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Stan Jones Of Mile End

September 22, 2019
by the gentle author

Stan Jones

Such has been the movement of people and the destruction and reconstruction of neighbourhoods in the last century that I often wonder if anyone at all is left here from the old East End. So you can imagine my delight when I met Stan Jones of Mile End who has lived in his house for the last eighty years, moving there at the age of ten from a nearby street.

Contributing Photographer Sarah Ainslie & I were enchanted to be welcomed by Stan to his extraordinary home where nothing has ever been thrown away. Every inch of the house and garden has found its ideal use in the last eight decades and Stan is a happy man living in his beloved home that is also the repository of his family history.

Fortunately for us Stan has been taking photographs all this time, starting out in the days of glass plate negatives, and below you can see a few examples of his handiwork. Famously, Stan photographed the exterior of his house from the Coronation in 1953 and his picture was published in The Times, which has led to return visits by the daily newspapers on subsequent occasions of national celebration to record Stan’s unchanging decorations on the front of his unaltered house.

Most inspiring to me was Stan’s sense of modest satisfaction with his existence in his small house backing onto the railway line. Mercifully untroubled by personal ambition, Stan has immersed himself in domesticity and creative pastimes, and enjoyed fulfilment at the centre of his intimate community over the past eighty years. Such is his contentment that not even a World War with bombs dropping from the sky could drive Stan out of his home. Stan never had any desire to go anywhere else because he found that all which life has to offer may be discovered in a back street in Mile End.

“I was born nearby in Coutts Rd in 1929 and I came here with my mother and father in March 1939, so I have lived in this house for eighty years. I have no brothers or sisters and I never married. I did have one cousin until last December, but he has gone now and my closest relative is his daughter who lives in Hornchurch.

My mother was Ethel and father was Arthur, they were both from Stepney. My grandparents all lived in Stepney, just across the other side of Mile End Road. My mother was one week older than my father but they both passed away within nine weeks of each other in 1978, when they were seventy-five.

My father was an engineer, repairing steam lorries, until he got a job with the council as mace bearer to the Mayor. Also he was personal messenger to the Town Clerk of Stepney, all through the war he carried messages around on a bike.

My mother was a machinist until the day she got married, then she never went out to work any more. Before fridges and freezers, women had to go out shopping every day to buy food and look after the children. He had to work to feed her, keep her in clothes and pay the rent, which was about a pound a week. That was their life.

I had a happy childhood but it was very lonely, I never had friends, I always had hobbies indoors. I hardly got any education. I only went to Malmesbury Rd School for a few months before the war started and the schools shut down. Most children were evacuated but I never went away, I did not want to.  I was here right through the war. I went back to school for about six months after the war and that was my education because you left school at fourteen in those days. I must have educated myself because I did not have much schooling.

On the first night of the air raids, a row of houses down this road got a direct hit. Most nights, I was in the Anderson shelter with my mother. We were down there when the bomb fell just along the road and when a flying bomb hit the railway bridge and ripped it in half and the two halves were lying in the road. I must have been frightened but I cannot remember.

My father did not go into the army because the Town Clerk was a barrister and made him exempt. Instead, he was in the Home Guard out on duty at the Blackwall Tunnel or wherever.

My mother was not well after the war and she was not keen to push me in to work, so I was about fifteen before I started work at a shopfitters in Commercial St.  I was with them for forty-eight years, that was my working life. I started in packing, then became a despatch manager and finally warehouse manager, keeping check of stock.

I had a Brownie box camera, and I took pictures if we went out for a day at the seaside and at local celebrations. My photograph of this house decorated for the Coronation in 1953 was published in The Times. But I did not go out a lot as I say, because a lot of my photography was not actually taking pictures. I did a lot of black and white processing for other people. I had a dark room upstairs and, in summer, when people were taking photos I was the one upstairs developing their films. This was all for neighbours, people at work, you know. If they took them to the chemist, they would have to wait a week to get them back, but they got them back next morning from me!

Never being married, I was not pushed into a better paid job. In 1946 my first week’s wages were £2.50 and a rise was twelve and a half pence. It improved as the years went on, although not top wages. I never had a pension scheme but, for my loyalty, they gave me a monthly allowance.

I am very happy here in this house. Most of the others have been extended, but this one is as it was built.”

Stan at home

Arthur & Ethel Jones at their wedding on Christmas Day in 1928

Ethel at Brighton in the thirties

Arthur with Stan at Brighton in the thirties

Stan in his pedal car in the thirties

Stan’s photograph of his childhood dog

Stan’s photograph of a train at the end of his garden – ‘Sometimes our cats strayed onto the railway tracks and never came back, one returned without a tail!’

Arthur Jones stands at the centre of this group of steam lorry drivers in the thirties

Arthur Jones escorts the Mayor of Stepney and King George the Sixth with the Queen Mother to visit the bombing of Hughes Mansions in Vallance Rd

The Mayor’s chauffeur comes to pick up Arthur for his mace-bearing duties

Arthur stand on the left as Clement Attlee speaks

Arthur Jones leads the procession through Stepney to St Mary & St Michaels Church

Ethel & Arthur Jones in the back garden

Stan shows the glass plate of his famous photograph

Stan’s photograph of his parents in 1953 that was published in The Times

Stan’s recent decorations for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee

Stan Jones outside his house today

Stan’s photograph of entertainment for the Coronation Party in Mile End, 1953

Stan’s photograph of the conga at the Coronation Party in Mile End, 1953

Stan’s photograph of a display at the shopfitters where he worked

Stan’s photograph of mannequins

Stan as a youth

Ethel & Arthur Jones in later years

Stan Jones in his garden today

Portraits copyright © Sarah Ainslie

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In Mile End Old Town

23 Responses leave one →
  1. Jennifer Taylor permalink
    September 22, 2019

    Lovely pictures & interesting story.

  2. Mick Burgess permalink
    September 22, 2019

    What a lovely story and a lovely old gentleman,just going about his daily routine ,happy with what he’s got,not wanting or needing anything. A great lesson to us all.

  3. Jill Wilson permalink
    September 22, 2019

    Lovely to hear of someone content with their lot in life.

    And how lucky for us that he was such a keen photographer…

  4. Roger Tiller permalink
    September 22, 2019

    Dear Stan I hope you’re keeping well.
    You have touched so many happy memories for me, you looked so much like my Father.
    I would love to meet you and I love things being kept like they where.
    Cheers Roger

  5. Bernadette permalink
    September 22, 2019

    What a lovely read and great photos. Long Live Stan!

  6. Kay Wesley permalink
    September 22, 2019

    Thank you for showing such an interesting slice of social history. I enjoyed reading about Stan,

    his family and seeing his photographs. Kay

  7. September 22, 2019

    This brings such a personal feel to social history. A really sweet post

  8. September 22, 2019

    Oh! — Those patriotic decorations. (We call them “bunting” — do you?) The heartfelt photo/s
    of the streamers, flags, embossed paper crowns, royal portrait in the window, etc. The exuberance of it touched my heart. I imagined the set-up; clamoring on ladders, the “a little to the left” instructions from the sidewalk, the patter of passersby — “Oh lookit. How great!” — and even the
    chore of taking it all down again, smiling with memories.

    Thanks for bringing us such wonderful stories, GA.

  9. September 22, 2019

    This is such a lovely read, and wonderful pictures. What a great man! I so enjoy your interviews with old East End characters – the very stuff of life! Thank you.

  10. Pauline Taylor permalink
    September 22, 2019

    Stan is someone to be admired, no pretension, no attempt to show off to other people, just a quiet accceptance of his circumstances and an obvious enjoyment of his home and his garden. I am sure his parents would be proud of him. Thank you GA for sharing his story and his photographs with us, I have really enjoyed reading it all, it reminds me of all the people that I grew up with in a remote rural community where we understood what is important in life. It isn’t money or possessions or sharing all your family photos and thoughts on social media, but rather to be thoughtful and quiet and to be content with ‘small’ things. Good on you Stan, you may have missed out on some education but you show great wisdom and we could all learn some very important lessons from you.

  11. Elizabeth Olson permalink
    September 22, 2019

    Perhaps this very touching post could be forwarded to the palace and Stan might receive an invitation to the Queen’s next garden party. Important to recognize that travelling to fill up one’s bucket list is not everyone’s cup of tea and staying put is better for the planet as well.

  12. September 22, 2019

    Hi Stan
    Lovely pics – thank you
    I will know your name next time we pass in the street
    All the best
    Stephen at 79

  13. September 22, 2019

    A pleasure to meet you Stan !!!

  14. September 22, 2019

    What an amazing man with a unique life. I hope his has been a happy one. It somewhat saddened me to think he might still be lonely as he’d been as a child, but I’d be honoured to meet him. I loved the photos, and Stan clearly looks after himself and his interesting home too. And wise words from Pauline Taylor above. I endorse them all. Loved the laden Christmas tree too!

  15. Linda Granfield permalink
    September 22, 2019

    A precious bit of history from a delightful man.

    Yes, that invite to the Queen’s garden party would be wonderful. Imagine what Her Majesty would think seeing those two photos of the decorated house?!

    Stan’s photos are terrific. The mannequins and window–any others that would make another GA book?

  16. Delia Folkard permalink
    September 22, 2019

    Just when you think that GA might be running out of interesting characters to interview, up pops another one in the form of the amazing Stan. His photos are a wonderful record for the future. The one I find particularly fascinating is in the shop fitters window with the mix of nude female mannequins, Disney characters and children. It is quite surreal and could easily have a place in some modern art gallery or even Tate Modern!! Good luck Stan x

  17. Marina permalink
    September 22, 2019

    Lovely Stan
    I’ll be sure to look out for you, and have a chat, you’re an inspiration to us all. An incredible life and an exceptional photographer. Look forward to catching up with you in person, Marina at no 81

  18. Ria permalink
    September 23, 2019

    Thank you Stan for your fascinating photographs and interesting history.

    I particularly liked the photo of the Art Deco gates at the end of the garden with the stationary train. Copies of your photographs could be made for the Local Borough Council for social and local history if you don’t object. Also Brighton and Hove for the scenes of Brighton. I also agree with Delia Folkard’s comments.

    Rather shocking headline on the newspaper the dog is carrying. Was the model Ruth Ellis?

    It must be comforting and secure to still have your childhood home. I do hope you make lots of new friends and receive an invitation to meet the Queen if you so desire.

    The Gentle Author, my favourite blog.

  19. Irene permalink
    September 23, 2019

    Thank you for the fascinating insight into this piece of social history. A most enjoyable read .

  20. Amanda permalink
    September 23, 2019

    I agree, Stan must go to the ball !
    If anyone could highlight this inspiring, contented life to the appropriate quarters, it would be the GA.

    80 years in the same house and 48 in the same job plus plenty of interests. . There may be many more stories from the folk he met through his 24 hour home photography service.
    Lovely to see a salute from Stephen & Marina, respective neighbours.

    Longevity and loyal service is in the family make up.
    His parents also looked close and contented in mid and later life. The camera rarely lies.

    A mention for Ethel’s show stopping detailed wedding attire and satin shoes.
    Her gossamer veil appears to be Chantilly lace and the bordered hemline of the chiffon gown, perhaps guipure? All topped with romantic orange blossom. What a special girl.

    And the hat on Brighton beach – wow!
    Small wonder Stan remarked that his father had to pay all the bills and “feed her keep her in clothes” once they’d married.

    And yes Stan’s dog bringing the headline led me to Wikipedia’s story of Ruth Ellis, the last female to be executed in Britain.
    Her life a truly tragic contrast to Stan’s wonderfully satisfying contentment.
    A lesson indeed.

  21. September 24, 2019

    A very interesting read glorious account in pictures of Stans life
    I lived in Coborn Road and often had the pleasure of wishing Stan
    Good morning Thank you xx

  22. September 25, 2019

    A wonderful story about Stan’s life! Thanks a lot!

    Love & Peace

  23. Chris permalink
    September 27, 2019

    What a breath of fresh air Stan is. Perfect antidote to the madness going on at the moment. People could learn a lot from his humility

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