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Steve Speller’s Redchurch St Portraits

January 13, 2014
by the gentle author

Photographer Steve Speller moved to Redchurch St in 1986 and lived there until 1991. “It was a time of change with old trades moving out and young creatives, like myself, moving in but when the Truman Brewery shut in 1989, I realised it was all going to go and so I took these portraits,” Steve recalled.

Living these days in Worthing, Steve returned for the first time last November after more than twenty years and was startled to discover the transformation, with both artisans and artists replaced by high-end retail – now that Redchurch St is London’s most fashionable shopping destination.

Aaronson Veneers, 45 Redchurch St

Maison Trois Garcons, 45 Redchurch St

Mr Aaronson in his veneers shop, 45 Redchurch St

Interior of Maison Trois Garcons, 45 Redchurch St

Photoshoot outside the former printing works at 44 Redchurch St where Steve Speller lived.

Aesop, 44 Redchurch St

The Owl & The Pussycat, 34 Redchurch St

The Owl & The Pussycat, 34 Redchurch St

City Cash & Carry, 40 Redchurch St

Walluc Bistrot, 40 Redchurch St

City Cash & Carry, 40 Redchurch St

Ron’s Cafe, 36 Redchurch St

Chaat, Bangladeshi Teahouse, 36 Redchurch St

Robsinson’s Engineering, 7 Redchurch St

Sunspel, 7 Redchurch St

Capital Leather,  46 Redchurch St

Murdock, 46 Redchurch St

Capital Leather, 46 Redchurch St

Nigel Ellis, Sculptor, Chance St

Former location of Nigel Ellis’ studio, Chance St

Les, handyman at 44 Redchurch St (in employ of Roy Bard, property magnate who bought half the street)

Tim Cunliffe, Stained Glass Artist, 44 Redchurch St

Carnival Novelties, Redchurch St

Merlin, Artist, 44 Redchurch St

Foremost Grinders, Redchurch St

Photographs copyright © Steve Speller

You may also like to look at

The Redchurch St Rake’s Progress

The Meeting of the Old & New East End in Redchurch St

22 Responses leave one →
  1. Greg Tingey permalink
    January 13, 2014

    NIce to see that “The Owl & the Pussycat” is still going strong!

  2. January 13, 2014

    Old and new — the Circle of Life at London’s Redchurch Street …

    Hope to visit all these magical places (described by the G.A.) this year in summer!

    Love & Peace

  3. January 13, 2014

    These are sad pictures. From the rooted and solid and human to the faddish and fashion tossed and exclusive.

  4. Juliet permalink
    January 13, 2014

    Does anyone remember the name of the print works on number 44? Thank you!

  5. January 13, 2014

    I wouldn’t mind some of that veneer now!

  6. Libby Hall permalink
    January 13, 2014

    Hear Hear Alan Gilbey! I thought the then and now photographs were desperately sad.

  7. Vicky permalink
    January 13, 2014

    Love Aaronson’s Veneer shop, as was. I’d pop in there for some marquetry, so sad that I can’t.

  8. Chris F permalink
    January 13, 2014

    I have to agree with Alan Gilbey & Libby… I viewed each then and now photo with a sinking feeling. I fully realise that times and fashions change, but I would sooner choose a greasy spoon over a pretentious eatery any day.

  9. Donald Parsnips permalink
    January 13, 2014

    Nice picture of old guys at ‘Foremost Grinding’ the gullotine blade sharpeners. Since they went away Redchurch St has been full of blunt instruments !

  10. ROBERT GREEN permalink
    January 14, 2014

    I am no “Luddite”, with an aversion to change, but I think the vogue for “gentrification” can too often for my liking be used as an excuse for a rather subtle but sinister form of “social cleansing”, I run my family market stall in Sclater Street, (off Brick Lane) from a pitch that we are proud to have been licensed to trade from for over 60 year’s, recently, a few week’s back, I was engaged in conversation with a pleasant enough young man who has opened a new shop near to my pitch, after exchanging a few details about our respective background’s and connection to the area, he quiet casually, but purposefully said to me, “of course you are unlikely to be trading hear for much longer you know, ” this area is really going place’s now and all these stall’s make the place look so scruffy”, I pondered his word’s for a few second’s then politely bid him goodbye, upon giving his word’s some thought, I conclude that this is maybe not such an isolated view as some may like to think, so, in response to anyone else who may hold with this opinion, I have only one thing to say to you, = I sincerely apologize for making the street’s of Bethnal Green look so untidy, but you see people like me had no choice but to do what we do, it is how we have made our living in the only way we know how, but I realize now we have become out-moded and will, as the young man told me, soon be required to “de-clutter” the newly sanitized street’s of smart shop’s and trendy young people, and make way for the ever increasing “gentrification” of an area I love and has been my whole life, but apparently, people like me are no longer to be part of.

  11. January 14, 2014

    Dear Mr. Green,

    “no longer to be part of it” ???

    No! Don’t let that superfluous and thoughtless comment (or attitude) drive you away. It seems to me you may be the very substance and soul of that area.

    Hard work is often “untidy.” Creativity is almost always “untidy.” Working with one’s hands is wonderfully “untidy,” and sacred, as well. Too much gentrification renders too many places soulless. You may be the guardian – the emissary of soul – of that place.

    (After seeing the photos above, I wish I might take flight from Mississippi tonight and glide across the ocean and make my art studio on Redchurch Street.)

  12. isa permalink
    January 14, 2014

    I totally agree with Robert Green`s comment how can a street market or any market stall be making a street scruffy ? I am over 60 and I have many good memories of street markets how they bring life and colour to a town and how the sterile , new shiny shops over priced and soulless have slowly taken over.

  13. January 14, 2014

    Sclater Street was always ‘untidy’, that is what made it so interesting. It was full of real characters and craftsmen, not the trendy people playing at ‘having a shop in East London’. I walked through the market recently and was puzzled by the number of dull, boring outlets with no customers, but every one of them had straight faced, sad looking individuals staring forlornly out of the windows. The reason for my puzzlement? How the hell do they make a living? I long for the days when these ‘untidy’ stallholders called out to passers by and for all the backchat that was called back to them!

  14. January 14, 2014

    oh what I’d do to step back in time and enter carnival novelties , looks like a great shop,really enjoyed this before and after post , the artists studios were great , no mac book pros in sight , its another world all together.

  15. January 15, 2014

    In answer to Julia’s question, the printers at 44 Redchurch Street were Randbridge Printers Ltd (we still have a piece of their signage which we kept as a souvenir of our time there).

    Thankyou to Donald Parsnips (of Club Row I seem to remember, and mutual friend of Simon Tyrrell who lived at No.48) for remembering ‘Foremost Grinding’. Can you remember which building they inhabited?

    I see that a lot of people find the changes that have occurred over 25 years a little sad, but my wife and I always imagined that Redchurch Street would be subsumed by (and probably demolished by) the City as it relentlessly gobbled up Bishopsgate, so to see that so far it has survived that is actually heartening. Our memories of living there are mostly enjoyable and I think you sometimes have to welcome change even if it’s not quite what you were anticipating.

  16. Donald Parsnips permalink
    January 15, 2014

    Congrats on exposing the selection of pictures Steve .
    They’re v evocative and have been much appreciated by the local community.
    many of whom remember the old faces .
    ‘Foremost grinding’ has been a v interesting art gallery for quite some time now ( the building briefly housed a ‘ lady-pleasure-object-factory ‘ which probably could have operated under the same name!! ). The gallery still use the old metal doors and barred window .

  17. January 16, 2014

    Many thanks Steve for putting up this wonderful collection of photos from Redchurch Street. They have brought those times in the mid 80’s and early 90’s right back to me! I occasionally visit the area these days and walk down Redchurch Street and although it has a vibrancy and creative buzz, it has to be said it’s not the same and I feel lucky to have lived there during that period. There was such a wonderful mix of activities and characters. Do you remember the old guy Charlie who lived opposite -above where maybe the mosque is more or less. He used to hang out of his window singing and shout salutations to passersby in a squeeky northern accent! Ron from the cafe looks so young and it’s good to see a picture of Maria his sister. Sadly I think they fell out and she went back to Italy some time in the early nineties. Hope all is well with you and Alison and family. Be great to catch up sometime- and share some more memories.

  18. January 16, 2014

    wow carnival novelties is one shop i should have loved to visit
    great post – keep up the good work x

  19. Jet permalink
    July 13, 2014

    Great post, I have lived at 67 Redchurch Street (the triangular shaped house that crosses club row) for almost 6 years now, does anybody know what that used to be?

    I was told a sweetshop and a cap makers before that, but haven’t been able to find anything on it.



  20. Steve Maguire permalink
    December 25, 2022

    We used to get mitre blades for picture framing sharpened at foremost grinding in the early eighties . The gentlemen in the photo looked just like that. Shame change takes its toll.

  21. Gayle Durham permalink
    August 21, 2023

    I am from New York, now Miami. I vacation in Shoreditch every summer for past 10 yrs, hotel or Airbnb on Boundary, Sclater, or Brick. I patronize local shops, play in the parks, visit weekend markets. Strive to “live like a local”. Mr. Green’s letter made me cry. But in my opinion, Brits do preserve better their culture, way of life.

  22. Miranda permalink
    February 12, 2024

    Hi Steve I had no idea you lived in Redchurch Street! I had a studio above the veneer shop from 1990-1992. I used to sit in those windows and carried my sculptures on ropes from them as they were too big for the corridors. I was just googling the veneer shop to see if it’s still there and came across this website!

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