Old East End Photographs

Unbelievably, it is now February 2016 – where does the time go?

Over the last 12 months there has been a huge amount of change in the East End of London, especially around Spitalfields.

It was this seismic redevelopment that, over the last 12 months, led me to decide to chart the changes on our Facebook Page.

Part of that project has been a lot of research to find newspaper articles and photographs that capture the East End as it was and provide us with an impression of what the streets would have looked like at the time of the Jack the Ripper murders.

So, today, I thought I’d just present five of my favourite images that show the East End as it used to be.


One of the things that has struck me as I’ve been unearthing the old photographs is just how many photographers were roaming the streets of East London in the closing years of the 19th century. Additionally, it amazes me how happy the locals were to take a break from the grinding poverty of their everyday lives and poses for a strange device that may well have cost more than the average family spent of rent and accommodation in a month, or even a year.

Here, one such group of residents stands still for the camera of  a roving photographer.

A group of Victorian East Enders gather outside their houses.


It’s a sad fact that none of the murder sites have survived the march of time and we are, therefore, reliant on a dedicated band of writers and photographers who, in the early 20th Century, headed off into the East End of London to capture the scenes of the Whitechapel Murders as they were at the time of the crimes.

This image shows Durward Street, which in 1888 was Buck’s Row. It was here that Mary Nichols was murdered in the early hours of the 31st August 1888. The scene of the murder is on the right where you can see the chimney, the flat wall and the solitary window. The site of the murder was in the gateway beneath that window.

A view looking East along Durward Street.
Durward Street, formerly Buck’s Row.


One of the early images I have found is of this little girl, and the boy to the right who are standing in an East End alleyway in, I believe, the 1880’s or the early 1890’s. The boy is almost ghost like, a fleeting image captured by a passing photographer. I often wonder what became of these children? What were their lives like? Did they even survive childhood in an area that had a massively high child-mortality rate?

A little girl in a white dress stands in front of a line of three bollards in an East End slum.
A Girl In An East End Slum


It seems unbelievably to think that missionaries used to venture into the slums of London to preach and minister to the residents. In this photograph, two missionaries bring their message to a London slum and are captured doing so by a conveniently passing photographer! My favourite on this photo is the little boy in the foreground who doesn’t seem in the least bit impressed at having to pose for the camera. He appears to be throwing a major strop at the indignity of it all!

Missionaries visiting the residents of a London slum in the 19th century.
A London Slum In The Late 19th Century


The River Thames has always been important to Londoners.  It has provided a transport highway, fish were once caught in its waters to be eaten. And, the poor of London could even earn a living by scavenging on its banks at low tide for anything that they could find, be it coins, firewood or other items that had, somehow, ended up in the murky waters of London’s river.

In this wonderful photo a group of boys, collectively known as Mudlarkers, scrabble about on the shores of the East End stretch of the Thames to see what useful items that could find to either take home to their families, or sell on to make a bit of extra money for their families.

One little boy appears to have believed that he has made some sort of major discovery and seems to be holding his item up for the photographer, perhaps asking “is this any good mate?”

A group of child mudlarkers scavenge on the banks of the River Thames at low tide.
Mudlarkers on the Thames


Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed this first set of photographs of the bygone East End of London. Our collection is extensive and is always growing, so be sure to check out our Facebook page for our regular offerings and to discuss them.

I’ll be adding other blogs of these wonderful records of East End life, as and when they come to hand, so be sure to check back regularly.