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All The Spitalfields Parties Of Yesteryear

December 24, 2019
by the gentle author

The van drivers of the Spitalfields Market certainly knew how to throw a party, as illustrated by this magnificent collection of photographs in the possession of George Bardwell who worked in the market from 1946 until the late seventies. George explained to me how the drivers saved up all year in a Christmas Club and hired Poplar Town Hall to stage shindigs for their families at this season. Everyone got togged up and tables overflowed with sponge cakes and jam tarts, there were presents for all and entertainments galore. Then, once the tables were cleared and the children safely despatched to their beds, it was time for some adult entertainment in the form of drinks and dancing until the early hours.

You may also like to take a look at

Spitalfields Market Nocturne

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19 Responses leave one →
  1. December 24, 2019

    God bless,but that Santa is the stuff of nightmares.

  2. December 24, 2019

    The fare was usually quite basic, but there was something about the communal Christmas bash (certainly for a child) that was really magical. We’ve retreated into the home and the over-plundered bank account for our Christmases, and we’re poorer in every sense for it.

  3. Susan Levinson permalink
    December 24, 2019

    Wonderful and very nostalgic photos! I’d love to have a book of those photos….

  4. Paul permalink
    December 24, 2019

    Ooh what a scary santa claus

  5. Jean Clements permalink
    December 24, 2019

    Thank you! So interesting

  6. December 24, 2019

    Scary Santa jumped out at me – but also the cigarettes hanging from the lips at a children’s party! One forgets how ubiquitous smoking used to be.

  7. December 24, 2019

    These photos take me back to the Christmas ‘Firms’s do’s’ that I attended with my brother in the 1950’s……simple, happy affairs with a few sandwiches, a mince pie and jelly with a dollop of artificial cream in those crinkled, paper bowls.
    They were great fun and we were each given a small toy but I can’t recall the ‘Santa’ looking as scary as that one but I do know it was always one of my dad’s workmates who took on the role.
    Oh, to be able to go back…..

  8. December 24, 2019

    (Now, wait a minute. That Santa mask was probably typical of the period (well, maybe?!) and all the kids look like they are anything-but afraid.) I absolutely love this post, and am gorging on the details this morning, pre-dawn in the Hudson River Valley. The little impish girl in glasses –
    Oh, I’ll bet she grew up to be a great beauty. And forgive me if that gent, clenching a cig in his mouth and handing out gifts…….Well, what an eyeful! And the stylish-for-the-time dresses, red lipstick, no-doubt petticoats, and home perms. The crepe paper hats — Sadly we do not have them here, and are the poorer for it. The gang of men caught mid-chomp with their sandwiches, beer and fun hats — I want to know everything about them. Were they the best-of-buddies, or merely four guys who collided for the photo? The young girl with a fez! — I need that hat. I agree with your reader who said they wanted a whole BOOK of these photos. Just think: instant happiness and mirth, as we flip each page.
    Happy Holidays to all, and thank you GA for gifting us on a daily basis. Big rumbly purrs to
    Mr. Schrodinger also.

  9. December 24, 2019

    *** FROHE WEIHNACHTEN! ***
    *** MERRY CHRISTMAS! ***
    *** JOYEUX NOΓ‹L! ***

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  10. Paul Loften permalink
    December 24, 2019

    I agree with Di Corry These photos take me back to my childhood in the 50’s and . My father would take me along to his workplace at Fleet Building in Farringdon road where hundreds of children would gather for a fabulous Christmas party just like the one shown . I was awestruck by the vast towering machinery and multitude of telex machines when I was shown around . The thing is the workers here and also in Spitalfields must have gone to the ends of the earth to make these parties so special and unforgettable for the children . Their basic wage was round Β£5-10 a week in the 1950’s. What more can you say about such people who gave their all to make children happy?

  11. Adele S permalink
    December 24, 2019

    What a wonderful collection of photos! Wishing very Happy Holidays (be it Christmas, Chanukah or Kwanza) to one and all.

  12. Saba permalink
    December 24, 2019

    Hello Lynne Perrella, I’m in the Hudson Valley also, in Montgomery. I enjoy your responses.

    GA, you bring me so much joy all year round. Spitalfields Life is the only blog that I read.

    Happy Holidays from a grateful reader, Saba

  13. Su C. permalink
    December 24, 2019

    I love the sincere enjoyment seen in these pics. And I wonder what the conversations were, which songs were being sung, what the giggles were about, and the memories gained for a lifetime.

    Merry Christmas!

  14. Linda Granfield permalink
    December 24, 2019

    Merry Christmas greetings from Toronto to you, GA!

    These photos are delightful. I hope you hear from some of the kids-now-grown and they tell you more East End stories for us to enjoy in the year to come.

    As ever, thanks for your dedication and talents.

  15. Jill Wilson permalink
    December 24, 2019

    What jolly japes!

    But I agree about the secret Santa…he is really spookily scary!!

  16. December 24, 2019

    These Vintage Christmas Pictures are So Wonderful. It reminds me of my childhood!!😘😊πŸ₯°πŸŽ…πŸΌπŸ€ΆπŸΌπŸŽ„πŸŽβ›„πŸ›·πŸŽ 

  17. Annie S permalink
    December 24, 2019

    Lovely!
    Like others have said, it reminds me of the children’s Christmas parties the company my father worked for put on in the 50’s.

  18. Jeanette Hollick permalink
    December 24, 2019

    Another lovely post, Thankyou.

    Yes, I also noticed the ubiquitous smoking! How times have changed.

  19. Mary G permalink
    December 25, 2019

    What a wonderful set of photos, and like many of the comments it transported me right back to my father’s ” The Firm Children’s Party” in the 1950s and early 1960s. The younger kiddies had a party but the older ones boarded coaches to attend a pantomime in a neighbouring town. I remember feeling very “grown-up” when I reached the age to go on the pantomime trip. It was so exciting and a perfect opportunity for the girls to don a party dress made from yards of bright flocked nylon. It was such a simpler, and in many ways better, time and with a few sandwiches and jelly we thought we had the world.
    We also had a Father Christmas – but I don’t remember him being as terrifying as this one, who appears to have escaped from the pages of a Stephen King novel.

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