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Dennis Anthony’s Petticoat Lane

June 23, 2024
by the gentle author

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If you are looking to spruce up your linen cupboard with some fresh bolster cases or if it is time to replace those tired tea towels and soiled doilies, then these two lovely gentlemen are here to help. They have some super feather eiderdowns and quality blanket sets to keep you snug and cosy on frosty nights, and it is all going for a song.

One Summer Sunday in the nineteen fifties, Dennis Anthony took his camera down Petticoat Lane to capture the heroes of the epic drama of market life – all wearing their Sunday best, properly turned out, and even a little swanky. There is plenty of flash tailoring and some gorgeous florals to be admired in his elegant photographs, composed with dramatic play of light and shade, in compositions which appear simultaneously spontaneous and immaculately composed. Each of these pictures captures a dramatic moment – selling or buying or deliberating – yet they also reward second and third glances to scrutinise the bystanders and all the wonderful detail of knick-knacks gone long ago.

When the West End shops shut on Sundays, Petticoat Lane was the only place to go shopping and hordes of Londoners headed East, pouring through Middlesex St and the surrounding streets that comprised its seven “tributaries,” hungry for bargains and mad for novelty. How do I know this? Because it was the highlight of my parents’ honeymoon, when they visited around the same time as Dennis Henry, and I grew up hearing tales of the mythic Petticoat Lane market.

I wish I could buy a pair of those hob-nailed boots and that beret hung up beside the two sisters in shorts, looking askance. But more even than these, I want the shirt with images of records and Lonnie Donegan and his skiffle group, hung up on Jack’s stall in the final photograph. Satisfied with my purchases, I should go round to Necchi’s Cafe on the corner of Exchange Buildings and join those distinguished gentlemen for refreshment. Maybe, if I sat there long enough, I might even glimpse my young parents come past, newly wed and excited to be in London for the first time?

I am grateful to the enigmatic Dennis Anthony for taking me to Petticoat Lane in its heyday. I should like to congratulate him on his superlative photography, only I do not know who he is. Stefan Dickers, the archivist at the Bishopsgate Institute, bought the prints you see here on ebay and although they are labelled Dennis Anthony upon the reverse, we can find nothing more about the mysterious photographer. So if anyone can help us with information or if anyone knows where there are further pictures by Dennis Anthony – Stefan & I would be delighted to learn more.

You might also like to see

Postcards from Petticoat Lane

Laurie Allen of Petticoat Lane

The Wax Sellers of Wentworth St

Fred the Chestnut Seller

Larry Goldstein, Toyseller & Taxi Driver

Rochelle Cole, Poulterer

4 Responses leave one →
  1. Mark. permalink
    June 23, 2024

    Ace pics.

  2. June 23, 2024

    Don’t give up on spotting your honeymooning parents, GA. I just found my mother in one of shots, selecting jewelry. Yep, that’s my mother, grooving on inexpensive costume regalia. Although she had a very limited handfull of “good” jewelry in her dresser-top box, my mother was “mad for novelty” (your phrase, and a goodie!) and adored bright colors, glistening faux gems, and unlikely
    theme-like chunks of finery. Scatter pins. Ropes of fake pearls in pastel mermaid shades. Plastic beads in rainbow hues. Flirty sunglasses with rhinestones. Fun bracelets that rattled.
    Just like the women in the photo, my mother always looked feminine and frilly, with a signature
    finishing touch of “Hot Tomato” lipstick.

    I hope someone will be able to find out more about photographer Dennis Anthony. (dare I say, he seems to have the “eye” of a commercial advertising photographer or art director.) I would
    love to see more of his work. Many thanks, GA.

  3. Cherub permalink
    June 23, 2024

    The last pic of the shirt stall made me smile. Back in the mid 80s my husband took up golf and I used to buy him nice polo shirts to wear for his Saturday morning round from a stall down the Lane. They were good quality cotton, washed well and a bargain at only 3 quid each.

  4. Susan permalink
    June 23, 2024

    Dennis Anthony was my photography tutor at Farnham during the late 70’s at what used to be called WSCAD now University of Creative Arts. During the 60’s he worked at Woburn studios as a commercial photographer. Here is an interview with a Swedish photographer Carl Lindhe who was his studio assistant. I instantly recognised Dennis in the 2 images in the article.

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