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A Couple Of Pints With Tony Hall

December 11, 2019
by the gentle author

Libby Hall remembers the first time she visited a pub with Tony Hall in the nineteen sixties – because it signalled the beginning of their relationship which lasted until his death in 2008. “We’d been working together at a printer in Cowcross St, Clerkenwell, but our romance began in the pub on the night I was leaving,” Libby confided to me, “It was my going-away drinks and I put my arms around Tony in the pub.”

During the late sixties, Tony Hall worked as a newspaper artist in Fleet St for The Evening News and then for The Sun, using his spare time to draw weekly cartoons for The Labour Herald. Yet although he did not see himself as a photographer, Tony took over a thousand photographs that survive as a distinctive testament to his personal vision of life in the East End.

Shift work on Fleet St gave Tony free time in the afternoon that he spent in the pub which was when these photographs were taken. “Tony loved East End pubs,” Libby recalled fondly, “He loved the atmosphere. He loved the relationships with the regular customers. If a regular didn’t turn up one night, someone would go round to see if they were alright.”

Tony Hall’s pub pictures record a lost world of the public house as the centre of the community in the nineteen sixties. “On Christmas 1967, I was working as a photographer at the Morning Star and on Christmas Eve I bought an oven-ready turkey at Smithfield Market,” Libby remembered, “After work, Tony and I went into the Metropolitan Tavern, and my turkey was stolen – but before I knew it there had been a whip round and a bigger and better one arrived!”

The former “Laurel Tree” on Brick Lane

Photographs copyright © Libby Hall

Images Courtesy of the Tony Hall Archive at the Bishopsgate Institute

Libby Hall & I would be delighted if any readers can assist in identifying the locations and subjects of Tony Hall’s photographs.

You may also like to read

Tony Hall, Photographer

Libby Hall, Collector of Dog Photography

The Dogs of Old London

16 Responses leave one →
  1. December 11, 2019

    Wonderful, cosy images. My only reservation is that, as a life-long non-smoker, my memories of these blessed establishments are slightly nicotine-stained.

  2. Marie-Anne Knight permalink
    December 11, 2019

    I love the Nans holding their pints of beer! Especially the lady in the first picture, the resigned look she is giving to the man next to her is wonderful.

  3. December 11, 2019

    Nothing Better than a Pint!! Great Pictures!!?????

  4. rebecca bowden permalink
    December 11, 2019

    All of the men were so smartly dressed then…

  5. Ian Silverton permalink
    December 11, 2019

    Fifth picture down looks like the inside of Balls Brothers Pub in Bethnal Green Road E2, always drank in there on a Friday night with the Smoke Salmon Kings the Collis Family of C W COLLIS FISHMONGERS of Bethnal Green who smoked all there Salmon on site behind the Shop in the smoke hole backing on to Vos Court, 5 Generations of Fish Mongers until they sold up and moved on, 10 th picture down know these Guys faces so well but cannot name them,but must have some connection to Bethnal Green,like to know if anyone can enlighten me please,Thanks. Stay save London.

  6. Ken Powell permalink
    December 11, 2019

    Wonderfully evocative pictures of an East End that has largely vanished, physically and socially. Where are these people – or their descendants – now? In deepest Essex?

  7. Mark permalink
    December 11, 2019

    Lovely photos.

    As a non smoker…. I miss the smell of a smokey old pub… They just smell like stale beer and toilet disinfectant now!

    Lovey old photos and great people..


  8. Peter Metaxas permalink
    December 11, 2019

    This is such a wonderful view into the people and the pubs they frequented. Beautiful photos just superb, outstanding! The baby being held up to the window for a peek. I must like that one because we had our first grandchild a year ago.

  9. Gregg permalink
    December 11, 2019

    Brilliant photos. Brings back lots of memories. NO CELLPHONES – FANTASTIC. Not ever being a resident of the area [More Romford/Hornchurch] I can’t pinpoint locations but the guy reading the newspaper [Looks like the London Evening News.] with the headline “Wednesday For The Cup” suggests the piccie was taken early May 1966. Sheffield Wednesday lost the FA Cup final at Wembley a few days later to Everton but of course 2 months later England won the World Cup at Wembley. Now that is what I call bringing back memories!

  10. Chris Dixon permalink
    December 11, 2019

    The Carlton was on the corner of Bancroft Road and Portelet Road, Bethnal Green. It was only demolished in the past eighteen months or so, a controversial move by developers whose brief was actually to retain the pub and build flats above. I believe that the developers have been instructed to rebuild the pub, but whether this will ever actually be done is debatable.

  11. John Finn permalink
    December 11, 2019

    Great photos. In the 1970s, I used to drink after work in The Victory in Vyner Street, near the canal at Cambridge Heath. It was a corner pub like the one in the photo, so maybe . . . I heard later that it was one of the Krays hangouts at the time, though I don’t remember anything of them.

    Tony used to do cartoons for some of the TU publications that I designed in the 70s and 80s and he would post the artwork at night through the door of the studios I shared – presumably on his way to work? So I never met him!

  12. December 11, 2019

    I love these pictures. Every one contours up a smell . My grandparents owned a pub in the sixties and seventies. People weren’t so clean then and there was a humanity about their fragrance. Smoking and ale slopped onto the carpets made for an unimaginable, and not unpleasant,next day smell. The outdoor toilets were a whole other world, strong disinfectant often delivered by solid blocks that were a bit like coconut ice to look at , slightly damp and smelling of human excrescences. What a great series of images. Also the undeveloped bomb sites around the pubs are such nostalgic spaces. We should have kept some of them.

  13. Dave Hucker permalink
    December 12, 2019

    Fantastic pictures. Trumans Burton Ales. They were a major brewer in Burton On Trent as well as Brick Lane. In the 1880’s there were 32 brewers in Burton. Now only 1 proper brewery (Marstons) the rest is large scale batch fizzy lager owned by the multinationals- Coors etc.

  14. Maurice permalink
    December 12, 2019

    Absolutely fantastic photos. Occasionally drank in the Lord Hood but preferred the pub opposite, the Yorkshire Grey. The Sporting Life wasn’t a bad pub either. Including, I think it was the Lion around the corner, that’s 4 pubs within 2 minutes walk of each other. Great days.

  15. Stuart goodman permalink
    December 12, 2019

    Beautiful, affectionate storytelling photographs.

  16. Dave Hall permalink
    June 21, 2020

    My father was called Tony Hall and he certainly enjoyed a pint or two in his hometown of Wigan .I shared this story with my brother Mike and he surprised me with the revelation that our family on the Hall side came from Spitalfields ! News to me …. apparently in 1841 my Great Grandfather x3 William Hall lived in the Spek building with his brother John and a family that adopted them. They were very poor . This building no longer exists but it stood opposite a coaching Inn with regular coaches as far as York ….which is where he ended up at 16 before marrying a Wigan girl and moving over to Lancashire. Hall is quite a common name but I wonder…..anyway cheers , beautiful touching photography .

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