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An Astonishing Photographic Discovery

June 29, 2014
by the gentle author

Today, it is my great delight to reveal these breathtaking photographs taken by Horace Warner in Spitalfields at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These pictures which have never been reproduced before, and have hardly been seen by anyone outside his immediate family, are published with the gracious permission of Horace Warner’s grandson, Ian McGilvray.

Previously, only a handful of Warner’s sympathetic portraits of the children who lived in the courtyards off Quaker St – known as the Spitalfields Nippers – were believed to exist, but through some assiduous detective work by researcher Vicky Stewart and a stroke of good luck upon my part, we were able to make contact with his grandson who keeps two albums comprising more than one hundred of his grandfather’s pictures of Spitalfields, from which the photographs published here are selected.

Many of the pictures in these albums are photographic masterpieces and I believe them to be the most significant set of photographs in existence of East Enders in this era. There is a rare clarity of vision in the tender photography of Horace Warner that brings us startling close to the Londoners of 1900 and permits us to look them in the eye for the first time. You can imagine my excitement when I met Ian McGilvray and opened Horace Warner’s albums to discover so many astonishing pictures. I experienced a sensation almost of vertigo, like looking down the dark well of time and being surprised by these faces in sharp focus, looking back at me.

It was no straightforward journey to get there. I first published a series of Horace Warner’s Spitalfields Nippers in these pages in 2011, reproduced from a booklet accompanying a 1975 exhibition of the handful of pictures once published in fund-raising leaflets by the Bedford Institute in 1912. Then last year, when I sought to reproduce these pictures in The Gentle Author’s London Album, Vicky Stewart established that the photographic prints were held in the Quaker archive at Friends House in the Euston Rd.

This discovery which permitted me to include those pictures in my Album was reward enough for our labours and I wrote an account of our quest entitled In Search of the Spitalfields Nippers last August.  The story might easily have ended there, if we had not been shown a 1988 letter from Horace Warner’s daughter Gwen McGilvray that accompanied the prints. In this letter, Gwen mentions the ‘albums’ which was the first tantalising evidence of the existence of more of Horace Warner’s Spitalfields photographs.

Even as our hopes of finding these other pictures were raised, we were disappointed to realise that Gwen was unlikely to be still alive. Yet through the research facility now available online and thanks to his unusual surname, Vicky was able to find an address for one of Gwen’s four children, her son Ian, in Norfolk. It was a few years out of date but there was a chance he was still there, so we waited until the Album was published in October and sent off a copy to Ian McGilvray.

Within weeks, Ian wrote back to ask if I would like to visit him and see the ‘albums.’ It was my good fortune that the one of Horace Warner’s grandchildren we had been able to reach was also the guardian of the photographic legacy. And so it was that on a bright winter’s day I made a journey to Norfolk to meet Ian and see the complete set of Horace Warner’s Spitalfields Nippers for the first time. My fear was that I had seen the most important images among those already known, but my shock was to recognise that the best pictures have not yet been seen.

These wonderful photographs have the power to revolutionise how we think about East Enders at the end of the nineteenth century since, in spite of their poverty, these are undeniably proud people who claim a right to existence which transcends their economic status. Unlike the degraded photographic images created by charitable campaigners or the familiar middle-class studio portraits, Horace Warner’s relaxed intimate pictures draw us into a personal relationship with his subjects whom we meet as our equals. The Spitalfields Nippers are a unique set of photographs, that witness a particular time, a specific place, a discrete society, and an entire lost world.

As a designer managing the family wallpaper-printing business, Horace Warner had the income and resources to explore photography in his spare time and produce images of the highest standard technically. As superintendent of the charitable Bedford Institute, he was brought into close contact over many years with the families who lived nearby in the yards and courts south of Quaker St. As a Quaker, he believed in the equality of all and he was disturbed by the poverty he met in the East End. In the Spitalfields Nippers these things came together for Horace Warner, creating compassionate images that gave dignity to his subjects and producing great photography that is without parallel in his time.

Ian McGilvray has granted his blessing to the publication of all Horace Warner’s Spitalfields Nippers in a book for the first time so that everyone can see them and – with your help – we mean to do this on November 1st. As with our other titles, I need to gather a group of readers who are willing to invest £1000 each. Please email if you would like to help bring this exciting project to fruition and I will send you further information.

Excerpt of 1988 letter from Horace Warner’s daughter Gwen McGilvray referring to the ‘albums’ and giving the name of his grandson, Ian McGilvray. (Reproduced courtesy of Friends House)

Sisters Wakefield

Walter Seabrook

Celia Compton

Photo referred to by Gwen McGilvray with headlines at the end of the Boer War, dating it to 1902

At the Whitechapel Gallery to see the Burne Jones exhibition 1901

In Pearl St (now Calvin St)

See the man looking over the wall in Union Place (off Wheler St)

Friederike Huber’s cover design for the book to be published on November 1st

Publication Rights in these Photographs Reserved

Click here to order a copy of SPITALFIELDS NIPPERS by Horace Warner

113 Responses leave one →
  1. jeannette permalink
    June 29, 2014

    so happy for all concerned. especially the nippers, who will now enter history as they have the akashic record.

  2. Carolyn Badcock - nee Hooper permalink
    June 29, 2014

    How beautiful and such treasures! I adore the shot of the group at the Whitechapel Gallery.

  3. June 29, 2014

    what a story and touching images. that 1901 burne jones exhibit gains a whole new dimension… n♥

  4. Bee permalink
    June 29, 2014

    Better than some of the digital photography today!!
    Great photos. Can’t help searching the faces for anything that would indicate a link, if only!
    Never-the-less, a joy to scroll through.

  5. June 29, 2014

    The photos are truly a great discovery, and interesting for me, as they must have been taken at about the time that my great grandparents settled in East London. Valerie

  6. Elisabeth Mellen permalink
    June 29, 2014

    Compelling, intimate, proud and poignant; such humanity, respect and affection from Horace Warner to his dignified and spirited subjects. I would love to help bring these to wider view.

  7. Patricia Taylor permalink
    June 29, 2014

    Who was Celia Compton??

  8. annie permalink
    June 29, 2014

    Amazing photographs and such top quality! What a find, they really bring the children and adults back to life.

  9. June 29, 2014

    Congratulations for your discovery! I love these barefooted nippers — they remind me to ASTRID LINDGREN’s “Bullerby Children”… They are really endearing, aren’t they?

    Hope the book with the complete range of the photos can be published!

    Love & Peace

  10. Jan Marsh permalink
    June 29, 2014

    the picture of Nippers at the art exhibition may be from the inaugural show at the new-built Whitechapel Art Gallery ‘Modern Pictures by Living Artists, Pre-Raphaelites and Older English Masters’ 12 March-23 April 1901.
    Or it could be from one of the forerunner exhibitions organised by Samuel Barnett of Toynbee Hall, to which contemporaries like Burne-Jones and [especially] G F Watts loaned pictures.

  11. the gentle author permalink*
    June 29, 2014

    Jan, I can confirm that this is the Whitechapel Gallery from Horace Warner’s annotation to his photograph – it is one of a sequence of pictures of the nippers at the Gallery

  12. June 29, 2014

    Wonderful set! Transported me back to a world I can only imagine. So grateful for your indefatigable research, can’t wait to see the book.

  13. RaspberryPip permalink
    June 29, 2014

    Stunning. Wish I had a spare bag of sand.

  14. Erika W permalink
    June 29, 2014

    Of course they are genuine–some of the ignorant comments to your previous blog make my hair stand on end.

    It might be of interest to compare them to Walker Evans and Jacob Riis–the two great American photographers of the really poor. Walker Evans and James Agee did select the worst of the photographs taken for ‘Let Us now Praise famous Men” but they didn’t doctor them. The later published pictures of the families all spit and polished in order to go to church–proud of their best clothes, were omitted.

    Jacob Riis’s photographs were copied for his books as line drawings and just occasionally they were altered a trifle but very little–the messages of poverty came right through.

    Fakery does happen. As a child, on a beach in Normandy, a photographer came by and asked us 4 children to take off our shoes. My grandfather came up and chased him off. The man was a Russian journalist intent on showing us in bare feet and our disreputable beach clothes; no doubt to be published in the USSR. This was in the 1950s.

    These Spitalfields Nipper photographs deserve a much wider audience they are a profound piece of social history.

  15. June 29, 2014

    Moving and beautiful. What treasures you unearth in your labours.

  16. tanya permalink
    June 29, 2014

    Very moving photographs. This might sound strange but they look so modern to me. ie they are relaxed – mostly – with Horace – and so their warmth and humanity shines through – the constant about being human. And wonderful to read that the pictures are no longer lost.

  17. Simon Cross permalink
    June 29, 2014

    Although these are obviously posed photographs they demonstrate the purpose of documentary and street photography beautifully, capturing a moment in time. It might be because they were children, or because they are unfamiliar with photographers but the majority of he nippers seem happy or proud to be photographed, not at all how it is today.

    Thank you Gentle Author, these are very important photographs

  18. Milo Bell permalink
    June 29, 2014

    I think i may have fallen a bit for Celia.
    What incredible photos. So vivid and alive and…Fresh, for want of a better word. No, that’ll do.
    I can just imagine what it must have felt like when you first clapped eyes on these goodies.

  19. Peter Holford permalink
    June 29, 2014

    Victory in the Boer War for the richest and most powerful empire and yet the kids holding the headlines have no shoes. Great photos. Thank you.

  20. Jan permalink
    June 29, 2014

    I have found a Celia Compton in the 1891 Census who would be 15/6 in 1901 but can find no trace of her or the family in 1901 or 1911. I have searched in many various ways but no trace. Very strange.

  21. June 29, 2014

    Absolutely brilliant! I feel like I knows em!

  22. June 29, 2014

    These photographs are a truly amazing find. The personalities of the children shine through. Can’t wait for the book!

  23. June 29, 2014

    these are absolutely stunning …I must book mark and examine to get the essence of them…wonderful!!

  24. Tsu Dho Nimh permalink
    June 29, 2014

    I’m looking at these children and thinking that they were the middle aged Londoners of the Blitz years.

  25. Pauline Taylor permalink
    June 29, 2014

    These are truly great, Horace Warner was a genius with the camera, and the shyness and yet the underlying confidence of these children is a joy to behold. If only, if only photography was as good today but I fear that records of this quality of real people are few and far between, if not completely non existent now. Sadly it seems to be a dying art as, however good it is, colour photography does not have the same impact, just look at the pathos captured here!!

  26. June 29, 2014

    I hope your guest of March 29,2014, garden historian Margaret Willes, sees these for the examples of potted plants, window boxes, and a garden plot! The pictures can be studied for information on all sorts things, e.g., shoes, bare feet, basketry, clothes, hand carts, and hair cuts or braids. Congratulations on a wonderful find!

  27. Jan Marsh permalink
    June 29, 2014

    The 1901 exhibition was a mixed show, with works by a number of contemporary artists, not just Burne-Jones. So although the half-seen picture on the left looks like a Burne-Jones drawing or design, that on the right looks like a different artist but I don’t immediately recognise it. If the Whitechapel AG has a copy of the original catalogue, it can probably be identified. Given Horace W’s connections with Morris & Co., he could well have been acquainted with Burne-Jones. was he also friends with the Barnetts?

  28. Stef permalink
    June 29, 2014

    Could a young Mark Gertler be one of the boys?

  29. Brian Williamson permalink
    June 29, 2014

    I’ve been searching for reasons why my ancestors emigrated from East End London and Surrey to New Zealand during the latter part of the nineteenth century. I had only to look at these photographs to be given one good reason.

  30. Chris F permalink
    June 29, 2014

    What a find… The sisters Wakefield is my favourite picture. It has the look of a painting. I agree with Milo about Celia Compton but what a shame that more can’t be found out about her… She may have gone into service which might explain why she doesn’t appear on any local searches or the family may have emigrated.. Who knows? I wonder if the barefooted boys holding the posters were actually able to read them… I also wonder how many of those young boys marched off to France a decade later?

  31. June 30, 2014

    I worked in the East End in the 1990s as a photographer researcher. …. Horace’s work is beautiful and knowing …. want to see the collection placed in a book, even a Vintage print exhibit at the Museum of London, so all can see the dignity in which poverty can produce …. these images have to be preserved and promoted … it tells the world Who we Are !!! …. Bravo HW the work is exceptional ….. keith x

  32. June 30, 2014

    Celia Compton was born in Mile End on April 28, 1886 to Charles Compton and Mary Waugh. She married George Hayday on January 25, 1904. He was about 10 years older than her and on their marriage certificate (where she is named Cecelia) he is a chair maker.
    In 1911 they both lived at 5e Georges Square, Hoxton and were still there in 1935 when George died. I can’t find any record of Celia’s death (yet).

    They had no children that I can find.

  33. June 30, 2014

    The Wakefield sisters could have been Jessica and Rosalie who, in 1901, were living in 47 Hamilton Buildings, Shoreditch. Jessica was 9 and Rosalie was 5.

  34. Glenda permalink
    June 30, 2014

    Stunning photographs! Particularly interested in the Burne-Jones exhibition as studying Victorian art history. Many thanks Jan Marsh for the comments on the potential exhibition too! Family were living in Camberwell, so these images give a good idea of what their life would have been like.

  35. June 30, 2014

    Thank you for bringing the past, the poor, the proud so real to light. These children have a wonderful look that may be lost in this generation.

  36. June 30, 2014

    Very relaxed poses for this era. I assume he’s using large format camera that took a bit of time to set up. The benefit is that the subject becomes curious and relaxed. The process may take 5-10 minutes and I need even more than that to ease my subject today. The technique is outstanding all the way. I particularly like the posed images with hands crossed. The background is simple but yet tells a story. It’s almost contemporary or I’d say classic, timeless masterpieces. Looking forward to see the book.

    Jon Pall Vilhelmsson – photographer in Iceland.

  37. Robert Taylor permalink
    June 30, 2014

    Wonderful Photos……a period Ive always been interested in.

  38. Chris F permalink
    June 30, 2014

    Well done Lesley with your research… It’s amazing the amount of information that’s out there waiting to be unearthed.

  39. June 30, 2014

    Thankyou for sharing these remarkable photographs, in all their honesty both in happiness ans sadness.

  40. Mary Randazzo permalink
    July 1, 2014

    Stunningly beautiful photos. Would love to
    know what going through the minds of
    those subjects. Many stories to be told.

  41. July 1, 2014

    Such a revealing, touching link with the lives of Londoners poor in material goods but so rich in spirit. Take a good look at their shoes.

  42. Les Heasman permalink
    July 1, 2014

    Thanks for sharing these. My Grandparents came from Bethnal green and Southwark and used to tell me stories of these days.

  43. kerry brockhoff smith permalink
    July 1, 2014

    over the years as an artist i have received so much inspiration from photography – these are no exception and i am again in awe – just love them and thanks .

  44. Jan Marsh permalink
    July 1, 2014

    BURNE-JONES follow up: according to experts, most of the pictures in shot with the children at Whitechapel Art Gallery spring 1901 are indeed by Edward Burne-Jones. Far left: St Luke, oil version of a stained glass design, now owned Lord Lloyd Webber. Right: 1893 oil called Hope. Circular frame just glimpsed to left, probably Dies Domini, now Lady Lever Art Gallery Port Sunlight.
    The exhibition’s full title was : Modern Pictures by Living Artists, Pre-Raphaelites and Older English Masters.
    I wonder if Horace Warner positioned his subjects by Burne-Jones’s works thanks to Jeffrey & Co’s long association with Morris & Co, in which Burne-Jones was an original partner and chief designer.

  45. July 1, 2014

    And a warning to everyone who has boxes of photos under their bed to get them archived, and shared, as soon as possible.
    Lewisham Family Album. (Hop-picking/VE Day…etc)

  46. July 1, 2014

    Well, well, well.. The reason I couldn’t find a death for Celia Hayday (née Compton) is that she married again!

    In 1934, Celia Hayday married Henry Wood and they both were still living at 5e George Square Hoxton as late as 1949.

    Good on yer, girl!

  47. Derek Kearey permalink
    July 1, 2014

    Wonderful photographs. Glad to see them published. As someone with many ancestors from the East End it is such a shame that no names were recorded.
    Nevertheless, a part of histroy that should never be lost.

  48. Jackie Ward permalink
    July 1, 2014

    I have found a Celia Compton who married a George Hayday in 1904, then appears to have married again in 1935 to a Henry Wood, and possibly died in 1966 in Poplar, pretty sure its the same Celia, and I like the thought that she lived a good long life.. fantastic photographs just wish you could find out more about their lives.

  49. Graham Marks permalink
    July 2, 2014

    What an amazing portfolio, like opening a door to the past.

  50. July 2, 2014

    bitter sweet, its always great to see the past but so sad to see the poverty that these boys and girls suffered ,but its part of our heritage and glad to see the photographs survived ………

  51. July 2, 2014

    Just because these are lovely photographs, do not forget that Whitechapel contained what were possibly the most vicious slums known to Western man. A shocking number of these children might have died of disease, starvation or been worked to death in sweat factories at an early age. If you believe Jack London (The People of the Abyss) who lived there for four months, or Yiddish actor Jacob Adler (who’d seen his share of shtetles), and other writers/reformers of the era, you might consider all these images don’t show. Sorry to rain on the parade of these beautiful photos.

  52. Kate Hale permalink
    July 2, 2014

    What a wonderful discovery. I can’t wait to see them all.

  53. Casey permalink
    July 2, 2014

    Photobombers even back then!

  54. Sara Krohn permalink
    July 2, 2014

    I love this project and hope to see it come to fruition. Holyoke MA was influenced greatly by one such child of Spitalfields. Sarah S. Kilborne is the great great granddaughter of William Skinner- who came from Spitalfields as a silk dyer. She wrote a book (“American Phoenix: The Remarkable Story of William Skinner, A Man Who Turned Disaster Into Destiny”) about a flood that wiped his town of Skinnerville off the map, and how he and Holyoke, Massachusetts turned tragedy into fortune.

    We also have a photographic record of child laborers from Mills like his, in this town and in surrounding areas. Lewis Hines’ photos tell one story, while Joe Manning (a retired social worker from Florence, Massachusetts) tell other stories for the descendants of the workers- including the separation of family members due to poverty, etc. Mr. Manning was at Wistariahurst Museum this fall (in Holyoke), and speaks frequently in the area.

    Thank you, Gentle Author, for everything you do!- from across the pond here..

  55. July 2, 2014

    This is truly history to give Names and Faces to the People of the Past. Good work, indeed.
    Thank You for Sharing my Friends across the pond. Have a Blessed day.

  56. Julian Hartnoll permalink
    July 2, 2014

    If you have further photos of The Nippers at the Whitechapel if it would be most interesting to see them. Perhaps you have already shown them to Jan Marsh. JH

  57. Susan permalink
    July 2, 2014

    Fascinating pictures! My great-grandparents were married in a church in Spitalfields around 1882, so I am always interested in learning more about the area.

  58. the gentle author permalink*
    July 2, 2014

    To respond to the enquiry above – there will be several more photographs of the Nippers at the Whitechapel Gallery in the book.

  59. July 2, 2014

    Wonderful historical images, better than many today….some faces are so clear as if they had been taken only yesterday…you can really relate to this images as the real people they were…

  60. Kathleen Duffy permalink
    July 3, 2014

    Wonderful photographs. How heart-breakingly, desperately poor people were then. No welfare state – and now it is slowly being dismantled if we let it. I can’t stop looking at them. It’s us – back then.

  61. Josie Baldwin permalink
    July 3, 2014

    Wonderful pictures a real insight into the past some with footwear others bear foot

  62. Harriet Connides permalink
    July 3, 2014

    Just wonderful! Beautiful images – it just makes you speculate on what became of these children…wouldn’t it be amazing if the photographs were to be shown at The Whitechpel Gallery?

  63. July 3, 2014

    Being locally born, bred, worked & still live here – these pictures for some reason actually make me feel very proud. Agree with Harriet above, these should not only be in the Whitechapel but also on permanent display – forever. Thanks yet again to the GA for unveiling and preserving the amazingly rich history of the area and as a photographer – I doff my cap to Horace Warner. Aint a selfie on earth that can live with this stuff…

  64. Dawn Young permalink
    July 3, 2014

    My husband, Jon Pousette-Dart, and I stayed in a townhouse in Spitalfield during our stay in London for the 2012 Olympic Games. A veteran of 5 Olympics now, I thought that London did a fantastic job with the opening ceremonies, and all other aspects of the games. We especially liked Spitlafields with it’s Water Poet pub directly across the street, Popeye’s fish and chips, the Spitalsfield Market and several good restaurants, and more.

  65. July 3, 2014

    Marvelous photographs..but lets hope we don’t go back to the poverty evident here, poor mites with no or ill fitting shoes and rags.

  66. Lynne permalink
    July 3, 2014

    Wow wow !!… I just want to add a comment re the Celia Compton photo… My father knew her . My dad is 88 years young and was born and raised in Georges Square Hoxton from 1926 up until 1947/48.. He has strong memories of Mrs Hayday … Apparently she was a moneylender during the 20’s and 30’s. He remembers being given a few coppers by his mother , probably only a penny hapenny or farthing and being told to “go and give this to Mrs ‘Ayday” .He confirmed that she lived in 5 block on the third floor . He says that his defining memory of her , is that she was always sitting in bed whenever he called to pay the money .. A huge bed with crisp white linen sheets. He remembers her as a buxom woman with curls who wore Phul Nana perfume. Very exotic .. For a young boy whose own life was very poor , it’s no wonder these memories have stayed with him all this time.. He was really pleased to see the photograph of her and said he could see it was her although he knew her around 30 years after it was taken .. Thank you Gentle Author , very much, you have made my day …

  67. Julie permalink
    July 3, 2014

    Beautiful, moving, inspiring photographs. But I have a question: Why were poverty-stricken children attending an art exhibition? That seems a little odd, as if it’s a summer camp outing of some sort, which I’m sure these children never had. Any ideas?

  68. TeddyNuge permalink
    July 3, 2014

    It’s amazing how many of the little kids don’t even have shoes! They look so dirty and poor.

  69. romaine permalink
    July 3, 2014

    Absolutely stunning pictures! I had to scroll thru them a number of times. As with most pictures of this nature, they bring a new meaning to the lives they shot. As with many old photos too, I wonder how their lives played out. As the grandaughter of poor Scot mining immigrants, I feel these represent so many poverty stricken yet proud children. Thank you so much GA for sharing this treasure.

  70. July 3, 2014

    These photos are so alive and vibrant, and the comments have added further life to them! My Grandmother-in-Law (Tibbitts) lived in Blossom Street in Norton Folgate and was about 14 in 1901 with many younger brothers and sisters; I don’t know if Horace Warner’s patch included this area – not far from west end of Quaker Street – it would be so exciting if we found the family in there, but it will be great to see the book even if they’re not.

  71. Marcia Di Clemente permalink
    July 4, 2014

    I was born in Stepney in the 50’s and we lived in a tenement house in Clark Street with sweat shops across the street. We moved into a brand new flat when I was 5 years old. I’ll never forget the absolute love I had for that new flat, the smell of newness, the bright paint etc. I see these photos and, had I been born 50 years earlier I would’ve lived in that tenement house all my life. I wish I could bring them all back and give them a good life.

  72. Edward Power permalink
    July 4, 2014

    Absolutely wonderful. Made me sad and happy all at once. The genius of the photographer, to make them so real for us.

  73. July 4, 2014

    This is an amazing discovery! I had seen the first few photos. The program which saw approximately 118,000 impoverished children sent to Canada to be used as indentured servants and domestics, had its roots in East End London and Spitalfields. These children are now known at the British Home Children here in Canada and there is an increasing interest in these children. Estimate are over 4 million Canadian are descendants of these children. My very own Grandfather lived on the streets of London in 1895, an orphan. This is an exciting discovery for our organization, these children are so relevant to our beginnings. I hope this book will be published in Canada!

  74. R ichard Lucas permalink
    July 4, 2014

    These are certainly heart-touching pictures. My father Charles Lucas was a British Home boy who came to Canada in 1912. More stories are being told all the time of these boys and girls who were sent here at such tender ages. It is wonderful that they are now being recognized

  75. Dorothy permalink
    July 4, 2014

    Thank you for showing these wonderful photo’s my family on my husbands side are from the area, and recently I was contacted via Ancestry and sent a copy of my Grandmothers wedding it had been kept by this ladies Granddaughter my Gran’s best friend on her sideboard for years not in good condition but still intact. The power of the internet.

  76. Hetty Startup permalink
    July 5, 2014

    Not only a good story and amazing photographs but just reading through these comments establishes a kind of extra layer to this collection ….I was struck by the Art Gallery images too and reminded of Anna Davin’s work on children in the East End. Looking forward to the book from across the pond.

  77. July 5, 2014

    I love the fact that these children are posing for the camera – it tells us something about how they wished to represent themselves to the world. I also love the way in which the relationships between children are shown – clustered together, often hanging on to each other. Thank you so much for sharing these photographs.

  78. July 6, 2014

    Truly wonderful discovery, I can not wait to see the whole book!

  79. June Read permalink
    July 6, 2014

    Such beautiful photographs the faces of the children are so compelling. Their lives were so hard, yet their innocence is still captured.

  80. Anne Marie Garner permalink
    July 6, 2014

    What a treasure trove of pictures. The dignity of the subjects comes across so strongly. Thank you for sharing them with us online!

  81. July 6, 2014

    What a find! I am convinced that there are many more of these lost urban history chronicles tucked into the files of charitable institutions, just waiting for someone to care enough to ask if they exist.

    Here in Los Angeles, I discovered that the Union Rescue Mission had maintained such an archive (–photos of men who had been helped out of Skid Row alcoholism by the Mission, and transcripts of their stories as broadcast on the URM radio show. Like the Spitalfields Nippers photographs, these documents were produced for the edification of donors, to encourage continued giving. And as with the Nippers, while documenting these men, the Mission’s workers captured some astonishing images of their lost world.

    Thank you for doing this work. It is so important, and so beautiful.

  82. Yvonne permalink
    July 6, 2014

    Beautiful pictures.

  83. Helen green permalink
    July 7, 2014

    There is something that happens when we view such emotive images; an overwhelming sense of hopelessness that we cannot change their fortune, do we know what happened to any of these poor children?
    I had a quick search after Lesley wrote that it could be Jessica and Rosalie Wakefield who lived in Curtain Road Shoreditch and think you may be on the right track…I have found a site for the graphic works of Robert Ewart Osbourne who may well have been Rosalie’s Son by her first Husband Ewart Osbourne, he deserted both his Wife and child and set up home with some one else. Rosalie went on to marry Henry Burton and died in Waltham Forest.

  84. Terri McDonald permalink
    July 8, 2014

    What fascinating photographs. My Grandmother was born in this area of London in 1895…who know if she or one of her 13 siblings are in one of these photos! I still visit this area of London which is now a very up market place to live although there are still little gems from the old days to be found if one looks hard enough. How times have changed. Thank you so much for sharing these.

  85. John Ferman permalink
    July 13, 2014

    A rare insight into the life and times of people in history. What we are poorer for is that photography had not been invented hundreds of years earlier than mid 19th century. I can only imagine what we would see. Well done on for this collection.

  86. July 18, 2014

    A magnificent discovery. Thanks for sharing

  87. Shirlie Blackwell permalink
    July 24, 2014

    Wonderful wonderful photographs!! You can feel the atmosphere from those expressions and what it must have been like living in those times. Truly treasured photographs, thankyou sooo much for giving us an insight into the past 🙂

  88. Anna Davin permalink
    August 18, 2014

    I am delighted to learn that many more of Horace Warner’s wonderful photographs have been tracked down. I encountered them at an exhibition, (possibly at the Bedford Institute itself – I can’t remember – or maybe at Friends House) around 1974-5 when I lived in Elder St. I bought and treasured the accompanying booklet. In 1996 when finally my book Growing Up Poor: Home School and Street in London 1870- 1914 came out, I used four of them, one for the front cover. I had found them in the Library of the Society of Friends, where I was told that the Bedford Institute had bought a set of them in 1912.

  89. Slob permalink
    August 18, 2014

    Photographically charming? Yes! – But, let’s not forget the context of poverty, urban degradation, nits, mortality, disease suffered before an NHS and Welfare State came in and powerless before votes for all was bludgeoned through a stiff upper lip intransigent gentrified parliament by inspired lower-class upstarts that found their eloquent sonorous vernacular voice. Thank Heaven for Socialism changing all that past evil?

  90. Kitty permalink
    August 18, 2014

    These are great pictures and I love that someone here is linked to Celia Compton through her grandfather! What a great story, she sounds like quite a woman. She’s wearing wedding rings in that photo, so I wondered if she married at 16 perhaps? I also agree with the posters above about the horrific poverty in the east end slums, disease and crime were rife. It seems strange to think these photos were taken at the time of the Ripper murders in nearby Whitechapel in 1888. I wonder how many suffered or were lost in the World Wars that were just around the corner?

  91. September 14, 2014

    Superbe poste, pérennisez de cdtte façon

  92. September 24, 2014

    Јe suis clairement d’accord avec toi

  93. Scott Duffus permalink
    October 27, 2014

    Each week i visit my 94 year old Nan, Joan Barker, in her retirement home in Vancouver, Canada. My parents immigrated to Canada in 1964, with Joan following in 1965 after her husband, my grandfather, passed away suddenly.

    I have spent the last 47 years listening to Nan tell stories to us about her childhood in Spitafields – born in Fry Pan Alley, just 2 blocks from the market, in 1920. She describes her childhood as ragged, barefoot and 5 to a bug ridden bed! Playing children’s games in the courtyard of the Tower of London… stealing rides on horse drawn fruit carts to Covent Garden… begging at the soup houses in Brick Lane… fleeing from the mean old nuns in the local convent she had to attend. Last week she told me about the old underground passages beneath Spitafields Market where she and other ‘nippers’ would play! She calls it her most fascinating and exciting years – from a woman who has led an astonishing life.

    Her accounts and narratives are practically played out in the faces of the children in these photos. Virtually very visit to Nan, now in her mid 90’s, is centered around her reminiscing of her Spitafield childhood. These are amazing images put to my grandmothers own deeply poignant and personal stories! I can not wait to receive a copy and run it over to her. This is going to transport Joan back a lifetime!

  94. Dora Curtis (nee Seabrook) permalink
    October 28, 2014

    A relative forwarded me the link to this book and told me it had been featured on BBC’s The One Show where a picture was shown of my grandfather, Walter Seabrook! I never knew my father, also named Walter Seabrook as – so I was told – he suffered trauma whilst serving in the army in the Second World War and was admitted to a mental institution sometime in the 1940’s where he died in 1951 at the age of 32. I was born in 1942 and my mother ( now deceased) told me little else about my father or his family apart from mentioning names of his sisters. However, I have been able to do some research in recent years via the Internet. I therefore know, without doubt, that Walter Seabrook is/was my grandfather. It’s so very sad to learn that he died in Ware in 1971 as I live in Hertfordshire also and 1971 was the year I was married at the age of 28.

  95. November 8, 2014

    great work , great blog , always impressed

  96. jodi permalink
    June 28, 2015

    Lovely yet sad. I can’t help but think of the feet without shoes and empty stomachs.

  97. Rhonda permalink
    June 28, 2015

    has anyone doe follow-ups on the people in the photos? What ever happened to them?

  98. the gentle author permalink*
    June 28, 2015

    Yes, Rhonda, we traced more than thirty and you will find their biographies in the book SPITALFIELDS NIPPERS by Horace Warner that i published last November.

  99. Tim Christoffersen permalink
    September 17, 2015

    Actually, those boys holding newspapers cannot be from neither 1901 or 1902.
    Look at the date: MONDAY 2nd of July.
    Possible years: 1906, 1900, 1894, …..

  100. Becky permalink
    December 13, 2015

    Celia Compton could possibly have been transported to Australia to work out a term of servitude, as were many of the poor who fell on hard times in London. Judges were merciless and were glad to rid the streets of those who could not support themselves.

  101. brian silva permalink
    March 22, 2016

    I love the picture of Celia Compton. Would love a copy.

  102. brian silva permalink
    March 22, 2016

    Tim the sign actually says June 2

  103. Bob Fox permalink
    March 23, 2016

    My grandmother was born in Norton Folgate in the late 19th century. Norton Folgate connects Bishopsgate to Shoreditch High Street so next to Spitalfields. So the pictures are of great interest to me

  104. Thomas Compton permalink
    January 3, 2017

    Anyone do any resarch on Celia Comptons dad Charles Compton the wood chopper ? My granddad Thomas Compton was a wood chopper and would sell the wood around the london streets and it looks like the whole family choped wood for a living. My Compton’s came out of Islington.

  105. Thomas Compton permalink
    January 21, 2017

    I think I am related to Celia Compton, my great great granddad James Compton had a son Charles and in the old days they would keep the names going and keep it in the family. celia Compton had a dad named Charles who was a wood chopper. On doing the famly tree most of the Compton’s are wood choppers including the women. Just have to do a little more work on this to be 100%

  106. Ron Bunting permalink
    October 26, 2017

    I love looking at pics of the East End of this era. my Great Grand parents had connections everywhere there. My Great grandmother was Lillian Maud Defee and the Defees were of Huguenot decent. My GG grandfather, Joseph Benson Bunting,son of the Rev. Jabez Bunting ,married Charlotte Cazeley ,Another Huguenot Family from the west end and through them i am related to lots of different old time east end Families, Bonds, Hazels, Paines and so so on, all Huguenot names. The Buntings, being methodist were interest in Social reform with many of my relatives,especially the women being known as “social activists” at time when such things were considered a bit unseemly. It is interesting to note that Huguenot were refugees ( there presence coined the name) and bought with them many skills such as silk weavers, makers of fine shoes and watch and clock making.All of which helped Britains economy ,then in a cruel twist,after over 100 years of prosperity imports of silk from China saw the east ends decline begin .

  107. Leanne Teves permalink
    November 20, 2019

    Oh London… how I miss you. How I long for you.

  108. August 30, 2020

    Can you tell me if its possible to get these pictures as images or large format files i can get printed

    Thank you

  109. April 11, 2021

    My Nan was born in Mile End in 1997 to Mary elizabeth Roberts. My Nan was May Elizabeth Roberts, and I’ve been trying to do a family tree. To find these pictures has opened my eyes to where she came from.

  110. September 19, 2021

    My nan was born Gun Street Artillery Lane in the 1890s. Love these photos

  111. September 27, 2021

    Fabulous pictures. Have just ordered the book and can’t wait to go through it.

  112. Lisa Whitmarsh permalink
    April 16, 2023

    Love these photos, I have just discovered that my Great Grandmother on my dads side was born and lived in Union Place between 1881 and the 1891 census, by the 1901 census she and her family had moved to Rotherhithe in Bermondsey, her name was Ellen White and her father Was Joseph William White, she was married in 1905/6 having moved to a rural town of Bruton in Somerset

  113. October 29, 2023

    I have recently discovered a picture of my great uncle Thomas Neale who is one of the children in these photos. But he lived in the village if Adpenden in Hertfordshire and wasn’t in Spitalfields at this time. So I don’t know why he’s featured. Does anyone know why children who didn’t live there are included?

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