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Nigel Henderson’s East End

March 12, 2017
by the gentle author

Between 1948 and 1953, Artist & Photographer Nigel Henderson lived in Bethnal Green and documented the life that surrounded him in photographs which have now been published for the first time in Nigel Henderson’s Streets by Tate.

Born into London’s literary and artistic world – his mother managed Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery – Henderson married Virginia Woolf’s niece and escorted Henri Cartier-Bresson around the East End while in Bethnal Green.

Henderson’s photographs of Bethnal Green comprise an invaluable testimony, many of subjects that are not recorded elsewhere, and their astonishing detail offers hours of delight for the curious.

Boys outside W&F Riley newsagent, 76 Cleveland Way, Bethnal Green, E2

S Lavner, newsagent and tobacconist, 241 Bethnal Green Rd, E2

Benjamin Myer Levin, chandlers’ shop, 105 Cephas St, Bethnal Green, E2

AW Roman, sugared fritter seller, Sclater St, Spitalfields E1

Mason’s fresh fish stall, Bethnal Green Rd, E2

Kitchenware stall, Bethnal Green Rd, E2

Frank Clarke’s pet medecine stall, Sclater St, Spitalfields, E1

Junk market, off Virginia Rd, Bethnal Green, E2

Barrel organ, Bethnal Green Rd, E2

Street sweeper, Bethnal Green Rd, E2

Kendow the strongman, wasteland off Petticoat Lane, Spitalfields, E1

Speedy Shoe Repairs, junction of Club Row and Redchurch St, E2

Boys on bicycles, Derbyshire St, Bethnal Green, E2

Boys in Chisenhale Rd, Bow, E3

In Bunsen St, Bethnal Green, E2

Photographs copyright © Estate of Nigel Henderson

Click here to buy a copy of NIGEL HENDERSON’S STREETS: PHOTOGRAPHS OF LONDON’S EAST END 1949-53 direct from from Tate Publishing

13 Responses leave one →
  1. Jim McDermott permalink
    March 12, 2017

    Magical! Snatches of the familiar yet it seems a world-and-a-half away. I particularly love the option of fag ash with one’s sugared fritter.

  2. Jan Evelyn-Wilson permalink
    March 12, 2017

    These photographs are fabulous. Nigel Henderson was such an interesting artist. Thank you for posting them.

  3. March 12, 2017

    How utterly lovely, I like the boys pictures and the adverts particularly

  4. March 12, 2017

    I would also recommend the book by Victoria Walsh on Nigel Henderson ‘Parallel of Life and Art’. This contains many of Henderson’s wonderful street photographs of east London. Henderson also worked in the darkroom to create ‘experimental’ prints, many of which were based on his East London photographs.

  5. Roger Tiller permalink
    March 12, 2017

    Fantastic Photos, keep them coming can’t get enough of them, brings back fantastic memories of my youth in the fifties, I’m now 75.
    Cheers Roger

  6. March 12, 2017

    The photograph of the young men mounting their bikes is like a window into the past. The young men’s mode of dress is interesting. One has a raffish working class elegance whilst the other, in his half mast trousers and beetle crusher shoes, looks like a 50s rock and roll fan.
    The woman peering around the corner is dressed in what was once a domestic uniform for working class women up and down the land: the pinny or overall.

    Great photos of real social and historical value. They also feature the worn out East End shop fronts, which are a becoming a signature feature of Spitalfields Life.

  7. March 12, 2017

    Magnificent photographs.

  8. Helen Breen permalink
    March 12, 2017

    Greetings from Boston,

    Again, GA, more great pics. Particularly liked “S Lavner, newsagent and tobacconist, 241 Bethnal Green Rd, E2”


  9. March 12, 2017

    Thank you so much GA, these have brought back so many happy memories for me as Nigel Henderson taught me photography when I was an art student, and I have never forgotten his kindness and patience. Not only did he teach us how to compose, develop and print our photos, but he encouraged us to experiment by bringing up and fading back areas of the prints,(it was serious stuff), but he also taught us how to use a plate camera and how to view photos with a critical eye. I have always remembered those lessons and wish that I could still take black and white photos and develop them myself, there is nothing like it, but I still always think of him when viewing photos so all is not lost !

  10. tuppenny permalink
    March 12, 2017

    The boys are all so thin.

  11. Ros permalink
    March 12, 2017

    These are WONDERFUL! So much to look at and pore over, as you say, but that doesn’t get in the way of the striking composition of each picture. The bringing up and fading back that Pauline Taylor refers to are very potent too. And the detail! I know about/remember sweets off points, but what were Daz coupons? And how interesting that the neckerchief lived on – the boy on one of the bikes, and particularly the man in the junk market, off Virginia Road, are carrying on the traditions of the turn of the 20th century and before.

  12. nicholas borden permalink
    March 13, 2017

    great to see

  13. A. Cain permalink
    April 16, 2017

    I came here looking for any possible images of Cordelia Street – my late paternal grandfather was born there. I did not find any, but I have had THE most wonderful time, browsing through the information and fantastic photos. Absolutely amazing – thank you so much!

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