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A Corner Shop In Old Ford Rd

April 6, 2019
by the gentle author

I am delighted to publish this extract from A London Inheritance – a graduate of my blog writing course who is now celebrating five years of publishing posts online. The author inherited a series of old photographs of London from his father and by tracing them, he discovers the changes in the city over a generation. Follow A LONDON INHERITANCE, A Private History of a Public City

I am now taking bookings for the next courses, HOW TO WRITE A BLOG THAT PEOPLE WILL WANT TO READ on May 11th/12th and November 9th/10th. Come to Spitalfields and spend a weekend with me in an eighteenth century weaver’s house in Fournier St, enjoy delicious lunches from Leila’s Cafe, eat cakes baked to historic recipes by Townhouse and learn how to write your own blog. Click here for details

If you are graduate of my course and you would like me to feature your blog, please drop me a line.

Fowlers Stores, 33 Old Ford Rd, 1986

I headed over to Bethnal Green to find a corner shop my father photographed in the Old Ford Rd in the eighties, when small, family-owned corner shops still catered for the day-to-day needs of Londoners.

His photograph shows a typical London corner shop. Shelves up against the window stocked with Mother’s Pride and a random assortment of household goods, always plenty of cigarette advertising, milk bottles in crates outside for collection, and an advert for Tudor Colour Films at the top of the door – a cheap film brand I tried once before returning to Kodak.

Today, what can be seen of the shop looks in poor condition, although I am surprised that the 33 Old Ford Rd sign is still there – all these years after my father’s photograph.
I would love to look behind the shutters and see how much of the original shop survives.
I am not sure when the shop closed. On the occasions I have walked down Old Ford Rd in recent years it has always been closed with the shutters down.

In my photograph, there is a National Lottery Instants sign above the door. I believe these were distributed when the National Lottery started scratchcard games in 1995, so the shop was still open in the middle of the nineties. On Google streetview, the shop was closed in all images from the first in July 2008, so Fowlers Stores must have closed between the mid-nineties and the two thousands.

The shop is located at the Bethnal Green end of Old Ford Rd, on the corner with Peel Grove. 33 Old Ford Rd is the last of a terrace of nineteenth century houses with shops below. I doubt if these buildings date from much before 1850 since an 1844 map does not show them. Old Ford Road originally terminated further to the east and this stretch appears to have been a combination of North St and Gretton St. Once, the North East London Cemetery was located just to the north where St John’s Church of England Primary School is now.

This has been a shop for most of the life of the building, well over a hundred and fifty years. In the 1891 Kelly’s London Post Office Directory, 33 Old Ford Rd is listed as being occupied by William Stone, Grocer. Given that the shop has now been closed for at least ten years, I am surprised it has not been converted for some other use. I wonder how long the remains of the shop at 33 Old Ford Rd will be there?

Photographs copyright © A London Inheritance

HOW TO WRITE A BLOG THAT PEOPLE WILL WANT TO READ: 11th-12th May & 9th-10th November 2019


Spend a weekend in an eighteenth century weaver’s house in Spitalfields and learn how to write a blog with The Gentle Author.

This course will examine the essential questions which need to be addressed if you wish to write a blog that people will want to read.

“Like those writers in fourteenth century Florence who discovered the sonnet but did not quite know what to do with it, we are presented with the new literary medium of the blog – which has quickly become omnipresent, with many millions writing online. For my own part, I respect this nascent literary form by seeking to explore its own unique qualities and potential.” – The Gentle Author


1. How to find a voice – When you write, who are you writing to and what is your relationship with the reader?
2. How to find a subject – Why is it necessary to write and what do you have to tell?
3. How to find the form – What is the ideal manifestation of your material and how can a good structure give you momentum?
4. The relationship of pictures and words – Which comes first, the pictures or the words? Creating a dynamic relationship between your text and images.
5. How to write a pen portrait – Drawing on The Gentle Author’s experience, different strategies in transforming a conversation into an effective written evocation of a personality.
6. What a blog can do – A consideration of how telling stories on the internet can affect the temporal world.


In 2019 courses will be held at 5 Fournier St, Spitalfields on 11th-12th May & 9th-10th November. Each course runs from 10am-5pm on Saturday and 11am-5pm on Sunday.

Lunch will be catered by Leila’s Cafe of Arnold Circus and tea, coffee & cakes by the Townhouse are included within the course fee of £300.

Accomodation at 5 Fournier St is available upon enquiry to Fiona Atkins

Email to book a place on the course.

4 Responses leave one →
  1. April 6, 2019

    I so enjoyed this post. Naturally, it is unavoidable to feel the sadness of the shuttered shop…..
    but I enjoyed how the blog keeper took us on a journey of recollection and reflection. It made me think of long-ago corner candy stores (in gritty Western Pennsylvania of yore) and all the wonders inside. Penny candies, yo-yos, rabbits feet key chains, etc. As the top photo shows, it was chock-full of enticements for the kids, and the necessities for families.

    Thanks for stirring these remembrances — Keep up the good work on your blog AND your
    cultural inheritance. Very fine.

  2. Robin permalink
    April 6, 2019

    It is so fascinating to read this post, which ties personal memories to the broader history of Bethnal Green. I’ve now subscribed to A London Inheritance as well as to your posts, dear Gentle Author. Thanks to both of you for your insights into the lives, histories, and spaces of London’s everyday people.

  3. April 7, 2019

    I remember Fowlers Stores very well, you’ve taken me back down the years when these little corner shops used to allow regular customers to ‘put things on the slate’ (interest free of course!) until the next payday arrived.
    They seemed to stock everything from groceries to balls of string, happy days.

  4. Theresa permalink
    July 21, 2019

    I remember this shop well and often popped in on the way back from school and then later in life on my way back from mornings at the gym in York Hall. It saddens me to see it boarded up and unloved. It was a shop that seemed full to the brim and so useful.
    There used to be a shop in Globe Road (just before the turning for Kirkwall Place) that sold cold meats and groceries – I remember going in there with my father in the 70’s. As I recall it was so old-fashioned and lovely. I wonder if anyone remembers it?

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