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In Old Spitalfields

February 4, 2017
by the gentle author

Catherine Wheel Alley

The Bishopsgate Institute has a magnificent collection of nineteenth century watercolours collected by the first archivist Charles Goss, which offer tantalising glimpses of the last surviving tumbledown pantiled tenements and terraces, crooked alleys and hidden yards that once comprised the urban landscape of Spitalfields.

When we think of old Spitalfields, we usually consider the eighteenth and nineteenth century fragments remaining today, yet there was another Spitalfields before this. Before the roads were made up, before Commercial St was cut through, before the Market was enclosed, before Liverpool St Station was built, Spitalfields was another place entirely. Lined with coaching inns, peppered by renaissance mansions and celebrated for its production of extravagant silks and satins, it was also notorious for violent riots and rebellion, where impoverished families might starve or freeze to death.

Sunday Morning in Petticoat Lane, 1838

Old Red House, Corner of Brushfield St by J.P.Emslie, 1879

Paul’s Head, Crispin St by J.T. Wilson, 1870

The Fort & Gun Tavern and Northumberland Arms, corner of Fashion St by J.T.Wilson

Dunning’s Alley showing Lucky Bob’s formerly Duke of Wellington, Bishopsgate by J.T.Wilson, 1868

Bell Tavern, Bell Yard, Gracechurch St by J.T.Wilson, 1869

Bishopsgate at the Corner of Alderman’s Walk beside St Botolph’s church by C.J.Richardson, 1871

House of Sir Francis Dashwood, Alderman’s Walk, by C.J.Richardson, 1820

Entrance from Bishopsgate to Great St Helen’s by C.J.Richardson, 1871

Devonshire House, Bishopsgate by C.J.Richardson, 1871

The Green Dragon, Bishopsgate, coloured by S.Lowell

The Green Dragon, Bishopsgate by T. Hosmer Shepherd, coloured by S.Lowell, 1856

The Bull Inn by T.Hosmer Shepherd, 1856

The Spread Eagle in Gracechurch St by R.B.Schnebblie, 1814

Sir Paul Pindar’s Lodge, Bishopsgate c. 1760

North East View of Bishopsgate Street, 1814

Images courtesy Bishopsgate Insititute

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Lost Spitalfields

16 Responses leave one →
  1. Jim McDermott permalink
    February 4, 2017

    I’d risk the violence, rebellion, endemic diseases, amateur dentistry and sporadic wi-fi to see and live it first-hand. These are all beautiful pieces, but R.B. Schnebblie in particular had a wonderful talent.

  2. Rosemary hoffman permalink
    February 4, 2017

    What about the kings stores widegate street a City pub

  3. February 4, 2017

    Wonderful paintings, so much has disappeared for ever. There used to be a row of little cottages behind the old Salvation Army place on Whitechapel road, and where some of the SA people lived. I was told they were grave diggers cottages from the time of he plague. I saw them last in the middle of the 60s, I don’t know if they are still there behind the new place that was built. Valerie

  4. February 4, 2017

    A good set of watercolours shown here today, now we know what Bishopsgate really looked like in the 19thC all clean cut no clutter. We have real people shown in costume of the period on scene and the right scale too. I especially liked the Bell Tavern 1869 the one showing the street water pump and people. All credit to the artists for giving us Bishopsgate we are seeing the area through their eyes. All the paintings are still in mint condition; thanks to the custodianship/conservation of them by the Institute. Poet John PS old Spitalfields area may be lost but not forgotten in the 21stC

  5. Sue M permalink
    February 4, 2017

    I really like all of these paintings but if I had to choose one it would be The Fort & Gun Tavern and Northumberland Arms, corner of Fashion St by J.T.Wilson. I get a sense of how wide the road is and how hard the horse is working. I feel as though I am standing right there and looking at all of these buildings in real life.

    What a pity we have lost so many and that certain people are hell bent on destroying more.

  6. Shawdian permalink
    February 4, 2017


  7. February 4, 2017

    Look at this! Sir Paul Pindar’s Lodge! Must have been just before it disappeared.
    PS I have no life to speak of…

  8. pat permalink
    February 4, 2017

    I love these brilliant paintings.

  9. February 4, 2017

    These are fabulous.

  10. Sarah B Guest Perry permalink
    February 4, 2017

    Oh to time travel back and stand in one of the coaching inn courtyards even for an hour! Thank you

  11. Helen Breen permalink
    February 4, 2017

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, great pics of old Spitalfields. Kudos to the Bishopgate Institute for preserving them and to you for sharing them on the web…

  12. Richard Smith permalink
    February 4, 2017

    A truly wonderful collection of paintings. Thank you.

  13. Sonia Murray permalink
    February 4, 2017

    Lovely to see paintings by an artist who understood perspective and reality! These are beautiful. Thank you!

  14. pauline taylor permalink
    February 4, 2017

    Thank you GA , these are wonderful, what more can one say.

  15. Ros permalink
    February 4, 2017

    That’s where I want to live!

  16. February 6, 2017

    These are wonderful. Many thanks!

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