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14 NELSON STREET | by Darkroom Daze
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14 NELSON STREET

In memory of my father, Harold Rosen (1919-2008), whose anniversary was earlier this week on June 25th, and who lived in this house from age 2 until his late teens.

 

(I thought I'd put up a week's worth of photos relating to my father, to mark his anniversary.)

 

Harold is holding up his grandson (my eldest son) Daniel, aged 3, to look inside. This house (now demolished along with the rest of its terrace) was No. 14 Nelson Street, London E1, in Stepney in the East End, in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. The whole terrace was owned by the London Hospital nearby. It was on the S side of Nelson Street close to the western end of the street and its southern corner with New Road.

 

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THE HOUSE

 

The house frontage consisted of just this door and the window to the R. Harold is standing on a grill that let light down on to the basement window. There was just one further floor above the ground floor. My father's large extended family occupied this small house. In this photo, it might look like a desirable little town house just 'ripe for conversion' (as the estate agents say), but when he lived in it, the family was poor, and conditions were overcrowded and inadequate - probably described by some as slum conditions.

 

The house is built of London stock bricks, and looks early 19th Century or perhaps even a little older. Although this was working class housing, the age, style and structural condition would probably have saved the terrace, these days, for preservation and renovation, especially given the long-running shortage of family housing in London. In fact, an identical row further along the street was preserved, whereas this row was replaced mainly by an office block (see it on Google Street View on the southern corner of Nelson Street and New Road).

 

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THE NARRATIVE

 

Around the time I took this photo, I was in my 30s and realised that I had never properly visited the streets my parents grew up in. This was the old Jewish quarter of London's East End. Given the poor conditions they experienced, they were not sentimental about revisiting it, and, understandably, never seemed inclined to take us there and show it off, though they talked about it a lot. In fact the district has huge history, both general and personal, and I therefore asked them to take me on a guided walk (May 1973) to take some photos. However, photography (Kodachrome film in this case) was expensive for me at that time, and, sadly, I cautiously took only eight frames. I should also have gone back and taken more photos. More's the pity because some of the places they showed me, like this terrace here, no longer exist, or have completely changed.

 

When I took this photo, we had got to the house just in time, because unknown to us, it was empty and already partly demolished. I guess that even some 40 years after my father had lived there, conditions were probably little better in these houses, and the authorities must have decided that the whole terrace was was fit only for demolition. However, the workmen were off site because this was a weekend. The door was ajar and I went inside and managed to rescue some broken pieces of cast iron from the shattered ornamental fireplace surround, as mementoes. I wish I could go back and find out what exactly my father was thinking when he was looking through that window and what he was saying to Daniel.

 

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The family has continuing associations with this part of London. Two members now live a few hundred metres away from this building and other members, like Daniel in the photo, live not far away in Hoxton.

 

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Photo

Brian Roy Rosen

Scanned from an original Kodachrome 35 mm colour reversal transparency taken in May 1973.

Uploaded to Flickr June 27, 2014

© Darkroom Daze Creative Commons.

If you would like to use or refer to this image, please link or attribute.

ID: brr_transp_1058 - Version 2

 

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Taken on June 26, 2014