‘Shopfronts of London’ by Eleanor Crow – book review

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

Illustration by Eleanor Crow of George's Plaice on Roman Road
George’s Plaice on Roman Road
Illustration by Eleanor Crow of Downey Brothers fishmongers in Globe Town Market
Downey Brothers in Globe Town Market
Illustration by Eleanor Crow of Victoria Fish Bar on Roman Road
Victoria Fish Bar on Roman Road
Illustration by Eleanor Crow of G. Kelly pie and mash shop on Roman Road
G. Kelly pie and mash shop on Roman Road
Illustration by Eleanor Crow of Fish Plaice on Cambridge Heath Road
The Fish Plaice on Cambridge Heath Road

If you enjoyed this piece you may like Bex Shaw’s drawings of Roman Road shops

Can you support us?

As a not-for-profit media organisation using journalism to strengthen communities, we have not put our digital content behind a paywall or membership scheme as we think the benefits of an independent, local publication should be available to everyone living in our area.

We are powered by members. Hundreds of members have already joined. Become a member today from as little as £3 to support impact journalism and the local community.

Frederick O'Brien

Fred is a writer and researcher with a background in sustainable development. His research has featured in The Independent, the Evening Standard, and the New York Post, among others.

Frederick O'Brien has 85 posts and counting. See all posts by Frederick O'Brien

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.