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The Spitalfields Parties Of Yesteryear

December 27, 2023
by the gentle author



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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.

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. December 27, 2023

    I think in these days of Netflix, PlayStation, Spotify and home delivery, people hardly need to congregate to socialise which I think is rather sad. I used to love Christmas parties and you can see by the looks of the faces in the photographs here, that the market traders families did too. Well done to George for holding on to these photos that capture happy times past. There is nothing like a good Christmas knees-up!

  2. December 27, 2023

    Scariest Father Christmas ever!

  3. December 27, 2023

    They’ve thought of everything! The rows of banquet tables with pressed white cloths, live flowers in vases, endless snacks and sweets, funny party hats, gifts for everyone, Santa, clowns, a dog act, singers at the mike, and more. (and a hired photographer to capture all of it! Aren’t we
    lucky?) I love grazing on the vintage touches here. The children’s dress-up clothing, like
    mini adults……..well, except for the short pants. And how some of the ladies look like they arrived in their old coats and bandanas, just to drop off the kids. (“no, no, please don’t take my photo”) And how SOME of the ladies look quite spiffy with their tight curls, scatter pins, and feminine frothy scarves, tra la. (“why, YES, please take my photo”). The men — Oh, how I enjoyed watching them. Some look like brothers, or maybe father/son combos. Clutching sandwiches off the sideboard, and photographed mid-munch, with drinks in hand. I can imagine the twirling on the dance floor, the kibbitzing in the corners (shop talk, gossip, bad
    jokes), the off-the-leash high jinks and guffaws. Oh, to see the Hall the next morning, before the clean-up!!?
    GA, you always take us to the best places. This was a wonderful party!

  4. Cherub permalink
    December 28, 2023

    These photos remind me of my childhood. My father was a miner and every Christmas a party would be held for their children at the local Miners Welfare Hall.

    Sadly, I hated going to them and the thought still makes me wince to this day, I’m 62 now. Miners were not held in high esteem despite doing a dangerous job underground and back then they were very poorly paid compared to other workers. The annual Christmas party always made me feel as if we were poor. I was also frightened of Santa and would never go up on stage to receive my present. After an aunt died 2 years ago my sister sent me photos taken at those parties and they just made me feel sad.

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