We’re big fans of Eleanor Crow. Her watercolour paintings of classic London shopfronts capture the jumbled beauty of city life with astonishing clarity. After years of painting she has released her work as a book – Shopfronts of London: In praise of small neighbourhood shops.
Comprising of more than 100 illustrations, the book really does feel like a love letter to the city it captures. Bakers, cafes, butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers, chemists, launderettes, hardware stores, pie and mash shops, fish and chip shops, bookshops, stationers, and more are all squeezed into this immaculately presented Spitalfields Life Books publication.
Several Roman Road favourites feature, including G. Kelly, Downey Brothers fishmongers, and George’s Plaice. Most of the images are of East London, but you get a taste of the whole city. Many of the illustrations are accompanied by shop history and trivia. This is as much a book of history as it is one of art, and it’s all the more beautiful for it.
In the book’s introduction Crow lays out her takeaways from the project:
A diverse collection of small shops lends distinction to any location, conjuring the street life that manifests the identity of the place, both serving a human purpose and revealing that the residents care about their neighbourhood.
The book feels like a record of that role. With high streets struggling as much as they are, books like this remind us how much they enrich our lives. Shopfronts of London is a celebration of the city’s shops, but it is also a tribute to the people who run them. It encourages readers ‘to turn from passers-by into customers,’ and does a pretty good job of it too.
You can buy a copy of Shopfronts of London from Spitalfields Life Books
If you enjoyed this piece you may like Bex Shaw’s drawings of Roman Road shops
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