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E. O. Hoppé’s Londoners

July 6, 2024
by the gentle author




I came upon these intimate and dignified portraits by Emil Otto Hoppé (1878-1972), accompanying interviews by W. Pett Ridge in his LONDON TYPES, 1926.


‘The costume known as pearlies went out so long ago that it can be regarded as a page of distant history. The presentment of a Cockney type is now achieved by other means. As a fact, Commercial Rd is determined to keep pace with the West End so far as male attire is concerned, but the time may come when Hackney Rd will lead.’


‘An increased use of roadways has added to the range of the chipper. From the motor coach, as he goes along the countryside, he can fire comments at slow pedestrians and he can chaff the young women riding pillion on motor bicycles. As used at public meetings, chipping is sometimes known as heckling and no general election is complete without specimens of his art. A junior in any office or warehouse is wise to submit to the verbal attack made by the chipper of the establishment. In due course and with the passage of years, he too will become a chipper. In this way, traditions are maintained and old customs not allowed to die.’


‘With all the short cuts she is well acquainted and it is not the messenger girl who is deceived by turnings out of Bishopsgate St…’


‘Robinsky – first name Stanislaus – came here many years ago with his wife, neither being acquainted with the English language. Somehow they made their way from the docks to Tottenham Court Rd where they have lived ever since. Robinsky is growing old now and likely enough he does not feel his control over European matters is quite as complete as he once hoped it would be.’


‘All witnesses whether from Hoxton or elsewhere show a pained anxiety to be extremely decorous in language. Only under the encouragement of the magistrate’s clerk do they, in their quotations, consent to be verbally exact and report with coyness words to which, in ordinary life, they are fully accustomed.’


‘Cecil Whitstable swaggered along Latimer Rd, giving a wave of the hand to men acquaintances, with a forefinger to the peak of the cap when they were in the company of ladies. One of the men hurried after him and asked privately if he knew anything worth knowing about the three-thirty race that afternoon. Cecil replied that his mind was on weightier matters.’


‘The home worker pays more dearly than for necessaries  than anyone else in London and this is because she has to buy tea by the two ounces, butter by the quarter pound and sugar by the pennyworth…’


‘There are changes in the musical repertory of London introduced so gradually that one requires an observant ear to detect the alteration of the programme. The rhythmical sound of horses hooves has become rare, even the piano organ has become less aggressive. In order that its voice may not reach a public outside its paying area, it frequently mutes its notes and rarely leaves Saffron Hill until the day is well advanced…’

‘You will find the humble abode of one who has been visited by dire misfortune, deserted by all the acquaintances one knew in happier days and in brighter surroundings, many articles in the shape of furniture have had to go…’


‘Protected by his outstretched arm from the traffic that near the Bank comes from every quarter, I have crossed safely without the trouble of diving into the station of the Central Railway. I have seen him dance with agreeable ladies in the great hall at the Cannon St Hotel. I have watched him at open air sports for an entire afternoon.  I have looked on with awe at his boxing…’


‘An occurrence on which he is an authority is the Clerkenwell Explosion – ‘Wheels a barrel of gunpowder close up against the wall of the prison, then lights a fuse and runs away,’ adding with relish, ‘A few dozen killed and over a hundred damaged. Precious little else talked about at the time I can assure you!”


“Living not far from Shoreditch Church, Mrs Marsden’s husband held a fixed objection to work and the task of earning a wage was left to her. Once he was absent for a fortnight and, when a neighbour brought news that a body had been taken out of the river, Mrs Marsden set out at once for the mortuary. ‘That’s Bill, right enough!’ she said. The insurance was drawn, an almost luxurious funeral provided and a good supply of refreshments laid in. But when the mourners returned, conducted by Mrs Marsden, they found Bill seated at the table. He had eaten the ham and consumed most of the beverages.’


‘One of the bravest officers the division had ever included in its ranks, Mr Chailey was presented by the Chairman with a spontaneous collection amounting to over one hundred pounds.’


‘In the quarters where doorsteps receive daily attention, the maid with her kneeling mat and other necessities of the job, comes up the area stairs early enough to permit of conversation with the acquaintances who pass by and she does not object to the interruptions created. The postman alludes to the temperature. ‘Don’t find I sleep well,’ he mentions autobiographically, ‘during the hot weather.’ ‘Small wonder,’ she remarks, good-humouredly. ‘Look at the life you have led.’ The postman goes on, greatly cheered by the implication.’


It is rare for Mrs Miller to take a journey in a public conveyance without being recognised by a fellow passenger. Her bonnet assists her identification. Being no slave to fashion, she has always, in living memory, worn the same style and she retains the headgear when engaged in her daily tasks. I am unable to say whether of not she sleeps in it.’


‘George found himself a junior at a salary which juniors of an earlier period would have deemed impossible. A chief clerk to whom he was introduced gazed at him steadily through a pince-nez and said, not discouragingly, ‘I daresay we shall be able to knock some sense into you.’ To which George replied – having been warned to be polite to his superiors – ‘Much obliged, sir!”


‘The beauty of the hand diminishes when it has to perform tasks at the Council Washhouses.’

Photographs copyright © Estate of E O Hoppé

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Bill Brandt, Photographer

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10 Responses leave one →
  1. July 6, 2024

    These images are absolutely gorgeous. The composition, the lighting, everything beautifully captured. They really should form part of an exhibition. Please try to make that happen.

  2. Kate Amis permalink
    July 6, 2024

    What a joy! I especially love the story about Mrs Marsden’ s Bill. A delight . Thank you for finding and sharing.

  3. Bernie permalink
    July 6, 2024

    Indeed, these images were made by an artist gifted by a rare quality of imagination. They deserve to be much better known. Are enough of them in the repository where they now lie to make a book? If so, an effort should be made to bring it to publication.

  4. Annie S permalink
    July 6, 2024

    What a great find!
    A brilliant set of photographs and accompanying interviews.

  5. Francesca Jobson permalink
    July 6, 2024

    Love this blog as. Londoner born and bred I lived in Kings Cross / Caledonian rd from 1957…. My grandparents on my father’s side came from Italy in 1910 … I had many relatives in the clerkenwll area which was known as the Italian ghetto….. my mothers family were English sand she grew up in Rising Hill stree N.1 close to chapel street market… your blogs and accompanying photographs depict a London long gone.Reading your articles and looking at the photos brings a lot of nostalgia…….although times were very tough then ………..
    ,not too unlike the conditions for some today.

  6. July 6, 2024

    Beautiful! Thank you!

  7. July 6, 2024

    So much to appreciate here — each portrait evoked wonderings, assumptions, wild-blue-y0nder guesses, and speculations. The girl messenger stopped me dead in my tracks. Take another look, and you will find a luminous beauty, with lovely downcast modest eyes (dare I say, a good “cover” for an undoubtedly street-savvy young woman) and graceful young hands. Yes, we are to believe that she is poised, about to reach into her pouch for the requisite letter — afterall that is her daily mission and hard-earned profession — but I could easily imagine her pulling out a fluttering handkerchief, or perhaps a letter that SHE recieved from an ardent admirer? “Ah, yes, let me give that letter from Jack just one more look…………….” It is already limp from being folded and re-folded, read and re-read. //// Is it possible that young Jack took up the services of the Complete Letter Writer, to create this treasured “keeper” of a letter? No wonder his lady love is so dazzled with the expert, fond entreaties here?

    Many thanks, GA.

  8. Cherub permalink
    July 6, 2024

    These photos are beautiful. The 2 homeworkers could be sisters and the story of Bill made me laugh out loud.

  9. Sonia Murray permalink
    July 7, 2024

    What wonderful portraits! The loving, gentle faces of the homeworkers – they must be sisters – remind me so much of my Gran. What a very great pity that none of the subjects are identified! But it’s wonderful that they have all been immortalized by the photographer’s art.

    And yes, these beautiful portraits should be exhibitedfor the world to see.

  10. Eve permalink
    July 7, 2024

    Superb photographs sensitively representative of Londoners from diverse backgrounds & cultures, who settled here and became locals. I loved the accompanying observations too..

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