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Tony Bock’s Farewell To The East End

March 24, 2013
by the gentle author

Belhaven St – before & during demolition

Photographer Tony Bock left the East End  in 1978, and this is the East End he left behind – witnessed in these haunting pictures published for the first time today.

After dropping out of photography school in Toronto, Tony came to the East End and worked as a staff photographer for the East London Advertiser between 1973 and 1978. He encountered  a world in upheaval and only just managed to photograph Belhaven St, Mile End – where his mother’s family had once lived – before it was demolished.

Born in Paddington but brought up in Canada, Tony’s quest to explore his East End roots found expression in these soulful streetscapes, largely unpopulated save for sparse, fleeting figures, a boy with a gun, and the photographer’s own shadow. “Much of the East End seemed to be clad in corrugated tin, often covering buildings that had once shown the enthusiasm and optimism of architects and artisan builders.” Tony confided, “The very fabric of the community was disregarded with little consideration of its true value.”

Yet there is a subtle poetry in each of Tony’s pictures that never fails to acknowledge the human presence, even in seemingly abandoned places. They are the poignant memories that he carried away with him when he left after his brief years in the East End, returning to make his life in Canada.

“The buildings were reflections of the communities they housed, where the domestic scale of architecture made the streets feel like home.” Tony concluded, “Those I photographed on Stepney Green exhibit a wonderfully diverse collection of styles, the simple humane beauty of an unplanned group of buildings.”

In old Bethnal Green Fire Station


In Barking




Children with a gun, Pearl St, Wapping

Tin wall, Hackney

Tin wall, Wapping

Tin wall, Agatha St – with photographer’s shadow

Demolition of Tilbury & Southend Warehouse, Aldgate

Demolition 0f Tobacco Dock with tower of St George-in-the-East

In Hoxton St


In Bethnal Green

In Plaistow

Norah St, Bethnal Green

Stanley Terrace, Stratford

In Hackney Wick

On Stepney Green

Photographs copyright © Tony Bock

You may like to see these other photographs by Tony Bock

Tony Bock, Photographer

Tony Bock’s East Enders

Tony Bock at Watney Market

Tony Bock on the Thames

Tony Bock on the Railway

18 Responses leave one →
  1. sprite permalink
    March 24, 2013

    Those corrugated iron fences is what I remember of the East End in 79, they were everywhere still hiding bombsites. The stairwell of the Old Fire station: the building now houses the Buddhist Centre of the Triratna order previously known as Western Buddhist order, which is flourishing at the moment. Tobacco Dock was the operating patch of those midwives portrayed in the recent TV series, a ‘must read’ of the books on which it is based to get a glimpse of the community life that once thrived there.

  2. March 24, 2013

    Wonderful images – stunning and heartbreaking at the same time. I’ve loved seeing them, thank you.

  3. havingalook2 permalink
    March 24, 2013

    I so love the images that Tony took so many years ago and captured an era. I fear though he is running out of images of London’s East End and I have grown rather fond of them, from the faces, to the railways, to the Thames…Please Tony, do find more.

    Greetings from another fellow Canadian, in Toronto that loves the East End.

  4. Judy Poleg permalink
    March 24, 2013

    Hi, Wonderful photographs!
    To Sprite: I am in the middle of the book that you mentioned and it was the first thing that came to mind as my eyes met these haunting images!

    Thanks Gentle Author – as always!

  5. Gary permalink
    March 24, 2013

    It is like another sad verse to add to Mitelles song “Streets of London”
    To think of all of the lives lived out in those houses

  6. Peter Holford permalink
    March 24, 2013

    A poignant collection of photos – interesting and as skilful as ever. He was chronicling the end of an era.

  7. Vicky permalink
    March 25, 2013

    And the destruction continues apace! Now the Geffrey Museum is pulling down what’s left of our East End heritage and Boris is using his powers to keep those demolition balls swinging across London. Shame on both.

  8. March 26, 2013

    Our own Walker Evans. Wonderful.

  9. jackie kendall permalink
    March 27, 2013

    i was brought up in Belhaven Street lived there until i got married 1964 xxx

  10. Sharon Ablett permalink
    January 24, 2016

    I’d love to see more photos of the East End. My ancestors as far back as the 1760s came from there. My grandmother was born on Hanbury Street in 1885, grandfather born in West Ham on Leytonstone Road and many more. My mother’s cousin took care of the draught horses at Truman’s Brewery and they lived there for many years on Brick Lane. I also come from Toronto and go back to England every couple of years, visiting the East End among other places. Other streets I remember are Connor Street, Hackney; Artillery Street, Bethnal Green and All Saints Church on Buxton Road.

    Thanks for the great photos.

  11. Trevor Franklin permalink
    September 15, 2016

    The picture of the corner shop in Plaistow is of the old sweet shop that was owned by Mrs Sparks.
    It was on the corner of Chesterton Road and Swete Street, directly opposite the outpatients entrance of the old Plaistow maternity hospital (now demolished)

  12. Maureen Knight permalink
    November 8, 2017

    A very interesting site which I found by chance while searching for info on Belhaven St.

    Does anyone know who was living at no. 22 in 1968 ?

  13. Jo Lisa Dukaric permalink
    February 13, 2018

    Wonderful photos. I have no relationship to London, or Britain at all. I’m from Australia, however I have always had an affinity for London, particularly the Victorian-era. I’ve visited London twice, staying on a converted Dutch barge at Poplar dock, and I insisted on staying in the East End on my second visit. I walked around seeking out pre WWII buildings, specifically from mid-to-late 1800’s. It’s an odd feeling to miss a place that you’ve no connection to in a time long before you were born.

  14. February 5, 2019

    My mums family lived at 23 Belhaven st for many years,i also lived there for a year as a baby until 1956,but my nan stayed there until approx 1966.There surname was Gordon.The neighbour s name was mrs day but bot sure if that was 22 or 24.
    I remember the wired playground at the entrance to the street and a train line behind the small paved garden.
    My nan used to frequent the Queen victoria pub(often lol) on the busy main road.
    Loved visiting the east end,and also Alloway road and tredegar terrace where aunties lived.

  15. March 19, 2020

    I lived in Belhaven Street and had to move out due to the road’s demolition, sad and lovely nostalgic photos, many thanks

  16. March 19, 2020

    I lived in 26 Belhaven Street and had to move out due to the road’s demolition, sad and lovely nostalgic photos, many thanks

  17. June 14, 2022

    The steps that are written down as Hackney Wick are in Old Ford leading down from Wick Lane to Dace Road, I lived in Dace Road from 1950 until I emigrated to Australia in 1970 as a ten pound Pom, the best memories of my life are growing up in the East End, I still think of it the way it was and not what it’s become.

  18. JesseK permalink
    July 1, 2023

    I’m desperately trying to find any photos of where my great nan & my nan lived:
    33 Mansford Buildings, Bethnal Green (circa 1926)
    9 Paradise Row, Bethnal Green (1910-1935)
    27 Hollybush Gardens, Bethnal Green (1880-1900)
    21 Camden Street, Bethnal Green (1890)
    17 Digby Walk, Bethnal Green/Hackney/Stepney (1920’s-1930’s)
    11 Pott Street, Bethnal Green (1890-1910)
    21 Pott Street, Bethnal Green (1890-1900)
    3 Waterloo Terrace, Bethnal Green/Hackney/Stepney (1910-1936)
    INSIDE & OUT of flats (especially 7 & 27) Gilman House, Emma Street, Bethnal Green off Hackney Road/Pritchards Road (1930-1960)

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