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Rose Henriques’ Paintings

December 5, 2013
by the gentle author

A few years ago, Clive Bettinson of the Jewish East End Celebration Society rescued a series of watercolours from the basement of the Whitechapel Library where they were being walked upon. Today, Rose Henriques’ Paintings have been restored and are the subject of a new exhibition at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives researched by Sara Ayed.

Born into an Orthodox Jewish family in Stoke Newington, Rose devoted herself to life of altruistic endeavour, serving as a nurse at Liverpool St Station in the First World War and then as an ambulance driver based in Cannon St Row in the Second World War.

In 1917, she married Basil Henriques and together they established and ran the settlement in Berners St (later known as Henriques St) pursuing philanthropic work among the  Jewish community in the East End for more than half a century.

Yet somehow Rose also managed to produce a stream of paintings that document the times she lived in intimate human detail, exhibiting her work at the Whitechapel Gallery from 1934 onwards and holding two solo shows there,’Stepney in War & Peace’ in 1947 and ‘Vanishing Stepney’ in 1961.

Coronation Celebrations in Challis Court, 1937

Nine O’Clock News, The Outbreak of War

The New Driver, Ambulance Station, Cannon St Row

Next Day, Watney St Market, 1941

Bombed Second Time, The Foothills, Tilbury & Southend Railway Warehouses, 1941

Dual Purpose, School Yard in Fairclough St, Tilbury & Southend Railway Warehouses, forties

Line outside Civil Defence Shelter, Turner St, 1942

Stepney Green Synagogue, forties

The Brick Dump, Exmouth St, forties

Club Row Animal Market Carries On, 1943

Fait Accompli, Berner St, 1951

Workrooms for the Elderly, 1954

Rose Henriques (1889- 1972)

Portrait of Rose Henriques © Ian Berry
Archive images courtesy Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives

Stepney in Peace & War, The Paintings of Rose Henriques runs until 6th March at Tower Hamlets Local History Library & Archives, 277 Bancroft Rd, E1, with a talk by the curator on Thursday 30th January at 6:30pm

24 Responses leave one →
  1. Penny Staples permalink
    December 5, 2013

    Wonderful work! So glad these were saved.

  2. Melvyn Brooks permalink
    December 5, 2013

    Rose Henriques gave five talks which were broadcast on the B.B.C Home Service from 17th to 21st January 1966. I was in Sheffield at the time and managed to hear Rose by using the ear piece to a small transistor radio whilst walking to the University.
    A booklet was produced into which I still occasionally dip. Inside is a fascinating letter from Lady Henriques – “further copies (price 2/6 including postage) may be obtained by writing to….”
    Sadly many of the predictions forecast have not come true:- “Drug-taking will no longer be the sign that a young person is ‘with it’, and pre-marital sexual intercourse will be considered out of date, for a new craze of “keeping yourself for the boy (or girl)” will have superseded it.

  3. December 5, 2013

    How wonderful these historical and impacting paintings were saved.

  4. December 5, 2013

    Brings the every day of that period much closer. I hadn’t thought that there would be a need for brick dumps during the war and the “day after” a bombing – incredible how resilient people had to be. Thanks.

  5. December 5, 2013

    Beautiful gentle painting. As always a great article. Thank you

  6. December 5, 2013

    I agree with Harvey, its wonderful that these paintings were found and saved. They are both beautiful and historically valuable for those of us who were born and grew up in the East End. My mother used to take me to the Whitechapel Library and my first full time job was in the street next to the Library and so i was a frequent visitor, who knew what was laying in the basement??

  7. December 5, 2013

    Glad to see that her paintings have been saved. Her name was always well known and respected in the East End. Valerie

  8. Maureen Musson permalink
    December 5, 2013

    Wonderful paintings and it’s great that they’ve been saved.

  9. Susan Goldman permalink
    December 5, 2013

    Wonderful work and so nostalgic. Thanks Gentle Author for another lovely post.

  10. Rosemary Hoffman permalink
    December 5, 2013

    what a wonderful recrod of a lost world

  11. December 5, 2013

    Great friends of my grandfather, Ernest Joseph, who followed his father as architect of many social projects in the East end, and was also the architect of Shell-Mex House on the embankment

  12. December 5, 2013

    These paintings are just beautiful. Being from the USA’s midwestern section, they remind me of The detail of Rose’s paintings is so revealing. Are any of these for sale?

  13. December 6, 2013

    An awesome document of time!

  14. December 6, 2013

    Thanks for showing us these marvellous and evocative paintings.

  15. Carole permalink
    December 8, 2013

    I recognise Fairclough Street School (now Harry Gosling School) as I went to primary school there in the mid 1950s. It’s just over the road from the Bernard Baron Settlement where Basil and Rose Henriques worked (and I think lived?). Lady Henriques would have seen this view from the upstairs Settlement windows. The wall and shed in the middle of the picture separated the boys’ playground at the front with the girls’ behind. It was an excellent school and a beautiful building. When I revisited a few years ago I was amazed that our old classroom on the top floor at the gabled end seemed larger rather than smaller than I remembered it, with a very high ceiling and tall windows -very appropriate for a school that gave greater educational opportunities to many east end children.

  16. Classof65 permalink
    December 10, 2013

    I’m glad Lady Henriques had brush and paints rather than a camera! Or, perhaps she should have had both…

    What wonderfully evocative paintings, full of life and hope! I am so happy they have been saved.

  17. May 10, 2014

    I own a painting by Rose! ‘Sunset in Dandedong 1948’ [Australia].
    It is an oil painting – very nice too!

  18. Rebecca permalink
    September 23, 2016

    Wonderful paintings!

    Thank you very very much for this.

    Does anyone have family/historical documents relating to Basil Henriques’ time as a magistrate at Bow Street?

    Or of Rose and Basil’s work bringing kindertransport children to the UK?

  19. Barbara Goldstein permalink
    September 28, 2017

    Great paintings of life in the East End. I have probably said before, but my mum, Marie Kops as she was then, used to go to the club in Berner Street and danced with Sir Basil to demonstrate dances to the other members.

  20. Lesley permalink
    February 1, 2018

    I realise that this is an old conversation thread, but does anyone know whether you can buy any prints of the paintings?

  21. Keith Guy permalink
    April 10, 2018

    I have an oil painting by Rose entitled The Ballet School would love to know where this was painted.

    I have tried to locate her autobiography Fifty years in Stepney 1966 apart from a reference copy in the local archives I can find no other copy.
    Does anyone know where I might be able to buy a copy ?
    Thank you

  22. Derek Bailey permalink
    January 22, 2019

    I played in the Fairclough St. primary schoolyard in the late 1940’s. I never thought I would see in a painting though. Kudos GA !

  23. June 30, 2021

    I just discovered Rose Henriques following a footnote in an article. What a remarkable woman! I am working on a book including material on London’s east end. If I want to include one of Ms. Henriques’ paintings as a book illustration, who would I contact for permission?

  24. June 30, 2021

    Does anyone know how I can get a copy of 50 Years in Stepney (London, 1966) by Rose L. Henriques. The book seems to be out of print and the only library copies I find are not local for me. I’m in California.

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