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Anthony Cairns’ Small Shops

February 27, 2019
by the gentle author

Complementing Antony Cairn’s elegaic series of East End Pubs, today I present his ethereal portfolio of small shops, created using the same nineteenth century Vandyke Brown process, and evoking those commercial premises which exist as receptacles of collective memory for the communities they served.

The first picture is of The Handy Shop, Tony’s first local shop when growing up in Plaistow, and the last picture is W.F.Arber & Co Ltd in Roman Rd, of which my friend Gary Arber was the proprietor.

The Handy Shop,  Ruskin Ave, E12

M.J. Evans, Warren St, W1

Unknown shop, Mile End, E1

Unknown shop, Bonsor St, SE5

Unknown shops, unknown street

Unknown shop, Copenhagen St N.1

Unknown shops, Morning Lane, E8

Unknown shop, Oswin St, SE11

Unknown shops,  Hackney Rd, E2

Fishmonger, Commercial Rd, E1

Unknown shop, St Pancras Way, NW5

Printworks, Blackfriars Rd, SE1

Gari’s, Northwold Rd, N16

George Harvey, Bougourd Chemist &  Droys, Rochester Row, SW1

Gricks Jellied Eels, Rosebery Ave, Manor Park, E12

Arber & Co Ltd, 459 Roman Rd, E3

Photographs copyright © Antony Cairns

You may also like to take a look at

Antony Cairns’ East End Pubs

and these other photographs of shops

A Nation of Shopkeepers by John Claridge

At the Shops with Tony Hall

The Shops of Old London

18 Responses leave one →
  1. February 27, 2019

    Printworks, Blackfriars Rd, SE1. I believe that I used to pay my union subs here in the early sixties! It’s the offices of NATSOPA.

  2. Mike Shingleton permalink
    February 27, 2019

    JT Brothers – the Fishmongers in Commercial Road has only just been demolished in the last 12 months or so. I used to live nearby 30 years ago and I think it was closed even then.

  3. Pete Wheeler permalink
    February 27, 2019

    The print works in Blackfriars Road was actually the headquarters of NATSOPA.
    This stood for the National Society of Operative Printworkers and Assistants. A very strong Print Union that controlled the workings of Fleet Street just over Blackfriars Bridge. Their hold was finally broken by Eddie Shar in the early Eighties.

  4. February 27, 2019

    The photographs are interesting but I would have thought that if Antony Cairns had looked at many of the old ordnance survey maps of the later C19th and early C20th (available in The Godfrey Edition) he would have seen lists of names of shops and their owners. This information could then also be used in various census formats. I am not totally convinced that these photographs above are necessarily to be seen as “unknown” shops.

  5. February 27, 2019

    Spot on for Mr Beer, so he was a ‘nati’

  6. Gary Arber permalink
    February 27, 2019

    That was a branch of NATSOPA in S.E.1 . The sign must have gone around the corner as the OPA is only half of the title.
    The picture of my old shop would have been taken on a weekend when I was closed as I used to put a flysheet in the window to keep the sunlight off of the display. I was unable to pull out the shop blind as it had been hit by a lorry, if you look carefully at the picture you will see that it had been knocked to one side.

  7. Bonny Young permalink
    February 27, 2019

    Agree Reginald Beer, I used to pay my subs there too! I think it then became SOGAT.

  8. stuart goodman permalink
    February 27, 2019

    what fascinating images. and how terribly sad. do we know when they were taken? wonder what replaced them.

  9. February 27, 2019

    Third photo (captioned ‘Unknown shop, Mile End, E12’) is located at 137 Southwark Bridge Road, London SE1 0EY. See photos before and after the loss of the Gillette/Criterion ghostsigns here:

  10. February 27, 2019

    Being a born and bred Londoner who knows many of these roads I have to be honest and say when I look at the photos they evoke a lot of mixed feelings. I suppose that is the intention . Their down at heel state and applied grainy appearance leaves me with sense of desolation . I grew up in postwar London and played on bomb sites as a child so remember it as it was then with the corner shop but also the devastation, greyness and lack of colour and style in everything around me ,specially in East London.

  11. ken green permalink
    February 27, 2019

    And nice to see on Google maps that Evans in Conway St is still there

  12. Jill Wilson permalink
    February 27, 2019

    These photos make me want to have the sounds and smells as well – the sounds of boats on the Thames, horses hooves, children ‘playing out’, gossiping neighbours, and cheerful chappie banter; and the smells of smoke from the coal fires, horse manure, damp, and plain home cooking (probably involving cabbage!)
    Better or worse than the constant sound of traffic, and the smell of exhaust fumes??

  13. Amanda permalink
    February 27, 2019

    Lovely to read everyone’s comments here with their own history and nostalgic info for us to learn more.
    l find within the comments snippets l had long forgotten which is gratifying.

    We’ve always been famous for our angled “corner” shops (built on street corners!) but the last couple of photographic posts made me realise just how many “corner” pubs were built too.

    Horsedrawn beer delivery by drays may have played a part in entrances & pavement cellars having ease of access in the case of corner pubs.

    l surmise this original ‘corner’ architecture was a deliberate concept to attract patrons from all directions of the community?

  14. Gary Arber permalink
    February 27, 2019

    I saw an example of NAPSOPA power once. I was in a large machine room when a delivery man brought in a new trolley. He was just going to pull it through the shop to deliver it when he was told that only a NAPSOPA man could pull a trolley through the shop so he waited until one came and followed him through to get his delivery note signed.

  15. Annie permalink
    February 28, 2019

    Very interesting photographs.
    The buildings in Northwold Road (the Stoke Newington end) are still there, the tall building at the back on the right hand side was a Victorian school which has been converted into flats.
    The single storey buildings at the front have been converted into tiny shops, one of which was the legendary ‘Sellfridges’ ( second hand refrigerators!) for a number of years.

  16. Jane Beckett permalink
    February 28, 2019

    I often went into MJ Evans on Warren street – he was still p- just- a diary, and Welsh and sold butter and I think some vegetables…
    Thanks for photo

  17. Colin Thomas permalink
    March 13, 2019

    I used to go into M.J. Evans, Warren St, W1 in the early 80’s when I worked at Matthew Hall Engineering in Tottenham Court Road. I used to think it was like stepping back in time when I went in; not much on display for sale and I wondered how it survived. Such a beautiful shop front.

  18. Trish Morris permalink
    December 10, 2022

    My great grandfather ran a pub in Oswin St , it was called The Little Wonder. I think it was owned by the Birtwell family.

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