Swan Upping – 2008

July 14th, 2024

Swan Upping: On Monday 14 July 2008 I caught a train back from Hull so as to be back in Staines in time to meet the Swan Uppers as the last boats in the flotilla were leaving the Swan in Staines (or Egham Hythe) after stopping for lunch.

Swan Upping

Every July two groups of Thames Watermen make their way upstream from Sunbury to Abingdon following a tradition established not long after the Norman conquest, though the earliest clear written records only date back to 1186.

Swan Upping
The Queen’s (now King’s) Swan Master David Barber

Ownership of swans is still controlled by ancient laws, with the Crown claiming ownership of all unmarked swans on open water.

Swan Upping

In medieval times, swans, or rather cygnets, were an important source of food and many had the right to own swans. Upping in those times was a way of establishing ownership and taking some cygnets to be fattened for the tables, but leaving enough birds to maintain the swan population at a healthy level. The upping was done in July when the cygnets were still too young to be able to fly away and escape.

Swan Upping

Today only three bodies apart from the Crown have maintained the right to own swans, a family with a Swannery on a lake in Abbotsbury and two London Livery companies who exercise their rights on those on the Thames.

The Vintners were officially granted their rights in 1472 and the Dyers at around the same date, though their right was then granted ‘by prescription’, a legal term meaning they had had the right as long as the law could remember – officially since the accession of Richard I in 1189.

Over the years chickens and ducks which could be easily farmed replaced swans as a source of food, and swans are now a protected species and it is illegal to kill them. The Royal Family may still retain the right to eat them, along with the fellows of St John’s College, Cambridge but neither body now does so.

In more recent times, Swan Upping has come to play “an important role in the conservation of the mute swan and involves the King’s Swan Warden collecting data, assessing the health of young cygnets and examining them for any injuries.” The cygnets claimed by the Dyers and the Vintners used to have their beaks nicked with distinctive marks, but now the birds are simply ringed and their weight and length recorded before being returned carefully to the river, where they swim away apparently unaffected by their experience.

Six Thames skiffs rowed by watermen, two boats each for the Royal Swan Uppers, the Dyers and the Vintners make their way upstream, keeping a lookout for swans with cygnets. They wear red shirts for the Royals, blue for the Dyers and white for the Vintners.

Back when I first photographed the Uppers, most of the scouting for cygnets was actually carried out by an elderly man on a bicycle who I got to know slightly, and I rode along behind him. When Eric saw the birds he would try to entice them to a suitable spot on the bank with the help of crushed digestive biscuits.

In more recent years, a small dinghy with an outboard motor carrying the Warden of the Swans, on Oxford professor, has often driven a little ahead of the fleet to locate the swans. The ancient post of Keeper of the Kings Swans had been split into two new posts in 1993, the other part being the Marker of the Swans, who is rowed in one of the Royal skiffs.

Following behind the skiffs is a small flotilla of river cruisers, which includes a launch for the press. I did once book a place on this, but my place was cancelled shortly before the event when the major agencies and newspapers took an unusual interest, I think because the royals were taking an unusual interest.

But for most purposes, cycling along the towpath is the best way to cover the Swan Upping, and I was often there on the bank minutes before those on the press launch were able to land and join me. And the bank was usually the best place to be, closer to the action than the press launch could get.

At the end of the day the skiffs line up together in Romney Lock where the men put on their jackets and stand up in their boats to toast the Sovereign’s health.

From Romney lock I ran around a quarter of a mile along the riverside path where the Dyers and Vintners stand in their boats with oars vertical to salute the Royal uppers who go past between them with their oars raised, before all six boats row off to the boathouse at Eton, with another 4 days of upping ahead of them.

More pictures from the 2008 Swan Upping on My London Dairy where you can also see many more pictures from previous years:

Details of this year’s Swan Upping which begins on Monday 15th July 2024 are on the website of the Swan Marker to His Majesty the King. If the weather is good I might stroll down and take a few pictures.


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PIP, NHS, Trident & Cleaners – 2016

July 13th, 2024

PIP, NHS, Trident & Cleaners: Wednesday 13th July 2016 was a busy day for me, covering two protests in the ‘#PIPFightback’ National Day of Action against the Personal Independence Payments, a rally in favour of a parliamentary bill to stop the ongoing privatisation of the NHS, a party against plans to spend huge amounts on new nuclear weapons and ending with a rally supporting cleaners in the longest running industrial dispute in the history of the City of London.


PIP Fightback – Vauxhall & Westminster

PIP, NHS, Trident & Cleaners

On this day there were around 20 actions by disabled protesters and their supporters as a ‘#PIPFightback’ National Day of Action against PIP, the Personal Independence Payments which have been a totally inadequate replacement for the Disabled Living Allowance which had previously provided support to enable disabled people to work and live on more even terms with the rest of the community.

I began at the Vauxhall PIP Consultation Centre in Vauxhall where ATOS carry out sham Personal Independence Payments ‘assessments’ on behalf of the DWP. These are carried out without without proper consideration of medical evidence and with ATOS haing a financial incentive to fail claimants.

PIP, NHS, Trident & Cleaners

Many genuine claimants have lost essential benefits for months before these are restored by tribunals on appeal. The temporary loss of finance has resulted in some being taken into hospitals and some commiting suicide.

PIP, NHS, Trident & Cleaners

Other claimants lose benefits as job centres ‘sanction’ them, often for trivial or unfair reasons such as arriving late for interviews due to bus or train delays – or because they have not received a letter about the appointment.

PIP, NHS, Trident & Cleaners

Among those taking part in this protest was Gill Thompson, whose brother David Clapson, a diabetic ex-soldier died in July 2013 after his benefits were ‘sanctioned’. He was left starving without money for food or electricity to keep the fridge containing his insulin running. She carried a banner with the names and a few pictures of around 100 claimants known to have died because of sanctions. This appears to be a relatively small fraction of the total which runs into thousands.

Later I joined a larger protest with members of the Mental Health Resistance Network (MHRN), Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) and Winvisible (Women with Invisible and Visible Disabilities) and others in Westminster outside the Victoria Street offices of Capita who also carry out these shoddy assessments.

There were speeches on the pavement there before the protesters moved onto the busy road blocking traffic in both directions, though they quickly moved aside to let a ambulance through.

After a few minutes Paula Peters of DPAC announced it was time to move on and the protesters marched along the road past the Met Police HQ at New Scotland Yard and on the the DWP offices at Caxton House.

Here they blocked the road for some more speeches before moving on to Parliament where there was another short rally on the road before they moved on to the media village on College Green where politicians were being interviewed on TV over the appointment of a new Prime Minister, Theresa May.

Police blocked them from going onto the Green, but soon some went past them and refused police requests to move; eventually they were allowed to stand on a path in the middle of the area. Although all the TV crews present could see and hear the protest, only one or two bothered to come across and find out what was happening – and I think these were from foreign news agencies.

Disabled PIP Fightback blocks Westminster
PIP Fightback at Vauxhall


NHS Bill protest at Parliament

Protesters from various campaigns to save the NHS held a protest in support as Labour MP for Wirral West Margaret Greenwood presented a ‘Ten Minute Rule Bill’ with cross-party support to stop the privatisation of the NHS and return it to its founding principles. Labour Shadow Health Secretary Diane Abbott came out to speak in support at the protest.

More pictures: NHS Bill protest at Parliament


Trident Mad Hatters Tea Party – Parliament Sq

CND members were lobbying MPs at Parliament against plans to replace Trident at a cost of at least £205 billion.

And on the square facing the Houses of Parliament was a ‘Mad Hatters Tea Party’, as well as Christians with placards stating the opposition by churches of the different denominations to the replacement.

Trident Mad Hatters Tea Party


Solidarity for Wood St cleaners – City of London

The strike by cleaners at the 100 Wood St offices managed by CBRE was now the longest running industrial dispute in the history of the City of London.

The cleaners belong to the United Voices of the World union and are employed by anti-union cleaning contractor Thames Cleaning.

Unite the Resistance, the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, Class War and others had come to support the United Voices of the World. After a rally opposite the Wood Street offices, then marched around the block and then went on hold a rally blocking the street outside the CBRE offices at St Martin’s Court.

Solidarity for Wood St cleaners


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Our Lady of Mount Carmel – 2009

July 12th, 2024

Our Lady of Mount Carmel: I think it was in 1992 that I first photographed the Procession in Honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel which has taken place at St Peter’s Italian Church in Clerkenwell since 1883. You can find around 50 of my photographs from that year in my Flickr album 1992 London Photos which you can access by clicking on this, the first picture in the set:

Float, Procession, In Honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St Peter's, Italian Church, Clerkenwell Rd, Clerkenwell, Camden, Islington, 1992, 92-6y-62
1992

I went back the following year, and I think the pictures from 1993 are generally better.

First Communicants, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Italian Festival, St Peters Church, Clerkenwell, Camden, 1993,
1993

And I’ve been there most years since when I’ve been in London at the right time in July, though I’m not sure if I will go this year, when The liturgical feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is celebrated on 16th July and the procession takes place on a Sunday close to that – the 2024 Procession is on the afternoon of Sunday 21st July.

It’s London’s most colourful Christian procession and the celebrations around it have an Italian liveliness – and most years I’ve gone together with a fellow photographer of Italian origin and we have enjoyed a few glasses of cheap Italian wine together. But we are getting older and the wine is getting more expensive…

And while its still a fine event to attend, in recent years it has perhaps lost a little, and like most events become a little more formalised and a little less spontaneous, harder to take the kind of informal images I like and which I hope reflect more the atmosphere of the event.

All of the colour pictures here are from Sunday 12th July 2009 which I think was for me a fairly typical year, with one exception. At the centre of the event for me photographically has been the release of doves, usually by three of the clergy. The doves fly unpredictably and extremely rapidly when released, and capturing them in flight is a challenge. In 2009 I got lucky.

Back in 2009 I was working with a Nikon D700 and made this picture with the focal length set to 24mm. That camera could take pictures at 5 frames per second, though I probably relied on pressing the button at the right time. Fortunately I’d decided to set a small aperture, f16, to try to keep clergy, background and doves in focus, although working at ISO400 this meant a slightly slow shutter speed, 1/250s.

Nikon’s autofocus kept up with the pigeon as it flew directly towards me, and its feathers and claws are the sharpest part of the image, with the background remaining only slightly out of focus thanks to the small aperture. The wingspan of a pigeon is around 30 inches and a little elementary maths tells me the bird must have been just over 2 feet from the camera. I certainly felt the breeze as it passed inches over my hair.

You can read more about the 2009 event, including the lively Italian festival – the Sagra – with various stalls food, drink, dancing and more in a street below the church, as well as the procession itself with its various floats and walking groups including the first communicants and others who carry the statues of saints on My London Diary.

The clergy join the procession in front of the last float, which carries the statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and a large crowd of parishioners follows after it as it goes around the local area before returning to the church.

Also on My London Diary are pictures from the processions in 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, and 2003 as well as some later years. Our Lady of Mount Carmel 2009


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London Summer Festivals 2004

July 11th, 2024

London Summer Festivals : Sunday 11th July 2004 seemed to be a day of festivals in London and I spent some time at three of them, walking between Trafalgar Square, Denmark Street and St Paul’s Covent Garden and taking a few pictures on the way.

London Summer Festivals

Back then I was still working with the rather primitive Nikon D100 DSLR, with probably the dullest and smallest viewfinder of any camera I’ve used (though I have used deveral with no viewfinder at all.)

London Summer Festivals

But although it only gave 6.1Mp files, (3012X2008 pixels) and the DX sensor was only half the size of a 35mm frame these were of remarkable quality and could be extrapolated to make decent large prints – one taken on another day was blown up to 2.3m wide for a public exhibition.

London Summer Festivals

Nikon at the time and for some years were saying that the DX format was all that was needed for its cameras, and the later decision to move to ‘full-frame’ was driven by marketing – keeping up with Canon – rather than technical considerations.

London Summer Festivals

Of course like most other photographers followd sheep-wise to move to full-frame when these new cameras came out, though most of the time when working with telephoto lenses I switched down to DX format for the greater equivalent focal length this gave.

At first the DX format with its 1.5x focal length multiplier meant I was working without any real wide angle lens. The 24-85mm worked as a 36-127 lens, But by July 2004 I had acquired the remarkable Sigma 12-24mm lens, “the world’s first ultra-wide-angle zoom for DSLRs with full-frame sensors” – 18-36mm equivalent on DX, solving that issue. And since on DX it was not using the corners of the frame it was a better performer than on full-frame.

I put the pictures in this post on the web in 2004, when most of us were still accessing the internet on dial-up modems and even the fastest connections were only 512kbs. To get web pages to load at a sensible speed the jpg image files had to be drastically cut in size to around 50-70kb. Now I would upload the same files the same size at two or three times the size to get visibly better quality.

Here- with some corrections is the text I wrote about the day in 2004:

Sunday I walked into Trafalgar Square to find it full of young Indian girls carrying ornamental jars and dancing with them, rehearsing for the Trafalgar Shores event that afternoon.

I left and went up to Denmark St for a set by 50hz, electrifying the first Tin Pan Alley Festival, organised with Shelter. Great Indie Rock and supporting charity without running.
more pictures

Then on to a garden party in St Pauls Covent Garden, which was sprinkled with celebrities, actors (female) and others I’ve not heard of and didn’t recognise. And a picture I didn’t post in 2004

Back in Trafalgar Square the girls had donned traditional garb and were now recognisably the Saraswati Dance Academy in a colourful South Asian show. After this we were treated to some water puppetry from the Vietnamese National Puppetry Theatre (not very photogenic and hard to photograph) so i went back to catch Billy Thompson playing Grapelli to Tim Robinson’s Django with rhythm support from Dukato. Finally back in the square I watched the superb Irie! Caribbean Dance Fusion from Deptford/New Cross, London. Then home for a slightly dark and chilly alfresco dinner with family.
more pictures

My London Diary

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Highgate Hill Murugan Chariot Festival – 2010

July 10th, 2024

Highgate Hill Murugan Chariot Festival: Back in the first decade of this century my work covered a wider range of cultural events than now, including many religious events on the streets of London. The 2010 election which put into power a Tory-led government dedicated to making the poor poorer and themselves and their friends richer changed that for me, leading to 14 years dominated by covering protests – something which had only been one strand of my work before. I’m currently not sure if our recent election will change my work which for the last months has been completely dominated by Palestine.

Highgate Hill Murugan Chariot Festival

I didn’t entirely stop photographing religious festivals and on Sunday 10th July 2011 went to Highgate where the annual Highgate Hill Murugan Chariot Festival was taking place.

Highgate Hill Murugan Chariot Festival

Here I’ll copy what I wrote about it in 2011 with a few of the many pictures I made at the event. You can see more pictures on My London Diary.

Highgate Hill Murugan Chariot Festival

Murugan is a popular Hindu God in Tamil areas and the patronal god of the Tamil homeland Tamil Nadu. As God of war Murugan with six heads has a divine lance and other weapons and rides a peacock.

Highgate Hill Murugan Chariot Festival

In the Chariot Festival people make offerings to Murugan of baskets of fruits, particularly coconuts, which are blessed and returned.

Men on one side and women on the other pull on the long ropes to take the chariot around the neighbourhood, while a conch shell gives an audible warning of its movement; other women carry kavadi (burdens) offered to Murugan, chanting and carrying of pots, possibly of coconut milk on their heads.

Some men roll half-naked along the ground behind the chariot holding coconuts. People sweep the road to make their progress less painful, and others anoint them with sacred ashes.

Highgate Hill Murugan Temple is one of the oldest and most famous in the UK, but the celebrations here seemed to be a little more restrained than those I’ve photographed at some other London Murugan temples.

Perhaps surprisingly, in Sri Lanka Murugan is also revered by Sinhalese Buddhists.

On the ‘History‘ page of the Highgatehill Murugan Temple web site you can read how the Hindu association of Great Britain was founded in London on 23rd October 1966, and in 1977 was able to buy a spacious freehold property at 200A, Archway Road, Highgate Hill. Here they built the Temple which includes a library, two Concert Halls, a prayer hall and a Priest’s flat which was opened in 1979, with a three storey Temple added a few years later. It was the first Sri Llankan Hindu Temple in the UK.

More Pictures: Highgate Hill Murugan Chariot Festival


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Garden Bridge, Housing, Domestic Violence, Migrants & Police Killings

July 9th, 2024

Garden Bridge, Housing, Domestic Violence, Migrants & Police Killings; Saturday 9th July 2016 began for me in Waterloo, where right wing Labour party members were attending a conference. Then I travelled to Hackney for a Sisters Uncut protest over domestic violence and housing, back to Downing Street for a rally against the scapegoating of immigrants and went briefly to a Brexit debate in Green Park and then south of the river again to a protest against police murders in the UK and US.


Garden Bridge protest at ‘Progress’ conference – Coin St

Garden Bridge, Housing, Domestic Violence, Migrants & Police Killings

Lambeth Council were supporting the ‘Garden Bridge‘, a private green space to bridge the River Thames close to Waterloo Bridge, an expensive vanity project with a costing over £200 million with little public gain.

Lambeth residents came to protest as Lambeth councillors and council leader Liz Peck were attending the Labour Party ‘Progress’ movement ‘Governing for Britain’ conference.

Garden Bridge, Housing, Domestic Violence, Migrants & Police Killings

The Garden Bridge project was finally abandoned in August 2017, by which time it had cost £53m, including £43m of public money.

Garden Bridge ‘Progress’ protest


Housing Protest at ‘Progress’ conference – Coin St

Garden Bridge, Housing, Domestic Violence, Migrants & Police Killings

Also protesting outside the Progress conference were housing protesters against the demolition of council estates and their replacement by luxury flats under ‘regeneration’ schemes by London Labour councils including Southwark, Newham and Lambeth.

Garden Bridge, Housing, Domestic Violence, Migrants & Police Killings

The protesters were from the Revolutionary Communist Group, Focus E15 ‘Homes for All’ campaign and Architects for Social Housing who had been involved in various campaigns to stop the demolition of social housing in these boroughs.

They say that New Labour policies, now accelerated by the Tory Housing and Planning Act, makes London too expensive for ordinary workers leading to social cleansing, while making excessive profits for developers, including housing associations and estate agents Savills.

Housing Protest at ‘Progress’ conference


East End Sisters Uncut on Domestic Violence – Hackney Town Hall

Sisters Uncut came to Hackney Town Hall to demand the council abolish all plans to demolish council homes, refuse to implement the Housing Act and invest money into council housing and refuges for victims of domestic violence.

They quoted a Women’s Aid report for 2013-5 which found that over 60% of applications to women’s refuges in Hackney are refused as no room is available.

East End Sisters Uncut-Domestic Violence


Europe, Free Movement and Migrants – Downing St

The Brexit vote had been followed by a rise in the scapegoating of immigrants and Islamophobia, and ‘Another Europe Is Possible’ organised a rally at Downing Street to keep Britain open to migrants, and for policies and media which recognise the positive contribution that migration makes to the UK.

Speakers came from a wide range of groups including Movement for Justice, Left Unity, Friends of the Earth, Newham Monitoring Project, Stand Up To Racism and Syrian activists.

Many from the rally were going to the Brexit picnic and discussion in Green Park afterwards, and I did too.

Europe, Free Movement and Migrants


Green Park Brexit Picnic

Most of those who came to the picnic felt cheated by a vote that was based on lies and false promises, but they came wanting to find ways to make it into something positive for the country.

There were also some who had come to counter the protest with their own picnic for democracy organised by Spiked magazine, and when the people from the Downing Street rally arrived with their placards some of them came over to pick an argument.

Things got a little heated when a woman from the ‘Spiked’ group accused those holding the placards of being unwashed, and there was some vigorous speaking in response. But people from both sides stepped in to cool things down.

Green Park Brexit Picnic


Brixton stands with Black victims

Local black organisers in Brixton called a rally and march in memory of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and to show solidarity with those murdered by police brutality, both in the US and here in the UK.

Alton Sterling was murdered by police officers on July 5, 2016, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, shot at close range after police had pinned him to the ground where he was selling CDs outside a grocery store. In May 2017 the US Justice department announced there was insufficient evidence to support federal criminal charges against the officers concerned – despite the many videos of the incident and other sources.

Philando Castile was fatally shot at close range after has car was stopped by police in he Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area. There was video of the incident and the officer was charged with second-degree manslaughter and two counts of dangerous discharge of a firearm. A jury acquitted him of all charges in June 2017.

There were many speeches both about these and other US cases and those in the UK, where Sean Rigg, Wayne Douglas and Ricky Bishop died after being held in nearby Brixton Police Station. One of the organisers spoke wearing a t-shirt listing just a few of those who have been killed by police in the UK. An annual protest is held every year in Whitehall against the many custody deaths in the UK, and in 2015 while this was taking place police took advantage of this to strip the tree in front of the police station of its deaths in custody memorials

Some time after I left the protesters marched around Brixton, bringing traffic to a halt for several hours.

Brixton stands with Black victims


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Die Stamping, GPO, Ancient House, Churchyard, Leaves & Market

July 8th, 2024

Die Stamping, GPO, Ancient House, Churchyard, Leaves & Market: I can’t now recall why I had only time for a relatively short walk in Walthamstow on Saturday 16th September 1989 but it was an interesting one. I think possibly I was unhappy with a picture I had take earlier and had returned to have another attempt.

Essex Die Stamping Co, Church Path, Walthamstow,  Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9b-31
Essex Die Stamping Co, Church Path, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9b-31

From Walthamstow Central Station I crossed Hoe St and walked down St Mary Road, which leads to Church Path, and the Essex Die Stamping Co Ltd who were also steel engravers was on this path. The company had moved out to Harlow when I made this picture and the property had already been sold. It is now residential.

Column, Vestry House Museum, Vestry Rd, Walthamstow,  Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9b-23
Column, Vestry House Museum, Vestry Rd, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9b-23

At the end of Church Path is Vestry Road and the Vestry House Museum in a Grade II listed building built as the parish workhouse in 1730. Before opening as a local history museum in 1931 it had served as a police station, an armoury, a building merchant’s store, and a private home. Among its exhibits is “the Bremer Car, the first British motor car with an internal combustion engine, which was built by Frederick Bremer (1872–1941) in a workshop at the back of his family home in Connaught Road, Walthamstow.” The museum is currently being renovated and should reopen in 2026.

The short fluted column and capital outside the museum was one of the many which adorned the frontage of Sir Robert Smirke’s fine neo-classical General Post Office HQ in St Martin-le-Grand, built in 19826-9 and demolished in 1912. It was then bought by stone mason Frank Mortimer who presented it to Walthamstow Council. They put it in Lloyd Park, but moved it outside the museum in 1954.

House, 2, Church lane, Orford Rd,  Walthamstow,  Waltham Forest,1989 89-9b-25
House, 2, Church Lane, Orford Rd, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest,1989 89-9b-25

The Ancient House at 2,4,6 and 8, Church Lane was Grade II listed in 1951, early on in the pioneer survey which followed the Town and Country Planning Acts of 1944 and 1947. The listing text indicates it began as a single fifteenth century hall house but has since been converted into separate dwellings with the hall also divided into normal height floors. It was extensively “restored in 1934 by Mr Robert Fuller under the supervision ofMr CJ Brewin, architect, as a memorial to W G Fuller, head of the Fuller’s firm of builders. “

Monument, St Mary's Churchyard, Church End Path,  Walthamstow,  Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9c-51
Monument, St Mary’s Churchyard, Church End Path, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9c-51

An atmospheric view of the corner of St Mary’s Churchyard. Beyond the path (although not showing their best side) are the almshouses “ERECTED and ENDOWED FOR EVER By Mrs MARY SQUIRES Widow for the Use of Six Decayed Tradesmens Widow of this Parish and no other” in 1795. You can read more about them in an article by Karen Averby Story of Squires Almshouses built in 1795 in Walthamstow, East London.

Porch, 52-4, Church Hill, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9c-55
Porch, 52-4, Church Hill, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9c-55

Although St Mary’s Church is well worth a visit I didn’t photograph it (or take a proper picture of the almshouses.) When I visited the National Building Record in Saville Row I often had to wait in the library where I could pull files for various areas off the shelves and look through the pictures they contained. Most were stuffed full of pictures of old churches, many taken by clergymen who apparently had time on their hands and were often keen amateur photographers. So I felt little need to photograph old churches.

Instead I took the footpath through the churchyard to Church Hill whre I found this porch across the entrance to two houses with delightful leaf ironwork.

Chic, 212, Walthamstow Market, High St, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9c-56
Chic, 212, Walthamstow Market, High St, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9c-56

Before catching the Underground from Walthamstow Central I had time for a short wander along Walthamstow Market which claims to be a mile long but isn’t, though at around a kilometre it is still the second longest outdoor market in Europe.

Walthamstow Market, High St, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9c-43
Walthamstow Market, High St, Walthamstow, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9c-43

The market began in 1885 and operates five days a week with around 500 market stalls as well as shops on both sides of the street. It is still worth a visit but I think has gone down considerably since 1989, though the four pictures I took on this occasion (three on-line) do not show it at its best.

You can browse a few more pictures I took on this walk on Flickr from any of those here, as well as many more of my pictures – over 30,000 from London.


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Michelin, Dove, Co-op, Clothing, Jesus, Eves & Eels – 1989

July 7th, 2024

This is the final section of my walk on Sunday September 3rd 1989 which had begun in Stratford, from which some images appeared in my web site and self-published book ‘1989’, ISBN: 978-1-909363-01-4, still available. The pictures here are in the order I took them, and almost all of these final images are in the book so you can read my deliberately disjointed thoughts that made up the text on the book pages here. Although this was the end of this walk I returned to the area for another walk a few days later.


Michelin, Dove, Co-op, Clothing, Jesus, Eves & Eels
Railway Bridge, Coopers Lane, High Rd, Leyton, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9b-52

Michelin, Dove, Co-op, Clothing, Jesus, Eves & Eels
Dove Cafe, 390, High Road, Leyton, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9b-54

Michelin, Dove, Co-op, Clothing, Jesus, Eves & Eels
Andy & Co, Catering Equipment, 376-80, High Rd, Leyton, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9b-55

Michelin, Dove, Co-op, Clothing, Jesus, Eves & Eels
Good As New Clothes, High Rd, Leyton, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9b-41

Jesus is Alive, Leyton Rd, Stratford, Newham, 1989 89-9b-43

178-80 High Rd, Leytonstone, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9b-44
178-80 High Rd, Leytonstone, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9b-44

Here you can see the buildling where I took a photograph in a earlier post of Eves, a ‘STRICTLY LADIES ONLY HEALTH CLINIC’. The road on the corner at the left of the picture is Eve Rd. As you can read the building was also BeCKS Driving Lessons, BRITAINS LARGEST PRIVATELY OWNED DRIVING SCHOOL FOR CAR & H,,G,V.’.

There are some clues as to the origin of this building, including the intertwined initials J and S but I have been unable to find out more. Currently it is a bookmakers.

Noted Eel & Pie House, West St, 481, High Rd, Leytonstone, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9b-45
Noted Eel & Pie House, West St, 481, High Rd, Leytonstone, Waltham Forest, 1989 89-9b-45

Finally I photographed the Noted Eel & Pie House, still present at the start of West Street although the Potato Dealers and Farm Produce shop at left is now an off-licence.
The shop sign for the Eel & Pie House has changed and now spreads across three bays and all those white tiles have been replaced by green and the shopfront also now has a large eel at right.

You can read the history of the shop, with some pictures on their web site. It began with the great grandfather of the current owners who was the skipper of an eel barge sailing out of Heeg, a fishing village in the Netherlands. Eels were exported to London from there until 1938. Around 1894 his youngest son came London at the age of nine to live with a family who owned a pie shop and learn the trade, opening a pie shop in Hoxton with a cousin just before the outbreak of The Great War. He married the daughter of another pie shop owner and in 1926 with a loan from his father-in-law set up his own shop under his father-in-law’s name, E Newton, on Bow Road.

The shop name was changed soon after the outbreak of the Second World War when the Home Office insisted his name as a “friendly alien” had to be on the shop front. It became the “Noted Eel & Pie House” with his name, “H HAK” in the smallest font permitted in the bottom right corner as he worried customers might think it German.

In 1976 when two of his sons were then running the business the shop was compulsory purchased by the council and the business opened in Leytonstone in 1978. I suspect the sign in my picture may have come with them as it doesn’t quite fit and there is a name painted over at bottom right.

This was the final frame exposed on this walk. But I was soon to return to take more pictures in the London Borough of Waltham Forest.


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Blair Lied, Millions Died – Chilcot 2016

July 6th, 2024

Blair Lied, Millions Died – Chilcot: I’m certainly not a supporter of Trump and was shocked by the news of the US Supreme Court vote that granted presidents of the US immunity from prosecution for actions taken in their presidential role. But the publication of the Chilcot report on Wednesday 6th July 2016 was a reminder that in this country the same applies although our processes are more convoluted, lengthy and opaque.

Blair Lied, Millions Died

In short, our establishment protects its own. And as Corbyn found out, demonises and discredits any who threaten it, even at times as in the case of weapons expert David Kelly most probably “eliminating” them.

Blair Lied, Millions Died

Parts of the report were read out at the protest. It confirmed that the decision to go to war had been taken many months in advance between Bush and Blair, and revealed some new areas along with those already known where Blair had deliberately misled both Parliament and public.

Blair Lied, Millions Died

Part of this was of course the ‘dodgy dossier’ or rather dossiers, the first issued in September 2002 as a deliberate attempt to mislead the public, to which Blair added the sensational (and nonsensical) claim that led the Sun to headline “Brits 45mins from doom” to unverified (and later found untrue) claims about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and nuclear weapons programme.

Blair Lied, Millions Died

The second ‘dodgy dosser’, issued in February 2003, which repeated the claims about WMDs was found to “been plagiarised from various unattributed sources including a thesis produced by a student at California State University.” It included some of the typographical errors from these, but some phrases had been altered “to strengthen the tone of the alleged findings“, later referred to as “sexing up” the report. A House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee inquiry found that the report had not been checked by ministers and “had only been reviewed by a group of civil servants operating under Alastair Campbell.”

BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan revealed that his “report which claimed that the September Dossier had been deliberately exaggerated” was based on an interview with David Kelly, although Kelly himself, as the 2011 BBC report Dr David Kelly: Controversial death examined states “gave evidence to MPs’ committees in which he said he did not believe he was the main source of the story”. Two days later he was dead.

The protest on 6th July 2016 took place in the street by the side of the QEII Centre on the morning the Chilcot report was being published there. It began with a naming of a few of the dead, with people coming up to read 5 names of UK forces and 5 of Iraqi civilians who died because of the war. It was only a token gesture, as over a million Iraqis are generally acknowledged to have lost their lives. This was followed by a number of speeches – there are pictures of the speakers on My London Diary.

Police were unusually uncooperative with the protest, insisting on keeping the minor road by the side of the QE2 where the protest was being held open to traffic in both directions, although there was very little actual traffic and it would have caused hardly any disruption to close it. It was hard not to assume they had come under political pressure to harass the event.

The protesters demanded that Blair be brought to trial as a war criminal. Of course Blair has been tried for nothing. Despite having been found to have lied to Parliament he is still treated by the media as a respected politician. Lying to Parliament is surprisingly not a criminal offence – and in response to a 2021 petition with over 100,000 signatures the government said it had no plans to make it one. Almost certainly because too many politicians would be found guilty.

More about the protest and many more pictures on My London Diary: Blair lied, Millions Died – Chilcot.


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Decent Housing & Saving the NHS – 2014

July 5th, 2024

Decent Housing & Saving the NHS: Ten years ago today there were protests over two of the major issues which still face our incoming government today, but which I have no faith in them facing or improving.


Focus E15 March for Decent Housing – East Ham

Decent Housing & Saving the NHS

The housing crisis largely stems from successive governments, largely starting with Thatcher prioritising private ownership above all other ways of providing homes for people. Thatcher gave away publicly owned social housing to tenants at knock-down prices and refused to allow councils to try to replace what had been lost.

Decent Housing & Saving the NHS

Government housing policy since have been obsessed with the idea of the “housing ladder“; housing isn’t – or shouldn’t be – about ladders to increase personal wealth but about homes, and the ladder is very definitely that in “Pull up the ladder, Jack! We’re all right” and sod those left at the bottom below.

Decent Housing & Saving the NHS

Private renting has also moved from being a way in which owners of properties derived and income from properties they owned, to a scheme where more and more tenants are paying high rents to buy properties for their landlords. It’s a crazy system and one which should be stopped.

Decent Housing & Saving the NHS

We have also seen a huge growth in properties which are largely built to be bought as investments, particularly by overseas investors, often being left unoccupied for all or most of the time. Clearly this needs to be made economically nonviable, not only because of the effects it has on the shortage of homes, but also because of the way it is seriously distorting the development of our cities.

Second (and multiple) home ownership is also an increasing problem, particularly in the more desirable rural areas of the country and we need to find ways to reduce the impact of this, perhaps through taxation to provide a fund to build social housing in these areas.

But the basic solution to the country’s housing problems is simple. Build more social housing. Any government which comes in without this as the main thurst of their housing policy will fail to improve the housing crisis.

As I wrote ten years ago “We need a government – national and local – determined to act for the benefit of ordinary people, making a real attempt to build much more social housing, removing the huge subsidies currently given to private landlords through housing benefit, legislating to provide fair contracts for private tenants and give them decent security – and criminalising unfair evictions.” We haven’t got one.

You can read more about the march in East Ham organised by Focus E15 Mums to demand secure housing, free from the threats of eviction, soaring private rents, rogue landlords, letting agents illegally discriminating, insecure tenancies and unfair bedroom tax and benefit cap on My London Diary.

The march was supported by housing protest groups from Hackney, Brent and from South London and organisations including BARAC and TUSC. I was surprised to see the popular support it received on the streets with even some motorists stopping their cars to put money in the collection buckets.

More at Focus E15 March for Decent Housing.


Save our Surgeries on NHS 66th Birthday – Whitechapel

The National Health Service began on 5th July 1948 and on its 66th anniversary the Save our Surgeries campaign against health cuts in Tower Hamlets marched to Hackney in a show of opposition to health cuts, surgery closures and NHS privatisation.

The setting up of the NHS was opposed by the Conservatives and they and the doctors and dentists associations forced many compromises which led to it being a less than comprehensive health service, though still a great national achievement and one which for we are justly proud of.

Many doctors made – and some still make – large incomes from private practice and fought to keep these rather than back a universal system wholeheartedly. But in more recent years a huge private medical system has grown up alongside the NHS and more and more people are covered through work schemes providing private medical cover.

This private system has grown parasitically on the state medical system and all governments over the past thirty or more years have found ways to syphon off money to it, by allowing it to tender for various more straightforward aspects of NHS services.

Successive governments have also created huge administrative burdens on the NHS, setting up new levels of administrators which oversee and to some extent override clinical decisions. But financially the most disastrous impact on the NHS comes from the various PFI agreements, largely made under New Labour, which enabled the building of new hospitals without the costs appearing in the government’s debts, but tied the trusts running the hospitals into huge debt repayments and the kind of service contracts that make replacing a light bulb cost £1200.

General practice was set up in 1948 under doctor-owned surgeries but increasingly these are now owned by healthcare companies after New Labour in 2007 allowed larger companies to buy them up. Operose Health, part of US healthcare giant Centene Corporation in 2022 was running 70 practices and a BBC Panorama report showed they were only employing half as many doctors as average practices, while employing six times as many physician associates (who have only 2 years of medical training rather than the 10 for GPs) who were being inadequately supervised.

Unfortunately Labour policy appears to be to increase the reliance – and transfer of funds to the private sector rather than reduce it. You can read more about their position in the 2023 Tribune article Labour’s Love Affair with Private Healthcare by Tom Blackburn, which aslo sets out clearly the financial links of Wes Streeting to private healthcare. And of course he is not the only Labour MP with a financial interest. Labour might sort out a few of the problems but the creeping privatisation seems sure to accelerate.

The protest in East London was over changes in the funding of NHS surgeries which have failed to take into account the extra needs of deprived innner-city areas and were expected to lead the closure of some surgeries as well as other NHS cuts, particularly those happening because of the huge PFI debt from the new Royal London Hospital.

There was a brief rally in Altab Ali Park before the march with speeches by local politicians and health campaigners before the crowd of several hundreds set off down the Whitechapel Road on its way to London Fields in Hackney where it was to meet up with other protesters for a larger rally. But I left the march at Whitechapel Station.

More at