The Gentle Author on Spitalfields Nippers
In the last years of the nineteenth century, Horace Warner took a series of portraits of some of the poorest people in London – creating relaxed, intimate images that gave dignity to his subjects and producing great photography that is without parallel in his era.
Born into a Quaker family that had its roots in Spitalfields in the seventeenth century, Horace was a Sunday school teacher at the Bedford Institute which still stands in Quaker Street. The wealth of the family business, Jeffrey & Co – the wallpaper printers who printed William Morris’ wallpaper – enabled the Warners to be generous benefactors to the Bedford Institute which offered practical support to the residents of Quaker St and the surrounding courts and alleys.
Horace’s photographs revolutionise our view of Londoners at the end of the nineteenth century, by bringing them startlingly close and permitting us to look them in the eye. Unseen outside the Warner family for more than century, most of these breathtaking photographs have been published for the first time by Spitalfields Life, including biographies of many of the children.
Spitalfields Nippers by Horace Warner, with an introduction by The Gentle Author, is available from Spitalfields Life books for £20. spitalfieldslife.com
Images courtesy of The Gentle Author