London Streets In The 1980s

The 1980s in London was a decade of considerable change. Long established industries, street scenes, shops and ways of life were being swept away and the often divisive politics of the time were visible painted along the walls.

The mid 1980s are only 30 years ago but walking along London’s streets today I still find it surprising how considerable the change has been in many areas.

For this week’s post, I would like to take you back through a snapshot of London Streets in the 1980s, with some of the photos we took, mainly of south, east and north London.

Local, independent shops once served the majority of London’s residents, often run by the same family for many years. Many of these were in their final years, clinging on whilst much around them had closed:

Street Scenes 1


Street Scenes 4


Street Scenes 5

Many had already long closed, waiting for demolition and the rebuilding of whole streets:

Street Scenes 18

What Londoners would look for when eating out would also soon change. This was before the streets were populated with identical coffee shop brands:

Street Scenes 19

The corner shop was a standard feature of many residential streets. Many of these had closed or were put into some temporary use whilst awaiting either redevelopment or demolition:

Street Scenes 20


Street Scenes 21

A somewhat forlorn tribute to West Ham waits for what will become of these buildings:

Street Scenes 22

The Isle of Dogs is an area where much has changed beyond all recognition. Here a newsagent has found a novel way of continuing business using a shipping container:

Street Scenes 16

But there were large areas of the Isle of Dogs where businesses had closed down for good:

Street Scenes 15

Much of the old industrial and dock areas of the Isle of Dogs were a wasteland with the redevelopment of Canary Wharf, housing and riverside apartments yet to come. Closed gates, vacancy signs that would never again advertise another vacancy sat alongside graffiti that emphasised the perceived lack of concern from the government of the time to the plight of those affected:

Street Scenes 14

There had also been the rise of far right groups. Joe Pearce was imprisoned under the Race Relations Act for publishing the Bulldog magazine and became a cause celebre for these groups. Free Joe Pearce slogans could be found across the east of London, usually with a different slogan added underneath by groups opposing the far right:

Street Scenes 17

Whilst for some groups, anarchy was the only route:

Street Scenes 23

The start of redevelopment was also in evidence across the Isle of Dogs. This is Maconochies Wharf  where clearance and preparation was underway for the building of houses. A mural on the adjacent building emphasising the historical traditions of the Isle of Dogs:

Street Scenes 26

Street advertising for cafes and restaurants was much in evidence. This one in central London at Holborn – the “Perfect Businessman’s Venue” where you could get a 3 course set menu for £7.50

Street Scenes 13

Similar advertising signage could be seen across London’s streets:

Street Scenes 3

At least they were very colourful, even if the representation of what was on offer was probably not very accurate:

Street Scenes 11


Street Scenes 6


Street Scenes 12

This was a time when murals were very much in evidence. Ranging from those that would cover the whole side of a building:

Street Scenes 24

Street Scenes 25

More London Murals from the 1980s can be found in one of my earlier posts here.

Through to more individual efforts:

Street Scenes 8

Signs from a much earlier period were also much in evidence on buildings that would soon be lost:

Street Scenes 7

Only 30 years ago, but in many ways the London Streets in the 1980s were very different to those of today.

22 thoughts on “London Streets In The 1980s

  1. David Kendall

    Great set of photos. I worked at Fairbairn Hall in Plaistow between 83-84 and failed to take any photos at all. I used to cycle around the Isle of Dogs and Silvertown, taking in the changes and complete wasteland which the area had been reduced to. Went back about five years ago and almost everything had changed out of all recognition. Thanks for the memories

  2. Ros

    These are excellent. Yes, how different things are only three decades later. So glad you documented these ephemera and agree they’d go towards the making of a fine book.

  3. lordsnotty61

    Fantastic pictures. The place had so much more character then, although you have to admit it’s far more prosperous now.

  4. Mick

    I posted a link to this article in a Facebook group and there were loads of comments about the ‘West Ham Shop’, including:
    “My uncles old place, Jon Robinson.”
    “Was that the shop in Bonner street, near the London chest hospital. Did he sell fruit and veg?”
    “It was a fruit and veg, travel agent, he wrote for the east london advertiser and many more activities. Loved going there as a kid”
    “John Robinsons shop bought tickets for Barry manilow at the Albert Hall & other shows”
    “Up The Ammers”
    “He was at one time the fattest man in Britain ,done a lot of bits for Repton boxing club though ,car was converted so he could drive from the back,old Wolsley I think”
    “He used to be the boxing correspondent for the Hackney Gazette”

    1. Roy farrar

      You are right it was in Bonner street on the corner of Cyprus street.I remember it well as I lived on the estate opposite and do so you would never know the shop was there at all.

  5. Alan Bill

    I enjoy your website so much, but the collection of 80’s shopfronts was exceptionally good – nostalgia indeed!

  6. Andrew

    A restaurant in Barnard’s Inn? Presumably after the Mercers’ School moved out, but before Gresham College moved in?

  7. Alec

    Excellent selection of photographs.

    I remember Ian Rogg’s herring shop, had a number of conversations with him. Sold chopped liver too. Was well-known in the East End.

    Was the Rome restaurant in Barnards Inn the same site as the infamous school dinners club? The one frequented by businessmen intent on being spanked by waitresses dressed as schoolgirls – I think we should be told…

  8. paul

    born and bred in the east end Bethnal green it was like a great big adventure playground with relatives around every corner …I also have some pictures I took in the east end if you are a old cockney you may see your self ,its full of photos I have taken over the years …..I love looking at old pictures of the east end thanks
    for showing them ..

  9. Chris

    I remember going to book a holiday with my parents in Jon’s shop with the West Ham mural painted above it. This would have been early to mid eighties. If I recall correctly next door was a greengrocers shop owned by a former Jockey who used to display all of his winning rosettes on the wall of his shop. Funny the memories which come flooding back as soon as you see a photograph. Really enjoyed your photographs, very evocative of a certain time and place.

  10. George A Rix

    ‘Only 30 years ago, but in many ways the London Streets in the 1980s were very different to those of today.’
    You didn’t get these pathetic LTNs causing havoc, you didn’t have ‘parking enforcement officers’ earning commission from councils, you had accountable traffic wardens. You had proper motorcycles not plastic scooters everywhere….and you didn’t get zombies holding smartphones to their heads all day, we all bought the evening standard and talked to people who were right there with us. I miss the 1980s.

  11. Gerald Kiernan

    Thanks for sharing those colourful facades and street corners! I was looking for our old studio in Battlebridge road Kings Cross recently which has been obliterated by modernity. I lived and worked in London in the 80s as a photographer and now my son is living there 40 years later!!!

  12. Albert Brooks

    How wonderful to be reminded of Barry Rogg’s amazing deli in Cannon Street Road.
    The best gefilte fish, chopped herrings and new cucumbers in London and much, much more.
    He was a STAR: never used a cash register, but added it all up in his head, regularly crying “stop now” as the bill mounted.
    Truly halcyon days sadly, never to return.
    Well done on capturing so much of the beauty of the past.


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