Sunday, June 5, 2022


The squalor and deprivation which existed in 1888 in London’s East End where Jack the Ripper was committing his murders of prostitutes remained at the beginning of the new century.

Horace Warner, the Sunday School Superintendent of the Bedford Institute, one of nine Quaker missions in the East End attempting to deal with alcoholism and prostitution, photographed the sad images of young children living in those conditions, on streets which are now among the most fashionable and expensive in London.

At first he took the photographs for record purposes but in 1913 the images were used by Quaker activists to raise funds for poor relief.  Only 30 of his photographs remain.

The children were known as the Spitalfields Nippers, after the London East End suburb of Spitalfields. They scavenged for rotten fruit in the bins behind the market in East London, dressing in rags that might be shared between ten siblings, and were lucky to have a pair of boots in even the coldest weather. They learnt lives of crime and alcoholism from their parents, if they had any, or from older siblings, and often slept in the streets.

Some of Warner’s images:

Some of the Spitalfields Nippers growing up in one the most deprived and dangerous areas of London

Annie, seven, and one-year-old Nellie, sit sad and hungry on sacking outside their house in Spitalfields. They were among ten children born to single mother Annie Daniels. Five of their siblings died in childhood

Tommy Nail pushes one of his brothers in a make-shift wheelbarrow in the 1890s. The boys' mother died two years later, her death certificate citing the cause as 'exhaustion'

Nine-year-old Charlie Long (left) lived in a workers' eating-house run by his parents. Adelaide Springett (right) was so ashamed of her tattered boots, she took them off for this 1901 photograph

Jeremiah Donovan, six, was nicknamed Dick Whittington because of his pet cat. 

Two children, their toes poking out of their boots, tend a fire in a battered tin brazier to heat buckets and bowls of water in which to scrub clothes. The clean garments would be hung on lines strung across the street

More photographs of the Spitalfield Nippers by Horace Warner . . . 


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