London 1980 (7)

Continuing with my posting of selected black and white images of London I made in 1980, along with the comments on them I wrote daily when I posted them a year or so ago on Facebook.

Riverside path, River Thames and view of Deptford Power Station, Greenwich. 1980
24j-52: footpath, river, power station

The was I think the start of the riverside path from the end of Ballast Quay; it used to go down this short alley to the top of the river wall before turning right to go alongside the river.

The view appears to be upstream along the Thames to Deptford Power station.

Swans and riverside downriver from Greenwich. 1980
24j-63: swans, river, ships, silos, gasholder, works

A group of swans on the River Thames and the view downstream from the start of the riverside walk at Greenwich. The ship at right ‘Friend’ is moored alongside Lovell’s Wharf. The next ship along seems to be named ‘Violet Mitchell, but I can’t make out the name of the third. Further on are barges, possibly at Piper’s Wharf, with Enderby’s Wharf behind them and in the distance in front of the shorter gasholder is a larger vessel moored by the Amylum silos.

The coaster Violet Mitchell, 367 gross tons, built in Holland in 1957 was renamed from Aspera in 1979, and later was known as Sojourner before being renamed Violet Mitchell around 1984. She capsized and sank during a gale with the loss of 2 of her crew on passage from Great Abaco Island to West Palm Beach, Bahamas in April 1986.

When photographed she was owned by H R Mitchell & Sons Ltd based in Woolwich Arsenal who owned a number of ships presumably named after family members, including John, Patricia, Isabel, Hetty, Katharine, Susan, May and Harry as well as Violet. The company ceased trading in the 1980s.

She had been supplying islands there, including Green Turtle Cay, Marsh Harbour and the Abaco Islands with a wide range of goods – timber and building material, vehicles, small boats, food and clothing with weekly sailings from West Palm Beach, Florida, returning to Florida with the local crawfish catch, one of the main income sources for the islands. The ship was hit by a “rage sea” at Whale Cay, where the Atlantic meets the shallower waters of the Bahamas. Rescuers picked up six of the seven crew, but found the dead body of the captain’s 13 year old daughter and the ship’s engineer was not found. Similar sea conditions at Whale Cay are said to have caused over a 100 deaths since English settlers came to the area in 1783.

The only remaining recognisable feature in this picture is the taller of the two gasholders – and developers are now threatening that.

You can read a long account of the tragic end of the Violet Mitchell on-line in the October 1986 Yachting, from which the details here are mainly taken. The story is also told here.

Mansell St, Aldgate, Tower Hamlets. 1980
24l-14: building, door, pillar

I think I walked down Mansell St on my way from Spitalfields, perhaps to London Bridge, and this was one of six pictures I made of details of this closed café serving halal meals and snacks. It had obviously been built as something rather grander.

Most of the buildings on both streets have now been demolished and replaced by larger and rather depressingly characterless modern blocks but I this still stands, though with a rather different look, at No. 57. The building from around 1720 was Grade II listed in 1971 and has gone considerably upmarket since my photograph and is now the offices of Seascope Insurance Services.

Spring Rose Fashion Co Ltd, Aldgate, Tower Hamlets. 1980
24l-26: shop, wholesale, fashion,

Spring Rose Fashion Co Ltd seems to have disappeared without trace, at least so far as the Internet is concerned, with the only relevant links found by Google being to this image on my web site. As a limited company there should be some details available at Companies House, and this suggests it has long since disappeared.

It has a fairly distinctive shop-front, rather formal and very old fashioned, with an unusual array of patterned tiles under the windows and the recessed doorway. I can’t find anything like this in the area now, and suspect it has probably been demolished, or at least the shopfront replace by a more modern design, probably now selling some variety of fast food, though there are still plenty of wholesale clothing companies in the area.

I think this was probably on a side street just off Aldgate High Street, somewhere near Aldgate East station. It has quite a wide frontage on a street with road markings but a fairly narrow pavement.

Freedom Alley, Whitechapel High St, Aldgate, Tower Hamlets. 1980
24l-34: wall, graffiti

Angel Alley or Freedom Alley is hard to find, an insignificant entrance between two shops on Whitechapel High St, immediately to the west of the Whitechapel gallery at the left of KFC.

Opposite the corner of the yard shown here is Freedom Bookshop, London and one of the world’s oldest anarchist publisher and bookshop, founded in 1886. It’s address is given as 84b Whitechapel High Street.

The shop has been attacked by right-wing arsonists on several occasions during its life, most recently in 2013, but remains open, and still selling, among many others, the works of Peter Kropotkin, 1842-1921, a Russian prince and geographer who gave up wealth and a privileged lifestyle to become the father of Russian anarchism.

Cheshire St, Bethnal Green, Tower Hamlets. 1980
24l-42: house street

A view from the footbridge over the railway lines out of Liverpool St, looking north and showing the rear of a house on Cheshire St and the road, with property in a run-down state.

The footbridge, leading to the oddly named Fleet Street Hill and on to Pedley St is still there, now highly decorated with graffiti as is the building at the left of the picture, but the opposite side of the street has been rebuilt in an excessively bland fashion, as has the block to just outside of the picture to the right which was developed in 2008.

The pavements of Cheshire St to the west of this alley are a part of Brick Lane market, thronged with people on a Sunday morning, where later I often went to photograph.

Shop, Spitalfields, Tower Hamlets. 1980
24l-46: window, shop,

This small Bengali shop was on or just off Brick Lane, and had what seemed a curious mixture in is windows, with at its centre a book on self-defence, next to some Bengali newsheets.

On the shelf above some packets proudly state ‘Made in Inda – Export Quality’ though I’ve no idea what they contain, nor the tall jars which I think are of various spices.

I read the window as an illustration of the concerns of the community, then relative newcomers to what had previously for many years been a largely Jewish area. Although there were a number of early Bengali residents, some of whom had come here as ‘Lascar’ seamen, the main wave of immigration was in the 1970s, after the formation of Bangladesh. There were many attacks on them in the 1970s by skinhead gangs and the National Front, and in May 1978 25-year old Altab Ali was murdered by a teenage gang, and a few months later the NF moved its HQ to neraby Great Eastern Street.

And of course there are cigarette adverts, for Benson & Hedges Gold Leaf and Craven A, and less visible Dunhill, who then made cigarettes as well as pipes and butane lighters, though now they are better known for menswear and leather goods.

To be continued…

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