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Philip Marriage In Spitalfields

May 14, 2019
by the gentle author

On the corner of Gun St & Brushfield St, 1967

In Spitalfields, the closure of the Truman Brewery in 1989, the moving of Fruit & Vegetable Market in 1991 and the subsequent redevelopment of the site in 2002, have changed our neighbourhood so rapidly that even the recent past – of the time before these events – appears now as the distant past. Time has mysteriously accelerated, and we look back from the other side of the watershed created by these major changes to a familiar world that has been rendered strange to us.

Such was my immediate reaction, casting my eyes over Philip Marriage’s photographs. Between 1967 and 1995, Philip visited Spitalfields regularly taking photographs, after discovering that his ancestors lived here centuries ago. And the pictures which are the outcome of his thirty-year fascination comprise a spell-binding record of these streets at that time, taken by one on a personal quest to seek the spirit of the place.

“I worked in London from 1959 to 1978 and, for the first ten years, I commuted from Enfield to Liverpool St Station. So I was aware of Spitalfields from that time, though my real interest started when I discovered that my great-great-grandfather was a silk weaver at 6 Duke St, Old Artillery Ground. And I found records of others sharing the Marriage (then French Mariage) surname in the area as far back as 1585.

My job – as a graphic designer and later Design Manager – for HMSO Books (the former government publishers) was based on Holborn Viaduct so I was near enough to Somerset House, the Public Records Office and the Guildhall Library to undertake family history research in my lunchtime. In the autumn of 1967, I visited Spitalfields with my camera for the first time to see if I could locate any of the places associated with my family. In those days colour print film was expensive and I mostly took transparencies, but later Ilford brought out a cheap colour film for a pound a roll which provided twenty small colour prints and each negative returned mounted in 2×2 cardboard mounts – quite novel, but affordable.

When I married in 1968 and moved to Hertfordshire, my family history researches came to an end. Then, in 1978, my job took me to Norwich where I’ve remained since. However, I occasionally found myself in London and, if time permitted whilst waiting for the Norwich train, I always nipped out of Liverpool St Station and down Brushfield St for a brief reminder of my favourite places.”

Crispin St, 1985.

Spital shop, 1970.

Parliament Ct, 1986.

H.Hyams, Gun St, 1970.

Corner of Fashion St & Brick Lane, 1979.

Fashion St, 1979.

Toynbee St, 1970.

The Jolly Butchers, Brick Lane, 1985.

The Crown & Shuttle, Norton Folgate, 1987.

Boundary Passage with The Ship & Blue Ball, 1985.

The Carpenter’s Arms at the corner of Cheshire St & St Matthew’s Row, 1985.

Brick Lane, 1985.

Tour in Hanbury St, 1985.

Corner of Wentworth St & Leyden St, 1990.

Brushfield St, 1990.

Mosley Speaks, 1967.

Fournier St, 1985.

Corner of Quaker St & Grey Eagle St, 1986.

Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, 1985.

E. Olive Ltd, Umbrella Manufacturers, Hanbury St, 1985.

E. Olive Ltd, Umbrella Manufacturers, Hanbury St, 1985.

Corner of Lamb St & Commercial St, 1988.

Brushfield St, 1990.

Spitalfields Market, 1986.

Brushfield St, 1985.

Gun St, 1985.

Brushfield St, 1985.

Christ Church, Spitalfields, 1985.

Photographs copyright © Philip Marriage

You may also like to look at

Alan Dein’s East End Shopfronts of 1988

Sarah Ainslie’s Brick Lane

Mark Jackson & Huw Davies, Photographers

Marketa Luskacova’s Brick Lane

C.A.Mathew, Photographer

Phil Maxwell’s Brick Lane

Colin O’Brien’s Brick Lane

The Ghosts of Old London

12 Responses leave one →
  1. May 14, 2019

    What fabulous pictures,incredible time capsule. It’s hard to remeber I thought the East End of that time was beautiful; maybe it was in a way.

  2. May 14, 2019

    What a brilliant set of pictures, these are all taken with a graphic designers eye, evident in the cropping and focus on the typography of the street. They make you realise how all these corners have changed so much within a relatively short period. I too remember the area of Spitalfields when it was still a working market but that memory has been made less clear by more recent visits, one forgets how run down and neglected the area was. Thanks for posting these pictures.

  3. Jill Wilson permalink
    May 14, 2019

    Fabulous photos and I love the saturated colours!

  4. May 14, 2019

    Thank you for these great photos Philip depicting scenes that the GA rightly says ‘have been rendered strange to us’….as have large parts of the East End.
    Wandering around those streets (and pubs!) as a teenager I had no idea that some of my paternal ancestors lived in and around Brushfield Street, Sclater Street and Brick Lane until recent research revealed some sad details of their impoverished lives.
    I wish I had thought of capturing the streets I knew and loved on film, I’m grateful that you, Phil Maxwell, Colin O’Brien and others left us a legacy to share.

  5. May 14, 2019

    Great pictures. Thanks.

  6. Eric Forward permalink
    May 14, 2019

    Thank you Philip (and GA) for documenting and sharing such fantastic photos. At the moment I’m lucky enough to live just a couple of miles away from this part of the city. I feel it is a special place and feel drawn to it. I will miss it dearly when I soon move away.

  7. Harry Harrison permalink
    May 14, 2019

    What strikes me is the lack of people in streets which these days are heaving.

  8. John Venes permalink
    May 14, 2019

    It may have been rundown and neglected but it had a soul. Unlike the concrete, steel and glass monstrosity it has become

  9. Mark permalink
    May 14, 2019

    In the evocative photo of the public lavatory I can picture, in my minds eye, Joe Orton emerging, trotting up the steps. A man well pleased with life circa 1966.

  10. Chris Connor permalink
    May 14, 2019

    Thank you for showing us these wonderful pictures of a sadly bygone age. As was commented on earlier, there was a soul which is now fairly much gone with the faceless glass and metal structures being built.

  11. Pauline Taylor permalink
    May 14, 2019

    Family history for me here as well as my great grandparents, Samuel Denton Russell and his wife Jane, lived in Brick Lane, and, as he was a cooper then, I think he must have worked at Truman’s brewery. He may well have been an apprentice there as my previous record of him is in the workhouse in Bermondsey as a child with his mother, who died soon afterwards, and two children from her second marriage. That was all much earlier than these evocative photographs of course, but if I imagine a horse and cart instead of the motor vehicles, then they give a very good impression of my ancestor’s surroundings, and I can’t help wondering how much time and money my great grandfather spent in the Jolly Butchers. So thank you GA and Philip for the fascinating insight.

  12. May 15, 2019

    As one photographer and designer to another: well done, Philip Marriage! The shot ‘Crispin St, 1985.’ is fabulous.

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