Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Back to the East End

Roger and I were going to hire a car and go to Chichester on Tuesday, planning to see street art, the cathedral, a contemporary art gallery, and a sculpture park. We decided it was just too much, so opted for a day of doing separate things. He had lots of errands to do in town, and I wanted to roam around the East End on a weekday, rather than at the weekend when it's so crowded you can hardly walk on the pavement or see the streetart.

I set out at noon (after having done a Pilates class in Queens Park in the morning), taking the Overground to Euston and then the tube to Old Street. When I did this ramble last year, it was washed out by showers. This year's weather was very cooperative -- some sun, some clouds, but warm and not a drop falling from the sky.

I meandered around, first zig zagging east and south, then working my way back north. Sometimes I knew where I was, and other times I found myself in streets that were new to me. One of those new turns was into Quaker Street, in a block that was nondescript with some industrial warehouses and newer housing blocks. Then I saw something interesting -- the sign for Crescent Trading fabric merchants. Owned by Philip Pittack and Martin White, this is the last remaining fabric warehouse in Spitalfields. Several months ago, I had heard Philip and Martin doing a long interview on the Robert Elms show on BBC London radio, talking about the fire that nearly destroyed their business and how they came back from it. A dapper gent (turns out it was Martin), who was waiting on another customer, greeted me as I walked in and told me to have a look around. The warehouse is full of bolts of fabric, mostly fine English wools and silks, piled on shelves to the ceiling. When he finished with his customer, he came over to where I was feeling some lovely camel colored wool cloth. "That's cashmere," he said. "Oh, I know," I replied. He pulled it down and put it on the cutting table. "This is the rarest cloth in the world," he told me. Woven from South American wool in an English mill that is no longer in operation, this is the last bit of this fabric anywhere. Martin said that it sold in Italy for €1500 a meter. He sells it for £200 a meter. We chatted a bit more -- I told him that I'd heard their interview on the radio and thanked him for the opportunity to meet him -- and then pushed on. (Do click on the links above and read the great articles about Crescent Trading in the Spitalfields Life blog.)

By the time I reached Spitalfields Market, I was hungry and needed a sit-down. I looked for the little stall where I got some fantastic carrot curry soup last year, but it had been replaced by another vendor. So instead, I had a spinach-sweet potato-goat cheese pie from Square Pie. After stopping in at the Bishopsgate Institute to use their very nice loo (loyal readers will know that I keep a mental inventory of loos and plan my walks to reach one every few hours), I wandered a bit further south and then headed up Brick Lane. With little jogs right and left into Seven Stars Yard, Princelet, Hanbury, Buxton, Grimsby, Bacon, Chance, and Ebor, I came to the Boundary Estate, my northernmost destination. In Arnold Circus, I had another sit-down and pictured the area when it was the Old Nichol, the worst slum in London. Last year I read A Child of the Jago, a nineteenth century novel set in the Old Nichol, and I'm now reading a non-fiction book, The Blackest Streets, about the slum and how it was raised to build the Boundary Estate.

Then, back on the tube and the Overground to Queens Park.

£25 for  three Pilates mat classes
£3.50 for lunch
21,829 steps (8.44 miles)

1 comment:

  1. Crescent Trading: "Finest English Suitings, Coatings, Jacketings". Wonderful words!