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Philip Mernick’s East London Shopfronts

February 5, 2015
by the gentle author

These splendid shopfronts from the beginning of the last century are published courtesy of Philip Mernick who has been collecting postcards of the East End for more than thirty years. In spite of their age, the photographs are of such high quality that they capture every detail and I could not resist enlarging parts of them so you can peer closer at the displays.

S.Jones, Dairy, 187 Bethnal Green Rd

J.F. List, Baker, 418 Bethnal Green Rd

A.L.Barry, Chandlers & Seed Merchants, 246 Roman Rd

Direct Supply Stores Ltd, Butcher, Seven Sisters Rd

Vanhear’s Coffee Rooms, 564 Commercial Rd

Williams Bros, Ironmonger, 418 Caledonian Rd

Francis J. Walters, Undertakers, 811 Commercial Rd

Pearks Stores, Grocer, High St, East Ham

A. Rickards, Umbrella Manufacturer, 30 Barking Rd, East Ham

Huxtables Stores, Ironmonger, Broadway, Plaistow

E.J Palfreyman, Printer, Bookbinder & Stationer, High Rd, Leytonstone

J.Garwood, Greengrocer, Bow Rd

“The banana is the safest and most wholesome fruit there is”

You may also like to take a look at Philip Mernick’s other collections

Billy & Charley’s Shadwell Shams

Billy & Charley’s Curious Leaden Figures

Billy & Charley’s Reliquaries

London Salt-Glazed Stoneware

Mortlake Jugs

32 Responses leave one →
  1. ROBERT GREEN permalink
    February 5, 2015

    These are lovely, “proper” shops, amazingly until just a few years ago Francis J Walters in East India Dock Road still looked >exactly< the same as it dose in the picture shown hear, and although the building still stands at the moment sadly plans are afoot to demolish it, my grandfather who was born in Canning Town once worked for Huxtables Stores in Plaistow, as can be see in these photo's years ago shops use to cram their windows with so much stock, even right up until the late 50s and even into the 60s I can remember my father dressing the windows in our shop in Upton Park and it use to take him days to finish each window, he would cram something into every available space, and then spend hour's hand painting price tickets for each item, and he would spend literally days going in and out of the shop to look at his display from both sides to make sure that everything in the window was straight and in exactly the right place, just like the shops in these photo's, I wish shops would take such pride in their windows these days, I was definitely born in the wrong era, I like these photo's so much.

  2. Phyllis permalink
    February 5, 2015

    I enjoyed every square centimeter of these photos. And when was the last time a shopper could get bananas and medical advice all at one location??

  3. February 5, 2015

    I love the photos and close ups. The range of goods is fascinating and I thought the place offering the cheapest and best funerals was especially poignant.

  4. February 5, 2015

    “No connection with any other shops on this road”
    That’s telling them!
    And eggs branded as ‘Ovum’. mmmm.

    Excellent pictures and wonderful works of art in the windows. Really interesting to hear about your father Robert.

  5. February 5, 2015

    Two boys in the windows above Huxtables!

  6. February 5, 2015

    The good old times — and there is also a cheap funeral you get!

    Love & Peace

  7. February 5, 2015

    Wonderful photos, which remind me of the little shops in my childhood – always crammed full, and so much to see and wonder about. Good to see some of the old brand names, too. Valerie

  8. February 5, 2015

    What a wonderful collection. Thanks for posting!

  9. February 5, 2015

    delightful full of local colour and personality that really comes from individually / family owned businesses …some thing for shop keepers everywhere to aspire to today – thank you once again

  10. February 5, 2015

    These are simply world changing for a Sign Painting bloke like me!! Thanks for this great post… Archives like these are so important to the revival of traditional East End London.

  11. February 5, 2015

    Garwood, Banana seller, was on Bow Road (not Plaistow). The shop was on the south side opposite Bow Church. The whole of that stretch down to Bow Bridge was lined with small shops, such a contrast with today’s massed blocks of flats.
    Philip Mernick

  12. February 5, 2015

    These are great – is there a book by Philip of these and others like them?
    What a wonderful archive.

  13. David permalink
    February 5, 2015

    Fascinating collection. Recently we had the wonderful series of photos of East End Entertainers which featured Elsie and Doris Waters. Some of us old enough (in my case just) to know they had an act popular on radio and stage as Gert and Daisy. They have a connection with the shop fronts as they were part of the family of Francis Walters Undertakers in fact I think they must have been daughters of that family. One of their brothers who also thought Walters was a slightly cumbersome name changed it for his career to Warner first name Jack and became the nations favourite copper.
    I know this because my late mother was a friend of their family.

  14. Maddie permalink
    February 5, 2015

    Sadly of all the shopfronts with an exact address, Francis J Waters was the only one which could still just be recognised from the 811 at the base of the columns, which are themselves no longer there. So sad to hear that it was in tact until recently. Old shopfronts that remain even amongst a sea of aluminium and plastic should be listed before they are all gone!

  15. February 5, 2015

    Wonderful images: my favourites are the ironmongers and purveyors of ‘utensils’, but I was struck by the ref. to Dr Allinson’s bread, as I use Allinson’s yeast. ODNB says he was a much respected dietician, but also had some rather eccentric ideas: he opposed surgical interventions, and vaccination of children, as the body should be treated as a whole to maintain/restore health. However, his basic prescription of fresh air, exercise and good diet still holds up!

  16. February 5, 2015

    Brilliant pictures, thanks so much for showing these. I wish I could time travel.

  17. February 5, 2015

    I love old hand painted shop signs like these 🙂
    There seems to be a few trendy shops round Spitalfields that are going for the same look, a kind of neo-Victorian aesthetic. A teeny bit fake, but much better than garish neon plastic signs hanging off beautiful old buildings – I think they look pretty cool. Did you see the painted shopfront uncovered recently in Whitechapel? ‘Bresslof & sons’ (i think…) at no. 303, near the station.

    I reckon sign painting must be a really satisfying job (i’m sure Nick could confirm this!)

    Thanks for yet another great post, GA!

  18. Evelyn V permalink
    February 5, 2015

    How I wish I could walk the aisles of the stores shown! Except the undertakers. Thank you from Connecticut-enjoy your blog immensely.

  19. February 5, 2015

    Remember the Monty Python sketch about self-defense against attackers armed with ripe bananas? Perfect to have medical advice at hand!

  20. February 5, 2015

    Simply brilliant and, as above, worthy of a book if there are plenty more.

  21. Mike Charlton permalink
    February 5, 2015

    Wonderful photographs and great close-ups! Yes, the pre-fridge, pre-supermarket era, when housewives went to the local shops daily to buy the food for that day. It was a daily social event, where gossip and news could be exchanged and where the customer-vendor bond was strong. This continued in an ever-decreasing manner, even until the 80s in some places, but became more and more of a way merely to supplement the supermarket shop. Hence the death of the majority of local shops, as well as the erosion of relationships between neighbours and shop-keepers, all because of the simultaneous rise of the characterless supermarket.

  22. Barbara Hague permalink
    February 5, 2015

    I remember Pearks in East Ham – don’t know when it disappeared, but walking to Derby Road from the underground station and up and down the High Street to visit parents’ I hadn’t seen it for many years.

  23. Richard Shepherd permalink
    February 5, 2015

    Beautiful! I hope that one day soon these photos appear in a book about shop fronts in the Victorian East End. I frequently go through the area looking for the last remaining traces of painted signage, these days known as ‘ghost signs’. There are still some wonderful examples left for the careful searcher.

  24. Elizabeth cornwell permalink
    February 5, 2015

    We are very lucky ,in our local town there is still an old fashioned ironmongers full of stuff where you can buy anything from a single screw to a battleship if the owners looked hard enough!Its a wonderful shop & always busy!

  25. Stephen Barker permalink
    February 5, 2015

    Fascinating photographs, I for one would buy a book of photographs of old shop fronts. Living in Leicestershire I know of a hardware shop in Market Harborough where goods are piled up outside on the pavement. The shop is crammed with stock with just a narrow passageway to the counter. In Uppingham there is a traditional ironmongers which has in stain glass above the main windows Gas fitters and Bell hangers.

  26. Pauline Taylor permalink
    February 5, 2015

    Lovely! We are about to move our bookshop into mediaeval premises in our town and we are making plans already as to exactly how we want it to look so I really enjoyed looking at these. So much thought and effort went into window displays then and the advertisement which included White Horse Oils brought back memories of the bottle of this oil which we always had in our house. My grandfather was a horseman and my mother swore by the horse oils which she made up herself to her father’s recipe, I can vividly recall the smell now but they did the trick if you had any aches and pains, it wasn’t only horses who benefitted!


  27. Daryl Chambers permalink
    February 5, 2015

    A social historian`s dream. Many thanks.

  28. February 6, 2015

    Oh, the power of advertising! and the pride of the shopkeepers. And what a joy to indulge the human impulse to acquisitiveness with such window shopping. I see Spratt’s Puppy biscuits are advertised at an appropriate level. Thank you for this fascinating post.

  29. April 11, 2015

    What fantastic photographs.Thank you for enlarging too!
    I can trace my East End heritage all the way back to 1758, Bethnal Green and Wick (Hampton) as it was known then was the place my ancestors originated from.I so wish I could time travel, step into the photographs and live there.A day would do me fine!

  30. Mark Brennan permalink
    October 13, 2015

    Great photos. This was my granddad’s parents’ shop. Sadly we don’t have an adress, but it must have been either in Hackney (My granddad was born at No1 Well Street), or Walthamstow, where they later moved to. I contacted the heritage department of both councils, but had no luck. My granddad is the youth standing in the doorway.His name was Henry Woodroffe. His father, who owned the shop, was Charles Ratcliffe Woodroffe.

  31. Shirley Carney permalink
    November 2, 2015

    I was looking at the wonderful old shop photographs and wondered if you had any of shops in Major Road around 1920 1935 time as I have been told my maternal grandparents had a grocery shop there,, was told it was called Ushers Stores.

  32. Gandha key permalink
    June 6, 2022

    Do you have copyright on the Huxtable Stores photo I’d love to do a lino print of it. I’m a London based printmaker.

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