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Malcolm Tremain’s Spitalfields

March 25, 2016
by the gentle author

In 1981, when Malcolm Tremain was working as a Telephone Engineer in Moorgate, he bought an Olympus 0M1 and set out to explore his fascination with Spitalfields.

‘I used to come over and wander round whenever I felt like it,’ he admitted to me, ‘I never thought I was making a record, I just wanted to take interesting photographs.’ Published for the first time today, Malcolm’s pictures of Spitalfields in the early eighties capture a curious moment of stasis and neglect before the neighbourhood changed forever.

Passage from Allen Gardens to Brick Lane – ‘I asked this boy if I could take his picture and he said, ‘yes.’ When I looked at the photograph afterwards, I realised he had one buckle missing from his shoe.’

Spital Sq, entrance to former Central Foundation School now Galvin Restaurant

In Spital Sq

In Brune St

In Toynbee St

Corner of Grey Eagle St & Quaker St

In Quaker St

Off Quaker St

Outside Brick Lane Mosque – ‘People dumped stuff everywhere in those days’

In Puma Court

Corner of Wilkes St & Princelet St

In Wilkes St

Outside the Jewish Soup Kitchen in Brune St

Outside the night shelter in Crispin St – ‘He was shuffling his feet, completely out of it’

In Crispin St

In Bell Lane

In Parliament Court

In Artillery Passage

In Artillery Passage

In Middlesex St – ‘note the squint letter ‘N’ in ‘salvation”

In Bishopsgate

In Bishopsgate

Petticoat Lane Market

In Wentworth St

In Wentworth St

In Wentworth St

In Wentworth St

In Wentworth St

In Fort St

In Allen Gardens

In Pedley St

In Pedley St

In Pedley St – ‘Good horse manure available – Help yourself – No charge’

At Pedley St Bridge

In Sun St Passage at the back of Liverpool St – ‘Note spelling ‘NATOINE FORANT”

In Sun St Passage

Photographs copyright © Malcolm Tremain

You may also like to take a look at

David Hoffman at Fieldgate Mansions

Val Perrin’s Spitalfields

Philip Marriage’s Spitalfields

Dan Cruickshank’s Spitalfields

Andrew Scott’s East End

21 Responses leave one →
  1. March 25, 2016

    Wonderful photos which bring back lots of memories. Valerie

  2. March 25, 2016

    Any clue what happened to the pub the Pendennis Arms which our Cavalier family had. Was in Quaker Street.

  3. Rosemary Hoffman permalink
    March 25, 2016

    I lived opposite the entrance to Artillery passage and walked though it on my way to school, Sad to see the demolition of Central Foundation but think they preserved the doorway, My great grandparents lived in Gun Street. The whole area was once a place where they made weapons hence the names Gun, Fort , streets and Artillery |Lane

  4. Ros permalink
    March 25, 2016

    These are so evocative, reminders of how desolate Spitalfields had become in the 60’s,70’s and 80’s, though the markets were still full of life. Very pleased Malcolm Tremain took and kept these photos. I particularly like the one of the woman sweeping the step at Brune House. One regrets the exchange of the integrity and unpretentiousness of those days for the brashness and conspicuous consumption of now, but one can’t altogether regret the exchange of neglect and poverty for the life and vitality seen everywhere in Spitalfields today.

  5. Neville Turner permalink
    March 25, 2016

    Photo’s of spitalfieldsi as it really was and show the real reasons why almost everyone
    who lived there wanted to escape,realism doing it’s job.Keep up the good work.

  6. Richard permalink
    March 25, 2016

    Great photos. The streetscape was more interesting then though probably not for the residents. I came across a chicken market once which seemed a throwback to the past even in the 1970s. I guess it was part of the Jewish community. Somewhere off commercial street but I couldn’t find it again.

  7. Linda Granfield permalink
    March 25, 2016

    A RAINY day on SUN St.

    Terrific texture in these photos. Many thanks.

  8. Chris permalink
    March 25, 2016

    It seems like only yesterday that Spitalfields looked like this, and yet it’s like a different world compared to the area that we know today. These photos are a wonderful reminder of the way things used to be.

    By the way, I think that the notice advertising a “good home available” might have originally read “good horse manure available”. Just a thought…

  9. Ros permalink
    March 25, 2016

    Note for Richard – the kosher chicken market was in Leyden St off Wentworth St. You could smell it from a couple of blocks away! Not there now of course.

  10. Miriam Delorie permalink
    March 25, 2016

    Wonderful photos. Does anyone know to whom I could write and maybe find out the occupants of Fieldgate Mansions in 1905? My grandparents lived there and my father’s birth Certificate says he was born there. tks regards Miriam Delorie

  11. pauline taylor permalink
    March 25, 2016

    Did the photographer deliberately set out to record the deprivation in the East End then because that is what these photos show. As one comment says it is easy to see why so many young people just did all that they could to escape, as my lovely East End neighbours did in the 1960s. A very good record of how things were though, and something to make us all stop and think, perhaps there was a greater sense of community then but the surroundings in which those people lived certainly do look grim.

  12. Peter Holford permalink
    March 25, 2016

    It’s hard to equate what is shown in these photos 35 years ago and the raging property prices that are driving out the long-standing residents now. Great photos yet again.

  13. Richard permalink
    March 26, 2016

    Thanks for that Ros. I’ll take a look there next time.

  14. March 26, 2016

    The times when I was in London …

    Love & Peace

  15. David Ruderman permalink
    April 2, 2016

    What a great collection of photographs of the East End.

    We are looking for any old pictures and information concerning our great grand parents who had a bookshop and newsagents at 71 Hanbury Sreet in the late 1890’s.

    Thanks for any help,


  16. May 13, 2016

    I think Chris is right… horse manure… not home!

  17. May 20, 2016

    I love these photographs.

  18. Phil Eldridge permalink
    August 30, 2016

    Hello. the photo of the passageway leading from Pedley St to Brick Lane, do you have any other photos of the building on left hand side of the same period. 176 Brick Lane.

  19. Malcolm permalink
    September 12, 2016

    @Phil Eldridge.
    Yes, I have a few more.

  20. Phil Eldridge permalink
    December 13, 2016

    Malcolm, i would like to see them if possible.

  21. Moyra permalink
    May 27, 2017

    Discovered these through happenstance today. Incarcerated at home – as I now am – it was like a breath of fresh air to tread the so-familiar streets of Malcolm’s photographs in my mind’s eye.
    Spitalfields was once my spiritual home… and unlike those who moved out, in the 1980’s I only wanted to move in.

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