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Christmas At The Salvation Army, 1975

December 22, 2018
by the gentle author

Photographer David Hoffman recently discovered these pictures he took at the Salvation Army Christmas Day lunch in Cambridge Heath Rd in 1975

“On Christmas Day 1975, I was squatting in Fieldgate Mansions in Whitechapel and it was a bit boring because all my friends were away for the holiday. The shops were shut and I was looking for something interesting to do with the day. I had seen that the Salvation Army were holding an open Christmas lunch at Sigsworth Hall in Globe Rd so I rocked up there with my camera and, without any formality, I just started to take photographs.

It was terribly dark. I had no flash and I had to work hard in the darkroom to coax these images from the horribly under-exposed and heavily over-developed film. The prints I made at the time were flat and grey but, now that I have been able to convert them to digital files, they do look a bit better and remind me of a very different era, now lost without trace.” – David Hoffman

Photographs copyright © David Hoffman

You may also like to take a look at

David Hoffman at Fieldgate Mansions

David Hoffman at Crisis At Christmas

David Hoffman at Smithfield Market

David Hoffman down the Roman Rd

David Hoffman at St Botolph’s

David Hoffman at St Botolph’s in Colour

16 Responses leave one →
  1. Caroline Bottomley permalink
    December 22, 2018

    Well no one (except one lady) looks at all happy. Oh dear.

  2. Venetia Horton permalink
    December 22, 2018

    I love the fact that there was matching china, rows of Christmas cards on strings, a lady in a heavy hairnet, and the fearsome lady standing on a chair, presumably trying to get everyone singing carols. Yes indeed, a lost era. I too had been squatting in London that year but moved to a boat when my daughter was born.

  3. December 22, 2018

    Thank you for sharing these photographs David, indeed ‘a very different era, lost without trace’.
    For some years , I used to be a volunteer driver taking three elderly people to their Salvation Army Christmas lunch to a nearby hall, then collecting them late afternoon to return home……that was until ‘bureaucracy’ stopped the team of ‘helpers’ from doing so.
    One elderly gentleman used to sit on a chair suited and booted by his front door from eight a.m. in case I arrived early (pick up time was 11.30a.m) hardly a Christmas card in sight around his home.
    It was and still is, a stark reminder that for those of us fortunate enough to spend Christmas amongst family and friends..there are so people out there lonely and alone.
    Thank goodness for The Salvation Army, Crisis at Christmas and other Organisations who provide some respite from that loneliness.

  4. Jamie S permalink
    December 22, 2018

    Absolutely amazing social document – thank you both for sharing/publishing. Very sad that this way of life and these people are no longer in the East End, or indeed anywhere in London

  5. Kate permalink
    December 22, 2018

    They say’ the eyes are the windows of our soul’and you have captured this in these photographs. Many of the diners have a haunted look as though there thoughts are elsewhere.
    Real and not posed. Thank you.

  6. December 22, 2018

    Interest9ng to see the photographic images but they almost seemed to return to images of the workhouse in the nineteenth century.

    I hardly see the situation with the homeless and poverty stricken people going any further forward in the times in which we still live.

  7. Paul Loften permalink
    December 22, 2018

    I know this area so well from around the time period from when the photos were taken as my schooldays were thereabouts. I have tried to recall the some of the faces unfortunately I cannot although I rarely forget a face even from years ago . The photos are a moving memorial to the lives of those who would otherwise have had no recognition . The Salvation Army do such a worthwhile job and David should be thanked for recording their work

  8. December 22, 2018

    Hoffmann reportage second to none

  9. Gerry King permalink
    December 22, 2018

    Beautiful – thank you.

  10. Michael Shepherd permalink
    December 22, 2018

    That’s the most miserable looking christmas, ever.

  11. Gary Arber permalink
    December 22, 2018

    These examples of David’s work show the skill of a true photographer. These were taken before the invention of automatic cameras that you point and they do the work. David has taken these pictures in a dimly lit room without a flash. For every shot he had to adjust the width of the aperture the length of time of the exposure and other settings that are hard to explain here. We are privileged that he has let us see them.

  12. Delia Folkard permalink
    December 22, 2018

    Did I spy the Queens speech on the television in the background in the eighth photo down? It all looks rather depressing to us now, especially in black and white, but a lifeline for a lot of people then.
    I wonder how many more photos like these are lurking at the back of cupboards and their owners assumimg that they wouldn’t be of interest to anyone. Thanks to David for sharing.

  13. December 23, 2018


    *** MERRY CHRISTMAS! ***
    *** JOYEUX NOËL! ***

    Love & Peace

  14. Richard permalink
    December 24, 2018

    The three gentlemen in the seventh picture are Irish.

  15. marc hopla permalink
    February 26, 2019

    Some sad faces there. There’s probably other stories to these people we can’t see. Many of them are thinking about Christmas’ past. Long gone family, relatives and friends. Time has definitely not been kind to these people,

  16. Terence RYAN permalink
    January 11, 2023

    Hi David, I very much like your work of times past. In 1975 we used to have at the end of ITV evening programming the Epilogue. I had just left the London Film School and fortunate to have won an International Film Award for my student film “Gerard Manley Hopkins” A Thames TV Producer invited me to their offices, He asked if I had any documentary ideas for Thames, I suggested social documentary short films for the Epilogue slot. The idea was accepted one of the films was the amazing work the Salvation Army did for the community in Spitalfields and Hoxton in the East End of London, “A Need To Be Loved ” Harold Wilson was Prime Minister at the time his wife Mary wrote a lovely letter of congratulation to us liking the little film. Sadly I do not have a copy of the film or the other 14 we made. Terence Ryan

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