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Moyra Peralta At Crispin St Night Shelter

June 15, 2024
by the gentle author

Next tickets for THE GENTLE AUTHOR’S TOUR OF SPITALFIELDS are available for Saturday 22nd June


Remembering photographer Moyra Peralta (1936-2024) who died on 8th May aged eighty-eight

“I am standing in the one-time women’s dormitory and have brought a photograph of my friend Peggy. Her husband had died and she could not bear to remain alone in her home surrounded by thoughts of him. Chance, desperation and loss brought many people to Providence Row, myself included, and its existence was a lifeline – a refuge from the ruthlessness of life.”

Providence Row, the night shelter for destitute men, women and children in Crispin St, opened in 1860 and operated until 2002 when it moved to new premises in Wentworth St, where it continues now as a day centre. Twenty years on, photographer Moyra Peralta, who worked at Providence Row in the seventies and eighties, returned to have a final look at the familiar rooms that had seen so much life and she took these evocative pictures published here for the first time.

Reconstructed and expanded to create an uneasy architectural hybrid, the building is now student housing for the London School of Economics, where once it housed Students of the London School of the Economics of Pennilessness. Famously, this was where James Mason came to interview those dignified gentlemen down on their luck in ‘The London Nobody Knows.’

Over one one hundred and forty years, Providence Row offered refuge to the poorest and most vulnerable of Londoners and, at the last moment before the building was gutted, Moyra went in search of the residue of their hope and despair, their yearning and their loneliness. She found a sacred space resonant with echoes of the past and graven with the tell-tale marks of those who had passed through.


Memorial plaque to the opening of Providence Row in 1860

The yard where Roman skeletal remains were excavated

Looking towards the City of London


Former women’s dormitory

Women’s dormitory in the sixties

This free-standing disconnected facade is still to be seen in Artillery Lane

Gerry B

“I am struck by the notion that with a careless step or two, I too might meet a premature end as I circumnavigate holes in floors and gaping apertures in walls.”

The room where Moyra Peralta slept when she worked at Providence Row and where she wrote these words – “Only the present is real – for some reason I feel this most of all when listening to the lorries moving at the street’s end and the slamming of crates being unloaded in Crispin St. There is a rhythm to the deep sound of the slow low-thrumming engines that I like to contemplate. On sleep-over, rising early from my bed following the refuge nightshift, I watch what is now – 6:00am. A thousand cameos change and regroup under my gaze. Jammed traffic forms and reforms where the roads meet.”

Photographs copyright © Estate of Moyra Peralta

You may also like to read these other stories about the Crispin St Night Shelter

The Return of Vicky Moses

The Doss Houses of Spitalfields

Down Among the Meths Men

and see Moyra Peralta’s other work

Moyra Peralta in Spitalfields

Moyra Peralta’s Street Portraits

4 Responses leave one →
  1. Gilbert O’Brien permalink
    June 15, 2024

    Even a homeless shelter a victim of facadism. How we honour our dead. Enraging. Shameful.

  2. June 15, 2024

    Photographer Moyra Peralta was a very committed woman who not only documented street life and homelessness in the centre of London, but also helped many people in need. She wanted to rescue people from oblivion and was therefore an artistic social worker.

    On 14 June 2014, exactly ten years ago, I received her book “Nearly Invisible” from London, which she dedicated to me. Dear Moyra Peralta (1936-2024), thank you for your wonderful work. May you rest in peace.

    Love & Peace

  3. Cherub permalink
    June 15, 2024

    I admire anyone who photographs people living in difficult circumstances and places like this. It means they are not entirely forgotten about.

  4. Andy Strowman permalink
    June 16, 2024

    I echo Achim’s words and say more .
    We need to honour Moyra with an OBE .

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