Spitalfields Then And Now: 1912-2012

The Photographer C.A. Matthew took many photos of daily life in East London during 1912. His photos of Spitalfields were discovered by modern-day photographer Adam Tuck, in 2012. He set out to recapture the same locations one hundred years later, and rather than try to ‘merge’ the photos into a split-screen effect, he overlaid them.

The results give a strange ‘ghostly’ feel to the scenes, and I found that to be very affecting.

Sandys Row.

Sandys Row South.

Steward Street.

Middlesex Street.


Crispin Street.

Bell Lane.

Artillery Lane.

Spital Square.

Frying Pan Alley.

Victorian London In Photos: London’s Poor

Between 1860 and 1900, many photographers tried to capture the plight of the poor living in big cities. Despite the boom of the industrial revolution and the expansion of the empire, most ordinary people lived in awful conditions, facing financial poverty every day of their lives. They did what they could to make a living, and get through each day.

A street locksmith. People would bring old locks to be repaired, as they could not afford to replace them with new ones.

The second-hand clothes shop. The sale of dirty and unhygienic clothing contributed to the spread of disease, as well as passing on lice and fleas to the new owners.

An illiterate gypsy family living on marshland at Battersea. When they could no longer earn money in one area, they moved on in their horse-drawn caravan.

Unofficial dustmen. (Garbage collectors) They would travel around with their cart trying to get paid for taking away rubbish. Then they would dump that at the nearest available spot, instead of taking it to a refuse depot.

A Hansom Cab driver (in the bowler hat) talking to a horse-drawn bus driver. These men were self-employed, and had to stay out to all hours to cover their expenses before earning anything for their families.

Bargemen on the River Thames. They would be paid a daily rate to work for the barge owner.

Spitalfields was not only the haunt of Jack The Ripper, it was also one of the poorest districts in London. Known for crime and prostitution, the residents there lived in the worst possible conditions.

A young barefoot girl in Spitalfields, 1900. It is highly likely she was already working as a prostitute.

Homeless children living on the street in Spitalfields in 1900.

This small boy is already working full-time, pushing his cart around to carry goods for his employer in 1900.