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Picture Story: Crown Street

We sometimes come across images in the collection that radiate charm, and lodge themselves firmly in the memory. The photograph of black and white children playing together in Crown Street, in the Canning Town area of East London taken in the late 1920s, has always fascinated us, so we were delighted when we were contacted by Amanda Graham who recognised her father, uncle and aunts, and was able to provide a lot more information.

"My dad and his siblings are some of the mixed race children featured. Starting with the front row second child on the right, the little girl wearing a hat with her finger in her mouth is my aunt Vera Graham born 1925; next to her is my dad Edgar born 1922 and next to him I believe is my aunt Violet born 1924. The boy standing in the second row slightly to the left of my dad is the oldest brother Sidney Graham born 1920. Violet sadly died as a young woman in the forties but the others lived into their eighties and nineties. There was another younger sister Iris who isn't in the photo who was born in 1929. I would guess that the photo must have been taken around that time.

Crown Street is no longer there after it was destroyed during the Blitz. It was close to the docks so the area suffered heavy bomb damage. It was known locally as Draughtboard Alley to reflect the diversity of the families living there at that time, well reflected by the group of children in the photo.

My grandfather originally came from Barbados and I believe saw active duty in the navy or merchant navy. He met my grandmother, a white local woman. Sailors didn't always get a ship back from England and found themselves stranded in the area. A number of them met and married local women, settling in the area to raise their children which led to a sizeable number of mixed race children living locally. What is great to see is the way the children seem so happy playing together in the street, looking at the many smiles on their faces even though life was probably pretty tough for them most of the time. My dad and his siblings talked fondly of growing up in Crown Street."

We're grateful to Amanda for bringing this photo to life, and hope you have enjoyed reading about it. Do get in touch to find out how we can help you with the story you're telling. For quotes, queries and picture research requests, email email pictures@maryevans.com or call us on 020 8318 0034.

Mary Evans Picture Library Ltd.  59 Tranquil Vale  Blackheath  London  SE3 0BS. United Kingdom.
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