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Derek Brook’s East End

October 4, 2018
by the gentle author

Take a walk around the East End on a foggy day in the sixties with Derek Brook, courtesy of his pictures which are published here for the first time today.

Derek Brook was a commercial photographer who came from Australia to London and photographed the explosion in fashion and music, including The Beatles. Yet he also recorded political protests, and came one day to capture his impressions of the East End in these considered and atmospheric pictures.

Whitechapel Rd

Whitechapel Rd

Whitechapel Rd

Whitechapel Rd with Royal London Hospital in the distance

Whitechapel Rd

Whitechapel Station

Whitechapel Station

Whitechapel Market

Mile End

Mile End

Mile End

The Anchor, Mile End Rd

The Railway Tavern, Commercial Rd, Limehouse

The Oporto Tavern, West India Dock Rd

The Prince Alfred, Poplar High St

Wood St, off Cheshire St

Great Eastern Buildings, Quaker St

Brick Lane

On the steps of the synagogue, Brick Lane


Middlesex St

Middlesex St

Middlesex St with The Bell

Middlesex St

Photographs courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

You may also like to take a look at

Dennis Anthony’s Petticoat Lane

Alan Dein’s East End Shopfronts

17 Responses leave one →
  1. October 4, 2018

    Great to see these atmospheric photos taken at the time I was living there. Valerie

  2. Greg Tingey permalink
    October 4, 2018

    These photos show that the current blind panic about pollution are exaggerated – look at the dirt-laden atmosphere in these pictures.
    Must be after early 1962, from the last picture, but probably not much later, because of the women’s fashions (or lack of them, rather )

  3. David Morgan permalink
    October 4, 2018

    Lovely atmospheric photos of everyday life there ….bobbies ( yes two together ! ) walking the beat , road sweeper, etc. And look how wide the pavement is !!

  4. October 4, 2018

    Absolutely fabulous pics. I can recognise some shops.
    All gone forever!

  5. The old lamplighter permalink
    October 4, 2018

    Marvellous to see pictures of times I can remember. They were happy days and to see the shops and pubs together and the owners making a living from them.

  6. October 4, 2018

    Thanks for publishing these. I particularly like ‘Great Eastern Buildings, Quaker St’.

  7. Malcolm permalink
    October 4, 2018

    A foggy day in the grimy streets of London in the early 1960’s – it wasn’t always like this. These were taken by a visitor – an outsider, if you will – and as such give a different perspective to how we saw it ourselves. If you look at photographs taken by other passing strangers during the 1950’s – 1960’s London is almost always depicted shrouded in mist, like a protective grey cloak. In some pictures it looks romantic, especially at night; in others, like these, it looks almost like a death shroud. When Robert Frank photographed the City in 1951 he captured the mysterious dream-like streets shrouded in soft misty light, a place where figures drifted in and out of focus through the fog. Sergio Larrain and Izis Bidermanas revealed the melancholy light of the post-war city in their pictures. In earlier years Alvin Langdon Coburn made sumptuous photo gravures of London that capture a city that he paints with ephemeral light, and then, of course, Harold Burdekin’s magnificent photo gravure masterpieces of London Night that appear to be made from the very mist they capture. But these lovely pictures by Derek Brook show us the harsh reality of a still broken city struggling to re-build itself almost twenty years after the war. The East End bore the brunt of Germany’s onslaught on London and as a child during the 1950’s I remember the fog, the mist, the grime, the dilapidation, the half-demolished houses with empty black windows like sightless eyes, and the misery of a city that was shattered but never gave in and the people who paid the price for the madness and brutality of Hitler’s insane ideology.
    It is very obvious from these pictures, and others of the era, how the demographic of the East End has changed. What were once jewish tailors, clothing manufacturers and bakers are now thriving asian and east european businesses, carrying on the long history of the East End as the home of immigrants from around the world. Once, they came on ships carrying merchandise from across the globe to the richest and most powerful city in the world. Now their descendants are Londoners born and bred and the East End is their home. London light is different now, the mist and fog has cleared away and the streets are clean and shiny. But on certain days, if you know where to look, the old London light can still be found…

  8. Paul permalink
    October 4, 2018

    Superb photos thank you. I could be mistaken
    But the blazer badges if the four boys appears
    to be from the local Parmiters Grammar. Not an easy thing to get there in those days

  9. October 4, 2018

    Wonderful photos from an ancient time …

    Love & Peace

  10. Trevor Jameson permalink
    October 4, 2018

    These are wonderful photographs from my childhood. I hope that they may be available in a book one day.

  11. October 4, 2018

    I love this series. For whatever reason, this series of London photos awakened my very strong nostalgia for the little town where I grew up, outside of Pittsburgh. (late Fifties, mid-Sixties) While there is not a literal connection in any way, these photos show a place that is not beautiful in the least — and yet I can feel so strongly how the inhabitants loved it and found it familiar and
    homelike. That is what my little hometown was like also. It had an appeal that ONLY the
    inhabitants could see and feel. It is long-gone now.
    I so enjoyed these photos and the stirring comments.
    Thank you, GA

  12. Roger Tiller permalink
    October 4, 2018

    What wonderful photos I hope they find more of them as they bring back great memories for me, everybody helped each other.

  13. Lew Tassell permalink
    October 5, 2018

    I love these pictures, they are so evocative for me, I was at Bishopsgate Police Station from 1967 onwards, maybe 3 0r 4 years after they were taken. I was a City of London policeman on the beat from 1969 living in Bishopsgate and part of my beat was often along Middlesex Street – the other side of the street where you see the two cops walking together. They are Metropolitan policemen, the boundary of the City ran down Middlesex Street and we covered the other side, not that we always stayed within our boundary. From 1971 I also used to walk to meet my girlfriend (wife to be) from the station to The London Hospital where she was a student nurse training to be a SRN.
    A great find GA

  14. Hannah permalink
    October 5, 2018

    These are stunning photos evocative of a by-gone era.
    By the way, I think the fifth photo down of Whitechapel Road with the young child in the front has been flipped and is showing a mirror image of the original. There are certain clues such as the shop sign with backwards writing. I’m not sure why this has happened?
    Anyway the images are absolutely beautiful and I hope there will be an exhibition showing these photos at some point! Thanks for sharing.

  15. Marcia Howard permalink
    October 9, 2018

    Great images, and impressed with the virtual absence of litter. However tight money was, people took a pride in where they lived.

  16. Michael Edward Hardie permalink
    October 24, 2018

    These pictures really take me back to when I was much younger than I am now

  17. Adrian |Mcgregor permalink
    May 22, 2019

    I would like to contact Derek brook is he is still extant. I was a journalist in London in 1966 when Derek and I attended a Jimi Hendrix concert for photos and interview for an Australian glossy mazaine.

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