Working 9 to 5
The latest selection of clips from the Bishopsgate Voices Oral History Project examines the varied and eclectic experience of working life in the Bishopsgate and Spitalfields area. From office work to garment manufacture, the area has provided a home for a huge variety of businesses and working lives through the twentieth century.
In the following clips, find out what it was like to work in a Bishopsgate office in the 1940s, how you could keep fit at lunchtime and the best way to eat between breaks if you worked in the rag trade.
Miss Fox and minding your Ps and Qs
Doreen Cooper was born in Leyton and worked at in an office at the Provident Life Assurance Company in Bishopsgate in the late 1940s. She left in 1953 when she married her husband as the company had a strict policy of not employing married women. In the following clip, she recalls office supervisor Miss Fox and how to conduct ‘proper’ office etiquette.
Working in the rag trade and cooking lunch
Monica Henderson started work in the rag trade at 15 years old and was employed
in the industry for all of her working life at various businesses around the East
End. For a number of years she worked at a Hungarian-Jewish company in Strype
Street performing various tasks in garment manufacture. Whilst working as a machinist
in Old Street, Monica and her colleagues developed a novel way of cooking their
lunch. Listen below to find out.
Joan Fraser, after a career as a ballerina, came to the City every day in the
late 1960s to run exercise classes for office girls in their lunchtimes. She started
at the hall of St Botolph’s Church in Bishopsgate, then moved to the Bishopsgate
Institute and finally ended providing classes for secretaries in many private
companies and banks in the area, including Barclays and others. In the clip below,
she remembers advertising the classes with leaflets in Bishopsgate and the rather
strict rules she had to comply by.
A student in Spitalfields
The artist Gerald Laing was born in 1936 and during his career has produced work
that spans the Pop Movement of the Sixties up to his current commitment to representational
bronze sculptures. During the early 1960s he moved to 12 Fournier Street with
his girlfriend whilst studying painting at St Martin’s College in London and describes
the house as he found it, along with some of the more eccentric inhabitants.