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Gentle Author who put Spitalfields on the map now does same with London

PUBLISHED: 18:31 23 October 2013 | UPDATED: 12:10 24 October 2013

First copies sell like hot cakes [picture: Simon Mooney]

First copies sell like hot cakes [picture: Simon Mooney]

© Simon Mooney

The anonymous blogger who keeps putting Spitalfields on the map with stories of ordinary everyday East End folk is now attempting the same across London.

Packed launch of Gentle Author's London Album at Spitalfields Church [picture: Jeremy Freedman]Packed launch of Gentle Author's London Album at Spitalfields Church [picture: Jeremy Freedman]

Whoever The Gentle Author is who set about the task of writing 10,000 stories—with 100 of them published in a debut volume last year—has now completed a second book, this time going much further than just Spitalfields.

The Gentle Author’s London Album was launched, however, in the heart of Spitalfields at a packed evening at Christ Church.

There are 700 pictures, some contemporary, some going back more than a century, interwoven with stories picked up over the last four years since the start of Spitalfields Life website.

The author has uncovered a treasure trove of previously unpublished ‘Spitalfields Nippers’ pictures buried away in the vaults of the Quakers’ Society of Friends for the past 100 years showing East End street urchins.

Pearly King grapples with Spitalfields characters Tayo & Abby Abimbola [Picture: Jeremy Freedman]Pearly King grapples with Spitalfields characters Tayo & Abby Abimbola [Picture: Jeremy Freedman]

The photographs by Horace Warner were last published in 1911 in the annual report of the Society’s charitable Bedford Institute in Quaker Street, off Brick Lane.

“They were creatures of the secret byways, alleys and yards that lace Spitalfields,” the Gentle Author explains.

“The kids lived in a self-sufficient society independent of adults, in which they did their own washing, chopped wood, nursed babies and even made money cleaning windows and running errands.

“The charity closed long ago, with its archives passed from one organisation to another until no-one knew where they were.

Spitalfields Nipper... boy washing-windowSpitalfields Nipper... boy washing-window

“Yet the photographs haunted me and I was convinced that Warner’s prints still existed somewhere.”

Horace Warner, who died in 1939, was superintendent of the Sunday School in Quaker Street and knew many of the children he photographed back in 1901-02.

His pictures eventually turned up in the Society of Friends’ vaults in Euston Road.

The Gentle Author’s London Album also includes magic lantern slides from the turn of the 20th century made by the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society for lectures at the Bishopsgate Institute, to show London to East Enders at a time when people rarely ventured beyond their neighbourhood.

These historic shots complement picture stories of east London today by a dozen contemporary photographers who regularly contribute to the Gentle Author’s Spitalfields blogsite.

Highlights include a car crash in the 1950s, Petticoat Lane traders, ancient graffiti at the Tower of London, curry chefs in Brick Lane, old ladies in Whitechapel, London’s oldest ironmongers and the last porters of Billingsgate fish market before it shipped out to Poplar 30 years ago.

After Spitalfields, the Gentle Author is now taking on the whole of London.


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