Skip to content

Annie & Nellie Lyons by Horace Warner

November 4, 2014
by the gentle author

I am looking forward to welcoming readers to my SPITALFIELDS NIPPERS lecture in the Great Hall at the Bishopsgate Institute tonight at 7:30pm, with complimentary refreshment courtesy of Truman’s Beer. I shall be introducing the photographs and reading some biographies of the children portrayed by Horace Warner.

This event is sold out. If you have a ticket and are unable to come please call the Box Office 020 7392 9200 and let them know, so that it can be released for someone else. Due to popular demand, an additional date on Friday December 5th is now booking.

Is this Joseph or William at the window?


I am haunted by Horace Warner’s tender and intense portrait of Annie Lyons with her arm round her vulnerable little sister Nellie, unaware of the mysterious face at the window. Once we researched these children’s lives, we uncovered an interview with their mother, which gives an explicit account of the family circumstances that lie behind this photograph.

Annie and Nellie Lyons, born 1895 and 1901 respectively, were the sixth and ninth of ten children of Annie Daniels. Only half of Annie’s children survived to adulthood. Their mother’s words are recorded in the Bethnal Green Poor Law document of 1901.

“My name is Annie Daniels, I am thirty-five years old. My occupation is a street seller. I was born in Thrawl St to Samuel Daniels and Bridget Corfield. Around fifteen or sixteen years ago, I met William Lyons who is thirty-eight years old, at this time he was living at 4 Winfield St. He is a street hawker. The last known address for William is Margaret’s Place. I have had eight children: Margaret born 1888 in Beauvoir Sq. William born 1889 in Tyssen Place. Joseph born 1891 in Whiston St. William born in Tyssen Place died. James died in Haggerston Infirmary. Annie born in 1895 at Hoxton Infirmary. Lily born April, one year and four months ago at Baker’s Row. Ellen born April, one month ago at Baker’s Row. About ten or eleven years ago, I had a son called John. He was sent away around seven years ago to the Hackney Union House. My eldest daughter Margaret is living with my sister Sarah and her husband Cornelius Haggerty. My son Joseph is living with my other sister Caroline and her husband Charles Johnson. I have moved from various addresses over the last ten years and have been lodging with my sister Mary for three years in Dorset St previous to Lily’s birth.”


[youtube WOJlJ0qfFrs nolink]

You may also like to read about

Wakefield Sisters by Horace Warner

An Astonishing Photographic Discovery

In Search of Horace Warner

An Old Tin Badge

14 Responses leave one →
  1. November 4, 2014

    Dear TGA, could you record your SPITALFIELDS NIPPERS lecture and put it on YOUTUBE…?? All the best for tonight!

    Love & Peace

  2. November 4, 2014

    It certainly is a most haunting image and really not that far back in history. Thank God for the creation of the welfare state and the NHS.

  3. November 4, 2014

    That poor woman.

  4. Linda G permalink
    November 4, 2014

    I live in Toronto, Canada and wish I could be there for your talk tonight–two London friends were lucky enough to get tickets.
    I agree with the person asking for a video of the talk. If it’s available to those of us ‘across the sea’ that won’t take away from any earnings you may yet have from repeat performances in London. (I hope not.)
    Have fun tonight! I know my London friends will!
    (and I have to ask–did those children ever get to wash? No understanding of hygiene then, or, really a matter of access to clean water to wipe down with? Couldn’t a local church help with washing face and hands? Poor babies! And mum.)

  5. Barbara permalink
    November 4, 2014

    Have a great evening . Well done for getting all this together ! Who knows what you are going to unearth next ???

  6. Vicky permalink
    November 4, 2014

    This picture of baby Nellie and protective sister Annie touches me most out of all the pictures in the book. Annie has tied some beads around Nellie’s neck to make her look lovely whilst her own hair has been tied in a top knot, no doubt by their caring mother.

    To answer Linda – access to water was extremely difficult in areas such as this where large families living in very overcrowded conditions, often up to twelve in one room, in multi occupancy houses, shared one tap in the common courtyard. The air and everything they touched was was thick with coal dust and other heavy pollutants making keeping clean almost impossible. Finding enough money for food to feed the family and pay the rent was mother’s priority. That they survived at all is a miracle, and some didn’t, women could die of exhaustion, and men could as well.

  7. Roger Carr permalink
    November 4, 2014

    A great find, and amazing that this body of work went unnoticed for so long. Quite a beautifully produced book. Nice to see kids rolling around in dirt . . . and seemingly,no worse off for it.

  8. Pauline Taylor permalink
    November 4, 2014

    I agree with Vicky’s answer to Linda. These poor mothers deserve our sympathy, their lives must have been miserable beyond belief, no contraception resulting in far too many children, terrible infant mortality, very limited access to water of any kind let alone clean drinking water, lavatories shared by many other families, and all the other horrors that went with this sort of deprivation. To me it is a miracle and a great credit to the mothers that any of these children survived at all.

  9. Susan permalink
    November 4, 2014

    Vicky – thanks for your comments. People really did live in appalling conditions. An article from the Daily Mail on these photos states:

    “On these streets and alleys, hordes of urchins eked out a hand-to-mouth existence, fending for themselves while their parents worked 14-hour days in the factories and docks…Infant mortality was higher in 1900 than in 1800, as increasing numbers of families sought work in the cities. In the East End, nearly 20 per cent of children died before their first birthday. Poor families lived ten to a room with no clean water for washing and drinking… Dead animals littered the streets. Excrement and rubbish often blocked the drains. Diseases such as diphtheria, cholera and measles flourished…A third of households were without a male breadwinner and women were forced to go out to work, leaving children as young as six to look after their younger siblings…Older children ran errands, swept the streets, cleaned windows or helped to make matchboxes and paintbrushes. It was poorly paid, exhausting work, especially for malnourished children, but their contribution — small as it was — could help buy a little stale bread. According to Erica Davies, director of the Ragged School Museum in East London: ‘These children tried very hard to survive while facing overwhelming odds.’

    I am sure their mothers (and fathers, when they were around) were also malnourished and exhausted.

    I also agree that it would be wonderful to have this lecture on video! (I’m in Canada too).

  10. MIRIAM DELORIE permalink
    November 8, 2014

    Thank you Gentle Author, you are doing an absolute amazing thing. For me and so many others you are bring our family nearer to us with your pictures and everything that you do! My father and grandparents lived in Whitechapel and I look forward to your regular updates of the East End. my very best wishes Miriam

  11. Martin Palmer permalink
    September 8, 2016

    I wonder what is scratched in the paving stone under the blanket?

  12. Valerie Coulson permalink
    November 8, 2016

    This is not either William or Joseph at the window, as it states that William had died, it is recorded in 1901, and William had passed away by then and that Joseph is living with Caroline (Annies sister) and her husband Charles Johnson, I have a slight suspicion that this is Annie herself at the window, if you look closely you can make out hair in a small bun and around her face.

  13. Anna Mac Dougall permalink
    September 14, 2023

    Did Nellie survive ?

  14. Kel permalink
    January 26, 2024

    Ellen must be Nellie. Says she was born in 1901 in the photo and the moms interview was in 1901 where she has a one month old named Ellen. The mystery is that her kids dad seems to be totally missing from her life by her interview except to make babies as she has been living with her sister for three years and doesn’t seem too sure where he is , and two of her kids were still infants and she’d go on to have two more. What a tragic mess.

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS