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Val Perrin’s Empty Brick Lane

December 22, 2014
by the gentle author

At Shoreditch Station, looking through to Brick Lane

In this final selection from Val Perrin‘s superb pictures of Spitalfields taken between 1970-72, and published now for the first time, I have focussed on his atmospheric photography of the deserted streets, recording the sense of abandonment and dereliction which prevailed at that time.

Cheshire St

Brick Lane

Sclater St

Hanbury St

Brushfield St

Photographs copyright © Val Perrin

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24 Responses leave one →
  1. Melvyn Brooks permalink
    December 22, 2014

    A vanished World.

    In the early 1960s I used to work washing dishes in Barnet’s in the Lane with Uncle Manny keeping an eye on me.

    Nearly opposite my late brother started his very successful oriental carpet business selling small cut-offs from fitted carpets that had been taken up and were to be thrown away. The pieces under draws and cupboards were like new. They were sold for car rugs for a few shillings each from two orange boxes that took the place of a wheel-barrow. From these small beginnings to a million pound business.

  2. December 22, 2014

    A terrific set of pictures – including the two selections of the market – brimming with character and texture. May we look forward to an exhibition, or a book?

  3. Greg Tingey permalink
    December 22, 2014

    What an “eye”!
    I particularly like the: first – by the old East London line tube station, the pair of abandoned botts ( Bentine-style ) & the pair of handcarts in fornt of “Steinfeld’s”
    Even I had forgotten how bad it had become, then.

  4. December 22, 2014

    Wonderful and atmospheric photos today, this is how I remember it before I left London. Valerie

  5. Barbara permalink
    December 22, 2014

    Theses are absolutely brilliant ! Just as I remember these streets when I visited them in the 60’s / 70’s . Well done G .A for “discovering ” them .

  6. Ros permalink
    December 22, 2014

    These too are excellent, and the one of the Bengali woman looking out of the window on the corner of Bacon St might have made an alternative book jacket for Monica Ali’s Brick Lane. A really good eye for how it was, though of course it didn’t look quite as desolate when there were people on the streets. But it was then a neglected and rundown area – who could have foreseen what lay in store…

  7. moyra peralta permalink
    December 22, 2014

    Powerful imagery – and a great deal of feeling.
    And, to paraphrase ACHIM, Love & Peace to the good ship SL, and all who sail with her.

  8. December 22, 2014

    Sure those were nicer playgrounds for children than nowadays…

    Love & Peace & Merry Christmas

  9. December 22, 2014

    The first time I was in London was the summer of 1967. I was a shallow, callow teenager from suburban Los Angeles. I remember riding on the bus tour of London and looking at the blight left by the Blitz and the post war economic disarray and thinking “But the War was over almost 20 years ago! Why aren’t things cleaned up?” So sad that my own education was so blatantly deficient that I could even entertain such arrogant thoughts.

    Thank you, Gentle Author, for all your good efforts. And heartfelt thanks to all those folks in the photographs who have big smiles in the face of that hardship.

  10. sean thomas knox (@thomasknox) permalink
    December 22, 2014

    Brilliant pics. I have retweeted. I lived in Wapping in 1981 and it was just like this. People forget how recently entire chunks of London were horribly rundown, if not derelict.

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  12. John E permalink
    December 22, 2014

    Great pics. On the other hand, lots of places that were thriving in London at that time are now dumps. A lot of areas past zone 3 eg much of Woolwich & Lewisham town centres.

  13. December 22, 2014

    Thanks for publishing these pictures of Brick Lane as I remember it. I lived in the area in the early 1970s and still yearn for Kossoff’s cheesecake!

  14. Pauline Taylor permalink
    December 22, 2014

    What wonderful skilful photography this was and I entirely agree that the photographer has the “eye”. Black and white photography of course emphasises the overwhelming sad and melancholy atmosphere but you still need that eye to compose each shot. I am SO impressed by these that it is hard to find the right words, but, once again, thank you GA for letting us see them.

  15. December 23, 2014

    I love the cold splendor of these black and white photos. They’re beautiful.

  16. Elizabeth cornwell permalink
    December 23, 2014

    They are very evocative,but could you show them as they appear now,to see how its changed?

  17. Fay Cattini permalink
    December 27, 2014

    I’m sure the little boy shown in 2 photos (in one he is straddled on the wall and in the other is helping up another boy) is Peter Holt, the youngest of 4 children. His father had a workshop in Wheler St and made and mended the long, flat market barrows (you can see some in the photos). Mr Holt retired when the market closed. Peter was and still is best friends with my stepson. It was Council policy for many years to let the part of Brick Lane between Buxton St and Bethnal Green Rd become derelict as they designated it for light industrial use. They even knocked down one side of Sclater St to make a lorry park – it was a disastrous policy and blighted that part of Brick Lane. But you need people to make a place living. I watched the old Bishopsgate Goodsyard burn down and that was left to rot too. Let’s hope the planners can do something with that site to bring the life back into that part of Spitalfields.

  18. Lorna Stodell permalink
    December 28, 2014

    Photos brought back so many memories of living in Bacon Street.

  19. Bill Piggott permalink
    December 31, 2014

    I am so pleased that at last these superb pictures have been allowed to escape from the boxes under the photographer’s bed where they have been for upwards of 40 years ! For almost as long I have thought that these pictures were quite good enough to merit proper public exposure yet the photographer was too modest to push them forward in any way. In the past few years my daughter has had custody of some of the prints and has been trying to interest without much success various galleries and museums…..however, when I picked up a copy of the Spitalfields Life book I finally realised that maybe this was the way to get the pictures “out there”, and so it has proved…I am so pleased that they are giving such pleasure to people, and I know that Val himself is equally delighted…..Val Perrin and I have known each other since we started school together in Ealing when we were 5 and we had many joint expeditions around London between the late 50’s and the early 70’s, including a couple of times when I was with him whilst he was taking these wonderful shots….he frequently would “shoot from the hip” so as not to upset or antagonise the subjects and on more than one occasion incurred the wrath of an unwilling subject when they realised that they were being captured for posterity….it was all worth it though, for unrepeatable “living history” is now available for all to see…..
    There is surely a book to be distilled from these prints, and others as yet unseen….maybe even a “then and now” type volume? Bill Piggott

  20. Daniel permalink
    November 8, 2017

    Amazing photos! I’m doing a project looking at how these buildings have changed over the years, and Kismet Stores is one of them! If anyone had any information about this store, how long it was in operation for and perhaps was existed there before hand, if would be great to hear from you. The same for The Seven Stars Pub and the old Jolly Butchers building at 157 Brick Lane.

    Best, Daniel

  21. Shaheena permalink
    May 31, 2020

    The woman looking out of the window is my mother. Not Bengali but first generation Pakistani. She was very lonely. She was also the chef of Shalimar Restaurant and my home – 141 Brick Lane.

  22. Shaheena permalink
    May 31, 2020

    And not only is my mother in the shots but you’ve also captured my brother. The young lad climbing the brick wall… on what looks like the ruins of the building we lived opposite in Bacon Street/Brick Lane – Sohail Hussain. Fantastic.. thank you for invoking faint and forgotten memories of what living in Brick Lane at the Bethnal Green end was really like….

  23. May 31, 2020

    The lad climbing the wall is my brother – Sohail Hussain

  24. Ijaz permalink
    June 1, 2020

    Yes fay , that is friend peter holt the blonde boy, helping my brother up the wall

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