Ron’s Gents Hairdresser, Three Colts Lane, Bethnal Green

In 1986, my father photographed Ron’s Gents Hairdresser’s in Three Colts Lane, Bethnal Green:

Rons Gents Hairdresser, Three Colts Lane, Bethnal Green

I have walked past the same place over the last few months, hoping that the business which occupies the site today would be open, but gave up last week, so here is a photo of what was Ron’s shop today, JML Unisex Hairdressers, which has not been open when I have been in Three Colts Lane over recent months.

Rons Gents Hairdresser, Three Colts Lane, Bethnal Green

The last review on Google was three months ago, so hopefully this is a temporary closure. It is interesting how businesses such as hairdressers do seem to occupy the same sites for very many years, often through several different owners.

They tend to be local businesses, do not need much space, and are not being replaced by an online service.

Covid probably led to an increase in home haircuts, but I suspect after lockdowns ended there was a rush to get a professional haircut.

It would be good if the shop front behind the shutters is much the same as in the 1986 photo.

I hope I have the name of the business right in the 1986 photo. The large S at the end of Ron threw me a bit, and there is no apostrophe between the end of Ron and the S, but Ron’s would make sense.

Looking above the door, the business is called Ron Salon Gents, Hairstylist:

Rons Gents Hairdresser, Three Colts Lane, Bethnal Green

The displays in shop windows from the past often cast a light on life at the time, and the large display on the right of Ron’s main windows shows that the hairdressers were very much of the “something for the weekend” type:

Rons Gents Hairdresser, Three Colts Lane, Bethnal Green

The shop is in the corner of a long block of flats that runs from Three Colts Lane up along Corfield Street. The following photo shows the shop, and in the first window down Corfield Street is one of the red and white striped signs that have long been the symbol for a barbers.

Three Colts Lane

Three Colts Lane runs from Cambridge Heath Road in the east to Brady Street in the west. For a large part the route, the street has the brick viaduct carrying the railway through Bethnal Green towards Liverpool Street Station, along the southern edge.

Within this brick viaduct, there are rows of arches, many of which have been occupied by various businesses, the majority being in the motor trade.

Next to the 1986 photograph of Ron’s Hairdressers on the strip of negatives, there were two photos of signs advertising typical businesses for the area. The first features the Volkswagon Beetle, Herbie, made famous in the 1968 film The Love Bug:

Three Colts Lane

The second was a large mural showing a BMW in one of the arches:

Three Colts Lane

I wondered if there was any relevance to the registration number of the car, and a quick Google found that it was a BMW E30 Alpina C2 2.7 3-Series, and the car was subject to a road test which was published in the 19th of April 1986 issue of Motor magazine, which reports that the car would have cost you just over £19,000.

The road test article is available here. It was obviously the car to aspire to in 1986.

Although these photos were taken 37 years ago, I took a walk along Three Colts Lane and surrounding streets to see if any trace of them remained. I could not find anything, but the area is still a hub of car and taxi repair businesses, and some rather impressive graffiti and murals, as the following example of the A1 Car Care Centre on the corner of Three Colts Lane and Coventry Road illustrates:

Three Colts Lane

Detail of the mural on the side of the building in Three Colts Lane:

Three Colts Lane

The arches along Three Colts Lane have many businesses which support the taxi trade, and spend a short time in the street and you will see a number of taxis arriving and departing from these arches:

Three Colts Lane

Entrances into these arches show dimly lit interiors where vehicles are serviced and repaired, as at Frame Right Eng. Ltd.’s Body Shop:

Garage in the railway viaduct

The size of these arches can be seen where roads pass through the viaduct. The differing heights of the arches also show how the viaduct into Liverpool Street Station has expanded over time:

Tunnel under the railway viaduct

At the end of Three Colts Lane, it turns into Brady Street which heads under the viaduct, and Dunbridge Street which continues along the northern side of the viaduct.

At this road junction, there is a derelict patch of land on the left, with another repair business in the arches on the right:

Dunbridge Street

The derelict land on the left of the above photo was once the site of a pub, the Yorkshire Grey, which closed in 1998, and was then in residential use for a while, until the building was demolished around 2014. Surprising that the land has not been developed in the past nine years.

Continuing along Dunbridge Street, and there are a couple of very different businesses operating within the arches, including Urban Baristas:

Dunbridge Street

And Breid Bakers:

Dunbridge Street

I can never resist looking at old maps when I visit a place, and the outline of the street that would become Three Colts Lane seems to date from the end of the 18th century.

The following extract is from Smith’s 1816 New Plan of London. I have marked what would become Three Colts Lane, and the circle is around the area where Ron would open his hairdressing business:

Bethnal Green in 1816

The one constant in the map is Wilmot Street, shown within the yellow oval. The street has kept its original name, and still leads off from Three Colts Lane today, although the houses lining the street are today very different to the terrace houses that were built at the start of the 19th century.

Bethnal Green Road was then New Road, and Cambridge Heath Road was Dog Row and Kings Row.

In the early 19th century, there was still a fair amount of open space in this part of Bethnal Green. Over the next few decades, this would all be built over.

I cannot find a source for the name of the street. In 1818 it was Three Colt Lane, by the end of the 19th century it was Three Colt’s Lane, and today, the street sign has the name Three Colts Lane, so it has been Colt, Colt’s and Colts.

A colt is a young male horse, and as there was open space to the south of the early incarnation of the street, I wonder if there were three colts in this field, and the use of Lane rather than Street or Road may imply a route through what was a semi-rural area? It is this sort of visual imagery that was often used to name a location before streets were formally named, and when literacy levels were low.

There is also a Three Colt Street in Limehouse, but again I cannot find a firm reference as to the source of the name.

Ron’s was very much a barbers of its time, and I doubt that today you would find a barbers where a third of their window is taken up with advertising for contraceptives.

15 thoughts on “Ron’s Gents Hairdresser, Three Colts Lane, Bethnal Green

  1. Steve

    Coincidentally I recently had a commemorative trophy made by Neil’s Sports Trophies just a few doors along. Highly recommended, proper old school business and service.

  2. John Burridge

    Your piece has brought back some very old memories of London barbers.
    I used to get my hai cut in a tiny upstairs barbers’ shop in the Strand fifty years ago.
    It was reached by an incredibly rickety lift which barely had room for one person. There was also an iron spiral staircase if my memory serves me correctly, but you only used that if you were feeling suicidal.
    That too had prominent advertising for French letters and the barber never failed to ask the question ‘anything for the weekend, sir?’
    Further up the Strand was Weingotts, a superb tobacconists, where I bought my cigarettes, pipes and pipe tobacco.
    Happy days!

  3. John H

    The replacement of one hairdresser by another is simple enough: usually the plumbing and seats are part of the lease so a quick paint job and of you go. Sadly, there will be a lot more closed hairdressers in the coming months as inflation, power bills and cost cutting by customers is hitting revenue.

  4. John Gilham

    You are right about the longevity of barber’s shops. There is one in Hounslow that I was taken to from when I was 5 year old (1953) until I left In the late 60s. Last time I looked, in (2018), it was still a barber’s.

  5. James Burke

    I rented a flat in Wilmot Street in the mid 1980s. The green area behind the flats was called Weaver’s Fields as the area was known for home weavers. There’s a Weavers Alms House on your old map.

  6. Judith Bell

    I wonder how many 35+ years individuals owe their existence to Durex damaged by sunlight in Ron’s shop window!!

  7. Robert Wells

    It’s all a bit of a mystery where these businesses go they seem to survive for a time then it’s almost as though they get beamed up never to be seen again if they are not there over a three month period it’s a fair bet they will not be seen again . I assume it is not known how long ron traded for before being superseded by jml or subsequently how long jml also traded for. As I walk around the area in which I now live, being here for only 4yrs. I have no knowledge of Inverness in preceeding years but one can’t help thinking each of these closed businesses indicates a tragedy for someone as another shattered dream.

  8. Wendy Young

    Thank you London Inheritance. Your posts make me sad at times as it shows the degradation of this city. Thanks for your hard work to bring us these fantastic stories and images.

  9. Stephen Sheppard

    Another comprehensive article on a tiny piece of London,we’re lucky to
    have you and your enthusiasm for our city..

  10. David

    Once almost every railway arch had a business connected to the cab trade, from insurance brokers to spray shops. As the trade changes many are now leaving those draughty workplaces.

  11. Malcolm Newton

    SOMETHING FOR THE WEEKEND. Back before AIDS became a frightening and ever-present threat to all of us, the buying of condoms was a very embarrassing matter, to be whispered in confidence to the barber, providing his shop was otherwise empty. As a rather young seventeen-year-old, I went into our local newsagent, one Friday in 1967, to buy a packet of cigarettes (yes, I was foolish as well!). As the rather smarmy owner passed my fags across the counter, he gave me a theatrical wink and asked with a leer, “A little something for the weekend, sir?”, followed by another wink. Misunderstanding completely, but thinking it a jolly good idea, I bought “Flying Review” and “Punch” magazines, and placed an order for the Sunday Times. I wonder whether youngsters are so naive now..

  12. Dave H

    Hi, The derelict land at the top of Brady St wasn’t The Yorkshire Grey, that was further up Three Colts, opposite the top of Tapp St – and is still there as a private dwelling.
    Behind where you took the picture from though, on the corner, going round to Dunbridge St was a pub, The Cavalier, so perhaps you’re mixing them up. This closed in, I think, the early ’90s and became office premises until it was demolished around the ’10s – being replaced by the flats that are there now.
    I remember drinking in here with my cousin in the late ’70s, normally on a Sunday lunchtime. Gazing out the door the arches were nearly all dedicated to the black cab trade…
    As a matter of interest, another local pub was The Lion, through the railway arch and in Tapp St itself so actually in E1. It closed at a similar time to The Cavalier, but the building is still there and again I think it’s a private house. It was I believe one of the many local pubs used by the The Krays.

    Love the blog, Dave

  13. Colin

    I hope you bought a loaf from Breid! It’s our local bakery and produces three types of delicious sourdough bread. Highly recommended. The Urban Baristas is a very recent arrival, I’ve not seen it doing much trade, it’s rather an odd location facing onto a road that’s primarily a rat run in rush hour.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.