Budgies Revolt!

17h42Sclater St, Spitalfields, London 1978

Although the Singing Canaries and Pet Budgies didn’t revolt, others did on their behalf, and the open air market in this area, known collectively as Club Row disappeared a few years after I took this picture in 1978. Within a few seconds I took another picture which makes the location clear.

17h36: Sclater St, Spitalfields, London 1978

As well as the modern street name, The plaque on the wall above and to the left of it states “This is Sclater St 1798”. To the right are the shops of Brick Lane.

Sclater Street had long been famous for having a bird market every Sunday, but during the rest of the week there were just a few shops, such as this, still operating. Trowers with its ‘Singing Canaries & Pet Budgies’ had a different name on the shop front here, part obscured by a basket. It is now a shop selling women’s fashion.

It wasn’t just birds that were sold here, at least in earlier days, but a wide range of wild animals. The whole area – which crossed over the Bethnal Green Road into a street called Club Row – was known as Club Row Market and back in the 1950s you could buy puppies, cats, snakes, gerbils, monkeys and more – even the occasional lion cub. Pressure by animals rights groups and bodies such as the RSPCA eventually led to the end of live animal sales, finally banned on the streets by Tower Hamlets Council in 1983.

The house has been done up a bit since, the signage removed and a new door added with the window shuttered, while the first floor now has windows and curtains and appears occupied, and, like most surfaces around Brick Lane is now covered with graffiti. Back then there was relatively little graffiti, and the word ‘REVOLT’ really stood out, though the second word, which appears to be AGAIL4 is incomprehensible to me. Further to the right is a reminder that this area was close to Bethnal Green Road where the National Front used to come to sell their racist news sheets – and were sometimes involved in scuffles with anti-racists.

These pictures are on my London Photographs site, and the post is based on one made on Facebook when I posted links to these two pictures. You can view the 1978 index page for almost a hundred selected pictures of London taken that year and click on any of the thumbnails to get a larger image.


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My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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