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Malcolm Tremain’s Spitalfields, Then & Now

April 3, 2016
by the gentle author

Yesterday I took a walk with my camera in the footsteps of Malcolm Tremain to visit the locations of his photographs from the early eighties and discover what changes time has wrought …

Passage from Allen Gardens to Brick Lane

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

Steps of Brick Lane Mosque

In Puma Court

Corner of Wilkes St & Princelet St

In Wilkes St

Jewish Soup Kitchen in Brune St

Outside the former night shelter in Crispin St, now student housing for LSE

In Crispin St

In Bell Lane

In Parliament Court

In Artillery Passage

In Artillery Passage

In Middlesex St

In Bishopsgate

In Wentworth St

In Fort St

In Allen Gardens

At Pedley St Bridge

Black & white photographs copyright © Malcolm Tremain

You may also like to take a look at

Andrew Scott’s East End, Then & Now

Dan Cruickshank’s Spitalfields, Then & Now

Val Perrin’s Brick Lane, Then & Now

Philip Marriage’s Spitalfields, Then & Now

C A Mathew’s Spitalfields, Then & Now

20 Responses leave one →
  1. April 3, 2016

    There’s quite a lot well-preserved and well cared for – that’s good to see.
    And Bina Shoes are still there!

  2. Greg Tingey permalink
    April 3, 2016

    Those photographs were from the 80’s not the 60’s, yet, even so, hasn’t it cleaned up beautifully (in most cases)?
    Only one or two show no improvement, visual or otherwise.
    But, of course, they are all small-scale & “local”, not the result of grand redevelopment schemes, which should tell us something …..

  3. Robert permalink
    April 3, 2016

    That was fascinating to look at. Two things are apparent, the impact of gentrification and the rise of tall office and residential towers have made a major impact on the East end. And I suspect it’s still an ongoing process.

  4. Ros permalink
    April 3, 2016

    Thank you for doing this. One can study them for hours!

  5. Ann permalink
    April 3, 2016

    I really liked this blog. I love to see the changes, but more, I like to see the places that have remained the same or been truly improved, not just developed.

  6. Jude permalink
    April 3, 2016

    For once, change for the better! Great photos ga, love street scenes.

  7. April 3, 2016

    I don’t see the images as a sign of “progress” but rather that poverty has, to be some extent, been displaced away from the gaze of the encroaching city.Small shops and cheap homes have been replaced by premises dealing with a different demographic.
    I also note – as I am sure you did – the absence of unaccompanied children breaking from images (and the reality ) of children’s experiences in Spitalfields going back decades -as you noted, for example, in your publication of Warner’s photographs.

  8. Philip Marriage permalink
    April 3, 2016

    Fascinating. Thanks for trudging around to revisit these places. I tried, unsuccessfully in most cases, to do the same using Google’s Street view when you first published the originals.

  9. Ian. permalink
    April 3, 2016

    As a person who usually views your photo entries with Google Streetview open in another window so I can compare the present with the past, this was heaven for me. And a pleasure to see that many of the places remain and have even been restored. Thanks for the hard work!

  10. Helen Breen permalink
    April 3, 2016

    GA, quite a bit of footwork on your part. Very interesting. I am happy to see that Donovan’s Paper Bag establishment has survived and been brightened up. Thank you for your efforts….

  11. April 3, 2016

    So interesting to compare.
    Some better…. some worse!

  12. Teresa Stokes permalink
    April 3, 2016

    Absolutely fascinating, I love the comparisons, how clever of you to align the new to the old so precisely.

  13. April 3, 2016


  14. April 3, 2016

    it has changed so much . one thing I cannot stand is the graffiti everywhere I like a brick wall to be a brick wall .thanks for showing us the photos I had a great upbringing in Bethnal green we would run wild in the streets and on the dumps till tea time great days ..

  15. pauline taylor permalink
    April 3, 2016

    Thank you GA. It is hard to know what to say as, on the surface everything, well almost everything, looks so much cleaner and smarter, but now it could be anywhere in any town or city, so, whilst I would not want to return to the overwhelming sense of poverty in the black and white photographs, something else has been lost as well, and I think that it is a sense of identity.

    I agree with the comment about the lack of children, but, sadly, this applies everywhere now, children may be much better off materially, but they are virtually all deprived of the fun and games outside that we enjoyed. I find that very worrying as that freedom that we had helped to build character and to make us individuals, I don’t think that today’s children have that. Deprivation comes in all sorts of guises and today that deprivation is a lack of freedom to play and explore. Very sad.

  16. Sue permalink
    April 4, 2016

    Fascinating. Well done.

  17. Malcolm permalink
    April 4, 2016

    The children are still here but they don’t play in these streets anymore. The community that existed around these streets has virtually disappeared, swept away by money, business and people with beards who sell bowls of cereal for £5 to other people with beards and too much money to spare.
    Whitechapel, Aldgate, Spitalfields and Shoreditch are the last places in central London where greedy developers can get their hands on land – thanks to Boris Johnson’s dictatorship – to build their hideous carbuncles of glass that nobody except the rich can afford to buy. Norton Folgate is hanging by a thread and when it’s gone, these people won’t stop, they’ll keep demolishing and building until London is no more than an imitation of Dubai or Shanghai or even Disneyland. Take the opportunity to walk around these streets before they’re lost forever.

  18. Annie S permalink
    April 4, 2016

    Great photos and very interesting to see the comparisons.
    I must say I prefer the older version of the doorway in Fort Street!

  19. Peter Holford permalink
    April 5, 2016

    Surprising to see so many buildings haven’t been trashed and even looking as though they have been lovingly renovated. If only British Land would take this approach on board.

  20. Daniele permalink
    April 7, 2016

    For what it’s worth, I have the shutters from Leon’s shop which I converted into a cupboard- the other set were used by my colleague at Spitalfields Farm as window frames for his flat on Hoxton Street.

    They had been ripped off and were left lying in the road so popped them onto the horse cart as we passerby as it seemed a shame to see them thrown.

    We also salvaged the lamp post shown in Allen Gardens when the construction workers removed it but had to pay £10 for the honour – you can find it on site at Spitalfields Farm!

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