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Winter Light In Spitalfields

December 1, 2014
by the gentle author

We are back in December again and the inexorable descent into the winter darkness has begun, even if just three weeks from now we shall reach the equinox and days will start to lengthen. At this season, I am more aware of light than at any other – especially when the city languishes under an unremitting blanket of low cloud, filtering the daylight into a grey haze that casts no shadow.

Yet on recent mornings I have woken to sunlight and it lifts my spirits to walk out through the streets under a clear sky. On such days, the low-angled sunshine and its attendant deep shadow conjures an exhilarating drama.

In these particular conditions of light, walking from Brick Lane down Fournier St is like advancing through a cave towards the light, refracting around the vast sombre block of Christ Church that guards the entrance. The street runs from east to west and, as the sun declines, its rays enter through the churchyard gates next to Rectory illuminating the houses opposite and simultaneously passing between the pillars at the front of the church to deliver light at the western end where it meets Commercial St.

For a spell, the shadows of the stone balls upon the pillars at the churchyard gate fall upon the houses on the other side of the street and then the rectangle of light, admitted between the church and the Rectory, narrows from the width of a house to single line before it fades out. At the junction with Commercial St, the low-angled sun directed through the pillars in the portico of Christ Church casts tall parallel bars of light and shade that travel down Fournier St from the Ten Bells as far as number seven, reflecting off the window panes to to create a fleeting pattern like stars within the gloom of the old church wall.

As you can see from these photographs, I captured these transient effects of light with my camera to share with you as a keepsake of winter sunshine, for consolation when those clouds descend again.

The last ray

The shadow of the cornice of Christ Church upon the Rectory

The shadow of the pillars of Christ Church upon Fournier St

Windows in Fournier St reflecting upon the church wall

In Princelet St

You may also like to read about

Midwinter At Christ Church Spitalfields

A View of Christ Church Spitalfields

19 Responses leave one →
  1. December 1, 2014


  2. Victoria permalink
    December 1, 2014

    Thank you for observing and capturing the light and the shadows. Winter sunlight is a favourite of mine, which I love especially for its transience.

  3. December 1, 2014

    Wonderful photos – light is so important, especially in winter, and your light and shadow photos are very atmospheric. Valerie

  4. December 1, 2014


  5. December 1, 2014

    How very beautiful and what a nice sentiment. Thank you 🙂

  6. Greg Tingey permalink
    December 1, 2014

    this example, do you mean?
    There are a lot of Fournier street in their archive, but the available search engine is very unreliable

  7. Haydn E Ebbs permalink
    December 1, 2014

    Thank you once again……great pictures. My Gt Gt Grandfather (Thomas Jarvis) lived at 23 Fornier St. Spitalfields (c 1877)…..

  8. armier permalink
    December 1, 2014


    Wonderfully and wordlessly emblematic of why some of us love our capital with such fervour and dedication.

    (emblematic too of the madness of Hammerson and Ballymore’s plans for Bishopsgate Goodsyard)

  9. December 1, 2014

    Beautiful photos. This is exactly why I love this time of year so much, that beautiful, melancholy fading light and the shadows it creates. Thank you for sharing.

  10. barry matthews permalink
    December 1, 2014

    I loove this part of London. This is my favourite Church..I live 70 miles away, but get here quite a few times a year..

  11. December 1, 2014

    *** A contemplative Advent season to all! ***

    Love & Peace

  12. Sarah C permalink
    December 1, 2014

    Great pictures.

  13. Sharon permalink
    December 1, 2014

    Wonderful photos, so evocative. I live in a house with a North facing back garden which receives no sunlight during the winter months. Each spring I can’t wait for the day that the sun is high enough to cast its light on the top of the garden wall. Then I know that the dark days are almost behind us. I can’t bear to imagine what it would be like to live in the shadow of those proposed towers…

  14. Patricia permalink
    December 1, 2014

    Beautiful, TGA, thank you x

  15. corina rox permalink
    December 1, 2014

    My daughter has just finished a photography project based on Brick Lane and surrounding area. We spent 3 days down there at sunset.
    Love these photos Lovery the area. Can’t wait to come down one Sunday before Xmas.

  16. December 1, 2014

    Beautiful pictures. Just what we need to get us through the next couple of months. As a previous inhabitant Princelet Street I won’t delete immediately!

  17. Ros permalink
    December 1, 2014

    really beautiful photos of Fournier Street and the patterns made by the light on Christ Church. Both the street and the church were built to impress, and the church to dominate, but the difference between them and the monstrous towers currently threatened is that aesthetic considerations came into the equation! Thanks for highlighting the beauty that’s there and worth protecting.

  18. jeannette permalink
    December 2, 2014

    umbra sumus but also light, gentle author. i love it when you just go and be in the great city. what could be better than london light? god rest you, merry gentleman.

  19. Lisa permalink
    December 5, 2014

    Wonderfully written.Quite poetic.

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