looking up Middlesex St

In Crispin St

In Bell Lane

In Artillery Lane looking towards Artillery Passage

From Bishopsgate through Spital Sq

Frying Pan Alley

Montages copyright © Adam Tuck

C.A.Mathew photographs courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

You may like to read the original stories

C.A. Mathew, Photographer

In the Footsteps of C.A.Mathew

61 Responses leave one →
  1. December 5, 2012

    What a fascinating project – all those ghostly little children looking in awe at the flashy fast cars and glass buildings.

  2. Simon Mooney permalink
    December 5, 2012

    Beautifully done Adam. The ‘In Crispin St” composite is particularly striking as the modern man appears to sense a ghostly presence.

  3. Libby Hall permalink
    December 5, 2012

    What a brilliant concept! Magical!

  4. Jasmin permalink
    December 5, 2012

    As a family historian who would give anything to possess a “time machine” to go back and visit my ancestors WHEN they lived -at least, through Adam Tucks brilliantly creative and haunting photos, one can visually move back in time.Just wonderful ! Here’s hoping there will be some more on the way !

  5. Sharon O'Connor permalink
    December 5, 2012

    Spinetingling. More please.

  6. jo watts permalink
    December 5, 2012

    hauntingly fantastic photographs!

  7. December 5, 2012

    These are wonderful.
    I just spent a few days in London (for the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition and Spitalfields Antiques Market), and that’s exactly what it feels like. A bit like a time machine on the blink.
    Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend your reading. Hope it was a lovely evening!

  8. Sarah Smith permalink
    December 5, 2012

    I hoped someone would do this when I looked at these photos the first time round on your earlier post. The results are so moving. So sad and poignant, but also life-affirming to see the spirits in situ of the souls who came before.
    I live in Yorkshire and have visited Spitalfields only a couple of times on trips to London, but thanks to your blog I feel as if I know it well. I read your emails every morning with a cup of tea before getting ready for work. Thanks x

  9. Ian Stephens permalink
    December 5, 2012

    The Gentle Author – Well Done!!!

  10. December 5, 2012

    Wonderful! Well done. They have a haunting quality, but also a touch of the comic due to the way the modern characters are often looking towards the past in their glances.

  11. Rebekah permalink
    December 5, 2012

    Spine tingling, haunting photographs. Perfect subject for the Christmas Season.

  12. Libby Hall permalink
    December 5, 2012

    I forwarded the link to this to many of my friends and they are all replying with enormous enthusiasm.

    ‘Magical’ was my first response and magical it most certainly is.

    Congratulations Adam Tuck!

  13. Steve permalink
    December 5, 2012

    Brilliant photographs but I can’t help being reminded that such a mixing of old and new in the darkroom was how an episode of spooky 70s TV series ‘Sapphire and Steel’ started.No real need to say it didn’t end particularly well for some.

  14. CornishCockney permalink
    December 5, 2012

    Oh my! What amazing photos!
    I love the way everything stopped for a photographer 100 years ago, even though photography was well established by that time. Everything has to be much more extravagant to grab the attention of the 21st century person today, which is such a shame. I think we’ve lost a lot alng the way.

  15. Hardy permalink
    December 5, 2012

    Inspired idea, artistic vision, technical wizardry, words of a poet. Thanks to you both for a great post.

  16. December 5, 2012

    Compelling. Thank you Adam Tuck – and C A Mathew.

  17. Laura permalink
    December 5, 2012


    The photos in which a present Spitalfields resident seem to be seeing the ones from the past, or vice versa, are particularly fascinating and haunting. Could there possibly be photo subjects in the same frame as their own kin?

  18. December 5, 2012

    What great photography blending the past with the present. I, now,wonder what another five hundred years will bring to these views.

  19. December 5, 2012

    Fantastic. I enjoyed this very much. Great concept.

  20. david donoghue permalink
    December 5, 2012

    Fascinating, beautiful & brilliant!

  21. December 5, 2012

    Marvellous. Thankyou so much!

  22. December 5, 2012

    the liveliness of those real faces and bodies occupying space on the street as we do not — is really brought out in these amazing photographs. the ghostly street lamp sconce — those bright-eyed people of yore, making eye contact. you know that doesn’t happen in america. not that we have sidewalks anymore.

  23. Ellen permalink
    December 5, 2012

    Thank you for these very compelling photos. I took several minutes with each picture just imagining… Especially the old buildings cpmparedto the new. What a difference. Thank you. Give us more please….

  24. Marsha Horwarth permalink
    December 5, 2012

    How cool is that! I never get tired of viewing and studying old photos.
    Thanks again.

  25. Biffer Rowley permalink
    December 5, 2012

    Would you ever consider doing me a print of Artillery Lane? It is a fantastic image!

    Much obliged,


  26. Sally permalink
    December 5, 2012

    Thank you for showing these amazing photos – what a brilliant original idea.

  27. December 5, 2012

    Wow – what stunning photographs – they have an other world feeling – excellent and spooky at the same time

  28. December 5, 2012

    Excellent images and extremely skilful of Adam to take and combine the images in this way which I am sure involved many long hours on his computer. Many thanks for sharing this.

  29. Diane Tompkins permalink
    December 6, 2012

    It’s been said that lost time is never found again – but Adam’s work proves this wrong. Thank you both for this post.

  30. December 6, 2012

    Wonderfully surreal! Well done. I also like the Bethnal Green cafe shots. Ace.

  31. December 6, 2012

    These photographs bring to mind all the souls that occupy a place throughout time. How a place is imprinted with so many individuals, all of whom bring their own individuality into the fold.
    Wonderful stuff.

  32. sprite permalink
    December 6, 2012

    Stunning and inspiring. It would make a compelling subject for an exhibition. How did Adam find the right angle-lens to match those of old? I tried a similar thing with pictures of my village but the lens did not match the old angle.

  33. John A permalink
    December 7, 2012

    Cracking stuff Adam Tuck, I know this area very well, having worked and entertained there in the 60s at a pub called The Primrose on the corner of Primrose St and Bishopsgate, also in Folgate St. Blimey, mate, this brings some memories back!
    Ive been a photographer for some 50 yrs or so, now retired, so I can appreciate the toil and troubles you must have had, delicately putting this masterpiece together. I think Mr Mathew would be very happy with this creation, if he were here now !
    You are obviously a Master of your trade–Thank You.

  34. December 9, 2012

    Just brilliant – the simplest ideas are always the best and the most powerful, although I’m sure there was huge work in bringing the shots together to look effortless. Just wow – these are stories waiting to happen.

  35. December 13, 2012

    This is a great work of art – thank you.

  36. December 13, 2012

    Amazing photography and a great article!

  37. December 13, 2012

    Enchanting and eerie. I love the way that the present day people seem almost aware of the children in the photographs, as if a little bit of history is washing off on them. Absolutely magical.

  38. Barbara permalink
    December 15, 2012

    What a fantastic idea, and so perfectly executed! Truly poignant and beautiful.

  39. December 17, 2012

    Superb! Thanks for this magnificent discovery.

  40. December 18, 2012

    Awesome very atmospheric love the surreal feel to the photographs .

  41. December 19, 2012

    these are quite amazing – how the streets have been taken away from the people….

  42. January 5, 2013

    These are really spooky! But brilliant!

  43. January 5, 2013

    What a dramatic compilation. To see history superimposed on contemporary views is remarkable. Well done!!

  44. January 6, 2013

    Have you produced a book of these photo’s?

  45. January 25, 2013

    Knowing these children have all passed away brought a tear to my eye and the montages themselves gave me goose pimples.

    Please could you ask Matthew how he matched the modern mechanical or digital camera lenses to the old glass plates as i’d like to do this for Bristol myself.

    kind regards Nick

  46. February 19, 2013

    Found your link on Vicki Lane’s blog and just had to check this out. What an awesome project this was. I was absolutely fascinated!

  47. haydn thomas permalink
    March 13, 2013

    Wow!I am studying Quantum Physics and the possibility [probability?] of parallel universes.Although these are superimposed photographs it illustrates what some scientists are saying.Wonderful.

  48. Tony Avon permalink
    March 14, 2013

    Breathtaking. Immense talent matched by a colossal amount of technical ability and work. The sensitivity for the subject takes you there, to both time-frames simultaneously – a sense of vision which can only be admired and envied! Bravo!

  49. Charles permalink
    March 15, 2013

    Can you imagine these printed on those cards where you can turn it to switch between two images! amazing stuff.

  50. Gerry Wiseman permalink
    March 16, 2013

    Absolutely brilliant idea, & so well executed. Being born & raised in Petticoat lane in the prewar years as I was, I knew every street here depicted intimately. And as an inveterate Photoshopper, I know the hours that went into this collection. When I get some time I will do a somewhat similar project in my new home town of Westminster, MD USA.

  51. stew bradley permalink
    March 21, 2013

    Hi Again, these photos of the children have reminded me that untill the early to mid seventies there used to be a school yard that backed onto Spital square, i used to get teased that i should be at school not out on a lorry in the small hours …

    Brilliant photos as ever thank you

  52. Elizabeth Gayle Fellows permalink
    April 21, 2013

    Just fascinating, and a bit eerie. As I viewed the photos I wondered which side of the street do you feel most comfortable on? The timeframe of the past felt actually peaceful. Great work of art.

  53. Monica Torne permalink
    April 21, 2013

    What a fantastic idea! The pictures are astounding, profoundly evocating and even spine-chilling. Congratulations on your beautiful work! And thanks for sharing it.

  54. Miriam Delorie permalink
    June 19, 2013

    Absolutely stunning – I switched on my PC early morning and had to look at ALL the photos – I imagined my grandparents walking in those streets….pleeese have you any more of Artillery Lane where they lived? or of Fieldgate Street? regards Miriam

  55. September 29, 2013

    These superbly successful composites are still haunting me, months after viewing them. Beautiful work! Do hope to meet you some time, Adam.

  56. J Tucker permalink
    March 3, 2014

    Steward Street . My ancestors had a Copper Plate Printing business here in the 1800’s

  57. John Miller permalink
    December 10, 2016

    What a sense of ghostly resonance
    a great project idea for local history groups to try

    Thank you very much
    thanks Pinterest

  58. rosemary Hoffman permalink
    March 19, 2018

    I lived in the pub the kings stores Widegate st in the early 1960s . My dad was the licensee

  59. January 3, 2019

    Wonderful photographs. My ancestors arrived in Spitalfields and were silk weavers. These pictures give me some idea of how my grandmother must have lived. She was born in 1900 and with her family was in the workhouse at three years of age and again at the age of 10. At 11 years old she was sent to Dovercourt to learn her trade as a skivvy. Do you have any photographs of the workhouse or more of the localle please?

  60. May 20, 2019

    Would love to know your technique in producing these wonderful pictures as l would love to be able to do something similar for our village

  61. Pamela Daly permalink
    April 24, 2021

    I enjoyed seeing the old blend with the new in Spitalfields. My granddad was born and raised in Spitalfields. I look at the photos of old and wonder, am I looking at my granddad? I never new him as he died forty years before I was born.

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