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Stan Jones & The Coronation

May 5, 2023
by the gentle author


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

Stan’s photograph of his Diamond Jubilee decorations in 2012

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 (1929-2021) of Mile End who lived in his house for more than 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 had ever been thrown away. Every inch of the house and garden had found its ideal use in the last eight decades and Stan was a happy man living in his beloved home that was also the repository of his family history.

Fortunately for us Stan had 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 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 immersed himself in domesticity and creative pastimes, and enjoyed fulfilment at the centre of his intimate community over all this time. Such was 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 could 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 Jones

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 Jones outside his house

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

Portraits copyright © Sarah Ainslie

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8 Responses leave one →
  1. Wendy permalink
    May 5, 2023

    This was one of my favourite posts- was so sorry when I heard Stan had died. Thank you for revisiting him and his charming home. I wonder how it has changed since his passing.

  2. Lynne McBarron permalink
    May 5, 2023

    How lovely .. what a wonderful step back in time.
    Thank you .
    So many changes and occasions that Stan had lived through.
    Thank you for sharing Stan’s story with us.

  3. May 5, 2023

    A lovely story of a gentle man and a bygone era.
    If Alf were still with us, no doubt his much loved home would be looking wonderful for the Coronation celebrations this weekend.
    R.I.P Alf.

  4. May 5, 2023

    Tomorrow is the great day! The United Kingdom will have a new King. It’s an absolutely thrilling historical event — 70 years after the last one. It’s so sad that my father won’t be around to see it — he was born in 1926 to the Queen. And he met the Queen once in Leipzig when she visited Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. And his phrase after that was always: “I recognised her immediately, but she didn’t recognise me.” (My father passed away peacefully at home two years ago at the age of 94.)

    Tomorrow I’ll be glued to the TV all day — I want to experience EVERYTHING in personally, just like Stan Jones did!

    Love & Peace

  5. Peter H permalink
    May 5, 2023

    So enjoyed reading this. Thank you.

  6. David Hall permalink
    May 5, 2023

    Fascinating glimpse of a life , thank you .

  7. Cherub permalink
    May 6, 2023

    I am so looking forward to The Coronation. In 1953 my 2 brothers were 8 and 3 and my mum was expecting my sister who was born in July. I didn’t come along until 1961.

    Sadly, The Queen passed away when I was staying at my house in Scotland last year, so it was a very subdued holiday. I could not pay my respects in Edinburgh as the queue was over 6 hours long and I had a very early morning flight to catch.

    I have my bunting up in Switzerland and iced fairy cakes baked in red, white and blue patterned cases.

    God Save The King!

  8. Peter permalink
    May 6, 2023

    Makes me want to cry. What street was his house on?

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