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Philip Cunningham’s East End Shopfronts

July 15, 2020
by the gentle author

It is my pleasure to publish these pictures from Photographer Philip Cunningham‘s astonishing archive of images from the seventies and eighties

Shop in Bow, c.1972

“In 1970 my partner, Sally, was a student on the Foundation Course at Hornsey College of Art. They taught her how to use a camera and process film and, in turn, she taught me. When we moved to the East East in 1971, the Council and GLC were still emptying and demolishing streets. People were being moved into tower blocks, which mostly had poor insulation and were physically alienating. By this time, the mythology of ‘streets in the sky’ was already discredited yet they continued anyway. There was still a lot of bomb damage but the remnants of previous communities could be seen, and I was determined to try and document what was left. I was also interested in the buildings themselves which had their own character. Taking at least a film a month, I built up a large archive. We were customers of some of these shops but others were already derelict. They represented a different life.” – Philip Cunningham


Roman Rd, c.1976

Mile End Rd

Mile End Rd, c.1979

Mile End Rd, c.1979

Mile End Rd, c.1979

Mile End Rd, c.1979

Mile End Rd, c.1979

Mile End Rd, c.1978

Mile End Rd

Mile End Rd, c.1981

Mile End Rd, c.1985

Mile End Rd, c.1985

Malplaquet House, Mile End Rd, c.1976

Mile End Rd, c.1976

Mile End Rd, c.1979

Mile End Rd, c.1982

White Horse Lane, c.1979

East End India Dock Rd, c.1978

Roman Rd, c.1977

Stepney Way, c.1971

Antil Rd, c.1980

Hay Currie St, c.1978

Upper Clapton Rd, c.1983

Globe Rd, c.1976

Unknown location, c.1976

Brushfield St

Off Brick Lane, c.1976

Off Brick Lane, c.1976

Quaker St, c.1976

Off Cheshire St, c.1976

Cheshire St, c.1976

Photographs copyright © Philip Cunningham

You may also like to take a look at

A Walk with Philip Cunningham

Philip Cunningham’s Pub Crawl

Philip Cunningham’s East End Portraits

More of Philip Cunningham’s Portraits

Yet More Philip Cunningham Portraits

A Lost Corner of Whitechapel

Philip Cunningham at Mile End Place

15 Responses leave one →
  1. July 15, 2020

    It’s wonderful to see these images. I lived around Roman Road from 1976 to 1980 and was also taking photographs of the neighbourhood as it was changing. These pictures have been published on Spitalfields Life and include an identical shot of J. Galley and Son taken in 1977. I was recently asked for a large print of it and was prompted to do some research. I found that there is an image of the shop in the Tate Gallery archives, taken when it was functioning in all its glory in the early 1950s.

    The photographer was Nigel Henderson and there is a wonderful book of his images called simply The Streets. It too is full of photographs of shopfronts. There is also a great Tate film about him and his time in the East End.

    Really happy to see these images and the great work the Gentle Author does in bringing work like this out into the public domain. Thanks to you both

  2. Tracey permalink
    July 15, 2020

    They are really beautiful.

  3. July 15, 2020

    What astonishing photographs! In the third one down, there appears to be a cat with an implausibly small head perched on the chimneypot. Decrepitude and dereliction make for gloriously bizarre shapes and forms. Philip Cunningham has a extensive archive – he should think seriously about publishing a book.

  4. Malcolm permalink
    July 15, 2020

    The East End in all its grimy splendour. At the time these pictures were taken the East End was still waiting for the developers to move in, the streets still had that Dickensian air and bomb sites were still common as if the war had only just ended. I remember a lot of these shops in Mile End, hanging on to life, like elderly relatives. But in the end a kind of progress swept everything away and replaced it with ugly housing estates and aggressive glass stumps, devoid of character or community. Will we never learn?
    The shop shown as having an unknown location was E. Goode, a tobacconist, confectioner and newsagent on the corner of Roman Road and St Stephen’s Road.

  5. paul loften permalink
    July 15, 2020

    Thank you GA , Phil and not forgetting Sally’s part in bringing these iconic photos to us. They capture the essence of this area at the time. I saw a glimpse of Prevost estate agents who were the managing agents forthe flat that I lived in during the 80’s. They may have the distinction of holding the world record fee for changing a light bulb in the common parts . Can anyone do better than £40 for unscrewing and replacing a 100w bulb?

  6. July 15, 2020

    What amazing images, and so evocative of my own growing up in post-war London, albeit long before 1979!

  7. Jan Marriott permalink
    July 15, 2020

    What a sad post. I spent the early part of my life with my relatives at 29 Pownall road, also when I first went to work in London in 1960. Many memories of trotting to the Hagerston Baths on a Friday night with my bag of Yardley bath salts and talcum powder.
    Do you ever come across photos of Pownal road?

  8. Kay Parrish permalink
    July 15, 2020

    The advertising signs are fabulous.

  9. Paul Woodley permalink
    July 15, 2020

    Fascinating pics, thanks to the GA for posting and Philip Cunningham for taking them.

    It’s really interesting to use Google Street View to check out the ones that are still there.

    The 109 through 113 Mile End Road buildings now have the shops removed and are restored to their previous splendour.

    Similarly the two buildings named as Malplaquet House are also restored and with the shops gone, the part on the left has had the entire missing top floor replaced.

    The ‘Motor Insurance’ place identified as on Mile End Road is actually on White Horse Lane, it’s no longer there but the building to the left of it ‘Westminster Textiles’ still stands and looks very spiffy now.

    Really wish I’d taken pics of the area when living at the junction of Commercial Street and Folgate Street in the early ’80s and again at the end of the ’90s but sadly didn’t.

    And thanks to Chris Miles for the link to the Tate pictures by Nigel Henderson.

  10. July 15, 2020

    Sad Old Shops from the Past. Wonderful Memories. Thank You So Much.????

  11. July 15, 2020

    Great images. Would like to see a ‘then and now’ featuring all these places.

  12. Eric Forward permalink
    July 16, 2020

    Incredible set of photographs, of places I just about recognise, even after having walked past some of them hundreds of times. Many readers will not appreciate the changes that have taken place in what is still a relatively short period of time. Anyone else like a now & then post?

  13. Mary Green permalink
    July 17, 2020

    I love these old photos of shopfronts. I live in hope of spotting one of my family’s dairies, or indeed any Welsh dairy. But particularly my grandfather’s in Mape Street, long gone under Weavers Fields.

  14. David Green permalink
    July 27, 2020

    As someone who did a lot of streetscape photography in the 1980s, with a 4×5 view camera, with an emphasis on small shops, how the owners decorated their windows, and vernacular architecture, I just love seeing these photos. I lost 30 years of negatives in a fire 10 years ago so it’s lovely to know these images have been scanned and can be seen.

  15. Julian Grenier permalink
    November 26, 2021

    Could ‘unknown location 1976’ be the corner of Cyprus St and Cyprus Place where an old shop has been converted to a red-shuttered house?

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