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Mat Hughes’ East End, 1984

November 2, 2022
by the gentle author

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Mat Hughes sent me these photographs of the East End in 1984 from Australia where he lives today. They are published here for the first time and we hope readers can assist in identifying locations. We will be published two further sets, East End portraits and the Spitalfields Market.

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“Back in 1984, I was a nineteen-year-old student studying photography at the Plymouth College of Art & Design. For my final assignment, I visited Whitechapel and spent two days in April walking the streets taking these photographs. I remember the first day was wet and rainy, and the second day was hot and bright. I can tell from the school children that it was a weekday.

In all honesty, I had no plan and in the end my assignment was never fully realised. I had too many pictures to print, it was expensive and I had no real story to tell or way of displaying them. Out of several hundred exposures, only a dozen were printed.

When I read about the controversial redevelopment of the Truman Brewery, it prompted me to dig out my 35mm negatives. Initially, I scanned one or two out of curiosity but I found myself captivated. Time has given these photographs a context that I was unable to provide. Photographs that thirty-eight years ago I might have discarded have become treasures. Thank goodness I did not have a delete button back then.

Some of the scenes in the photographs are barely recognisable now but if I follow the exposure numbers on the film negatives I can roughly trace my walking path through those streets.”

Mat Hughes

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1

2

3

4

5 Jubilee St


6 Lindley St

7

8 Stifford Estate


9 Stifford Estate

10 Clark St

11

12

13

14 Roggs Deli, Burslem St


15 Burslem St


16 Chilton St

17

18

19 Brick Lane


20 Cheshire St


21 Chilton St


22 Myrdle St


23 Myrdle St

24


25 Allen Gardens

26 Princelet St

27

28

29

30

31

32

33

34


35 Montefiori House, Canon St Rd

36


37 Hessel St

38

39

Photographs copyright © Mat Hughes

17 Responses leave one →
  1. November 2, 2022

    Wow, these are phenomenal photos. So glad Mat kept these. I was an art student in the area at that time. If only I’d had the foresight to document the area with my camera

  2. November 2, 2022

    The East End of London at that time can hardly be portrayed more impressively. You can see rows of houses, some of them decaying, relatively widespread poverty, “original” Matchbox cars, contemporary graffiti slogans.

    I know an English antiquarian bookseller in Germany whom I once asked how an Englishman came to open a bookshop over here. His answer: “There was once a Mrs Thatcher, that’s why you had to emigrate as an Englishman.” — Amused, I replied: “I wanted to do the same because of Mrs Merkel…”.

    Love & Peace
    ACHIM

  3. Simon Walker permalink
    November 2, 2022

    These photos are sensational! Thanks for sharing them.

  4. Cherub permalink
    November 2, 2022

    1984 was when I moved down to London from Scotland, I was escaping from the miners’ strike as my area was struggling and there were no jobs to be had. The London shown here looks like it’s in a far bygone age, not a modern one. Even the 60’s Brutalist architecture looks faded and dated yet it’s probably not much more than 20 years old. Then there’s the litter. It makes me feel sad really.

  5. Kate Bacon permalink
    November 2, 2022

    Fantastic photos, I’m so glad Mat saved them. Oh the heady days of political graffiti!

  6. Andy permalink
    November 2, 2022

    Fab photos.
    No 5 I put my bet on Jubilee st

  7. Mark permalink
    November 2, 2022

    These are brilliant pictures, thanks.
    Thatcher Out, George Davis is Innocent (was he bol…..), Squatting. This is the vibrant London I remember during my frequent visits to the Smoke in the Eighties. Remember some of the gorgeous women from the council flats and Anarcho- Sindicalist middle class poseurs in the squats. What a time to be young. The poverty, squalor and drug dealers I didn’t really notice til the smack took over.

  8. Adele Lester permalink
    November 2, 2022

    Great photos, however #14 is wrongly marked. Riggs deli was not in New Road, but on the corner of Burslem St and Cannon Street Road. My mother often shopped there.

  9. Marcia Howard permalink
    November 2, 2022

    Wonderful record of time back then. The graffiti is priceless, and interesting to see some streets so spotless looking – including the washing on the line – while others were full of rubbish. Thank you Mat Hughes and The Gentle Author for sharing them with us.

  10. Patrick permalink
    November 2, 2022

    5 – Jubilee St looking towards O’Leary Sq.

    8 and 9 – Clichy Estate (not Stifford Est) looking towards Jamaica St where Henry Moore statue used to be.

    11- might be looking at houses on Ashfield St.

    12- Adelina Grove – Ansell House on the right.

    13- Tarling Estate, Tarling St

    36 – could be Shadwell Gardens Estate

  11. Sigrid permalink
    November 2, 2022

    I agree with Andy, northern End of Jubilee Street, left side, looking north towards where Rinkoffs bakery is. The house luckily still stand.

  12. Patrick permalink
    November 2, 2022

    One more – number 2 – Commercial Road looking up New Road – the London Hospital incinerator chimney disappears out the top of the pic.

  13. David Ellison permalink
    November 3, 2022

    Thanks Mat and GA for sharing. Although I’m looking at these from far away, they take me right back to where I started 🤗. Many thanks

  14. November 3, 2022

    Howdy People,

    I wasn’t expecting any responses, thank you. And thank you too to Andy, Adele & Patrick for your local knowledge and the caption corrections.

    Spitalfields Life is such an excellent depository of history and information that I thought it appropriate that these photographs find a home here tucked away safe for all to share.

    Yes Cherub, I share some of your sadness, but I think mine is just nostalgia of the passing of time. Photographs hit hardest when they jog memories of streets that you’ve walked down in the past and forgotten about.

  15. Sabiya permalink
    November 3, 2022

    Hi,

    3 – Dock Street looking into the Peabody Buildings estate on John Fisher Street

    24 – possibly Parfett Street

    30 – Varden Street

    32 and 33 – Hessel Street

    Hope that’s helpful

  16. November 3, 2022

    Very nice to see these old photographs. Many very familiar streets and graffiti. I wish I could remember where the “We Want Decent Housing In The E1 Area” one was.

    Re captions:
    14 isn’t New Road but Cannon Street Road which runs south from New Road.
    24 I think is Parfett Street .
    22 is the courtyard of Fieldgate Mansions between Romford Street and Myrdle Street.
    29 is looking north on Myrdle St with Fieldgate Mansions on the left.

  17. David Ward permalink
    November 5, 2022

    The title photo is the top of Assembly Passage, corner of Redmans Road.
    1. I think is the old Mile End Laundry in Globe Road.
    12. Adelina Grove as already commented, but I knew the guy pushing the pram!
    27. New Road looking north.
    29. Myrdle St. again.
    Hope these help, they’re memories from a long time ago.

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