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Geoff Perrior, Photographer

February 8, 2014
by the gentle author

Geoff Perrior

This small cache of Geoff Perrior’s photographs of Spitalfields taken in the nineteen-seventies was deposited recently at the Bishopsgate Institute Library by his widow Betty Perrior. Fascinated to learn more of the man behind these pictures, I spoke with Betty yesterday in Brentwood where she and Geoff lived happily for the last forty-two years.

“He was a character,” she recalled fondly, “he belonged to eight different societies and he was a member of the Brentwood Photography Club for fifty-three years, becoming Secretary and then President.”

“He started off with a little Voightlander camera when he was a youngster, but he graduated to a Canon and eventually a Nikon. He said to me, ‘I can afford the body of the Canon and I’ll buy a lens and pay for it over a year.’ Then he sold it and bought a Nikon. He only switched to digital reluctantly because he thought it was rubbish, yet he came round to it in the end. For twenty years, we did all our own developing in black and white.

Geoff & I met at WH Smith. I had worked at WH Smith in Salisbury for twelve years before I went on a staff training course at Hambleden House in Kensington and Geoff was there. We just clicked. That was in July, we were engaged in October and married a year later. I was forty-four and we were both devoted, my only regret is that we had just forty-two years together.

Geoff worked for WH Smith for thirty-seven years and for thirty years he was Newspaper Manager at Liverpool St Station, but he never took photographs in the station because it was private property. He used to do the photography after he had done the early shift. He got up at three-thirty in the morning to go to work and he finished at midday. Then he went down to Spitalfields. One of the chaps by the bonfire called out to him, ‘I love this life!’ and, one day, Geoffrey was about to take out ten pounds from his wallet and give it to one of them, when the vicar came by and said, ‘Don’t do that, they’ll only spend it on meths – buy him a dozen buns instead.’

Geoff had a rapport with anybody and everybody, and more than two hundred people turned up to his funeral. I have given most of Geoff’s pictures away to charity shops and they always sell really quickly, I have just kept a selection of favourites for myself – to remind me of him.”

Geoff Perrior

Sitting by the bonfire in Brushfield St

“Got a light, Tosh?”

In Brushfield St

In Toynbee St

Spitalfields Market porter

In Brushfield St

In Petticoat Lane

In Brushfield St

In Toynbee St

In Brushfield St

In Brushfield St

Spitalfields market porter in Crispin St

In Brune St

In Brushfield St

In Brushfield St

Images courtesy of Bishopsgate Institute

You might also like to take a look at

Dennis Anthony’s Petticoat Lane

Philip Marriage’s Spitalfields

Moyra Peralta in Spitalfields

Tony Hall, Photographer

Tony Bock, Photographer

Spitalfields Market Nocturne

5 Responses leave one →
  1. Victoria permalink
    February 8, 2014

    Wonderful photographs and so interesting to read the story behind how they were taken. I wonder what Brushfield Street looks like today, imagine it’s redeveloped. Thanks GA x

  2. February 8, 2014

    Incredible moments from the 70s! — The street-fire in Brushfield St isn’t still burning, is it? It would be on for my lifetime now…

    Love & Peace

  3. February 8, 2014

    Fantastic photographs! Thanks for showing them.

  4. Neville Turner permalink
    February 8, 2014

    A very good set of photo’s of the area and people around Spitalfields, it would be iteresting to see more, Geoff had a great eye for catching the moment in time of the people and place.Brushfield St, and Toynbee St in particular are the playground of my youth and many of my friends and many good memories. Neville Turner.

  5. Bill Goodall permalink
    February 9, 2014

    The man with the trilby featured in three of the Brushfield Street fire pictures is George “Ticker” Thomas, a friend of mine in my unregenerate days. We worked together as casual kitchen porters in a number of restaurants in and around the City and sold Sunday papers together from a pitch on Kensington High Street – and, of course, drank most of the proceeds, in a pub when possible, but in a park or in the street if circumstances required it.

    George had fought with the SAS – or possibly the SBS – in Greece in World War II, and brought home with him a Greek bride. They had a son, and George helped his wife, a dressmaker, set up what grew into a successful shop in central London. By then, though, the marriage had collapsed, whether because of George’s drinking or his hot temper (the origin of his nickname, “Ticker”) or both, I do not know. By the time I first met him in the mid-1960s, they were permanently estranged.

    However, I did meet one of George’s old wartime comrades, a professional man he occasionally called on to help with private affairs he could not, as a homeless man, deal with himself. This friend seemed still to have respect for George, despite his clearly reduced circumstances, and bore out his account of his earlier life. But that relationship, too, failed in time.

    I must say, George’s explosions were only occasional, and, as he aged and had to resort to a walking stick after breaking an ankle, he became less of a threat to others at such times and more given to railing bitterly against the whole world. But generally, as long as he had a drink in his hand or one was in prospect, he would be in good humour and ready with a roaring hearty laugh. He had been educated well enough and, in the earlier hours of an evening, was happy to join in good conversation.

    George was Welsh, and had a fine tenor voice which he liked to show off with a small repertoire of operatic favourites. It is in that mode that Geoff Perrior obviously has captured him, arms outstretched, at the Brushfield Street fire. I know what he is singing. His signature tune: “La donna è mobile”.

    I am so glad Geoff found George and photographed him, and I thank you for publishing the work.

    Vale, George. You were a good mate.

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