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Malcolm Tremain’s Spitalfields

November 23, 2023
by the gentle author

Jonathan Pryce will read my short story ‘On Christmas Day’ at the launch at Burley Fisher Books in Haggerston tonight Thursday 23rd November at 6:30pm.




In 1981, when Malcolm Tremain was working as a Telephone Engineer in Moorgate, he bought an Olympus 0M1 and set out to explore his fascination with Spitalfields.

‘I used to come over and wander round whenever I felt like it,’ he admitted to me, ‘I never thought I was making a record, I just wanted to take interesting photographs.’ Malcolm’s pictures of Spitalfields in the early eighties capture a curious moment of stasis and neglect before the neighbourhood changed forever.

Passage from Allen Gardens to Brick Lane – ‘I asked this boy if I could take his picture and he said, ‘yes.’ When I looked at the photograph afterwards, I realised he had one buckle missing from his shoe.’

Spital Sq, entrance to former Central Foundation School now Galvin Restaurant

In Spital Sq

In Brune St

In Toynbee St

Corner of Grey Eagle St & Quaker St

In Quaker St

Off Quaker St

Outside Brick Lane Mosque – ‘People dumped stuff everywhere in those days’

In Puma Court

Corner of Wilkes St & Princelet St

In Wilkes St

Outside the Jewish Soup Kitchen in Brune St

Outside the night shelter in Crispin St – ‘He was shuffling his feet, completely out of it’

In Crispin St

In Bell Lane

In Parliament Court

In Artillery Passage

In Artillery Passage

In Middlesex St – ‘note the squint letter ‘N’ in ‘salvation”

In Bishopsgate

In Bishopsgate

Petticoat Lane Market

In Wentworth St

In Wentworth St

In Wentworth St

In Wentworth St

In Wentworth St

In Fort St

In Allen Gardens

In Pedley St

In Pedley St

In Pedley St – ‘Good horse manure available – Help yourself – No charge’

At Pedley St Bridge

In Sun St Passage at the back of Liverpool St – ‘Note spelling ‘NATOINE FORANT”

In Sun St Passage

Photographs copyright © Malcolm Tremain

You may also like to take a look at

David Hoffman at Fieldgate Mansions

Val Perrin’s Spitalfields

Philip Marriage’s Spitalfields

Dan Cruickshank’s Spitalfields

Andrew Scott’s East End

2 Responses leave one →
  1. November 23, 2023

    It is significant that social history is recorded by those who, probably, at the time, didn’t realise how important their photographs would become. They capture real people and places, as they actually were. My Dad worked all around the East End in the 1950s and 60s. He told me so many different stories of people, places and events that stuck in his mind. He loved to talk to people and was saddened how a tragedy could push somebody into the death spiral of alcoholism, homelessness and despair. Poverty was everywhere and even we “just got by”. Famously, one year, we only received Christmas presents because Dad won a few quid on the football pools.
    I started going back to places he and Mum knew about twenty years ago. My dad couldn’t believe how much the area had changed since he worked there, especially when I showed him photos of Spitalfields Market. “Well I never!” He would say. I suppose for him, it was unthinkable that the area would ever become gentrified.
    Thank you Malcolm and the GA for showcasing these important photographs.

  2. Cherub permalink
    November 25, 2023

    It saddens me to see how much dereliction there was back then, yet we think of the 80s as modern.

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