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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.

Doreen Cooper's train ticket to Liverpool Street, 1953Miss 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.

Factory in Strype Street, c1950Working 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 teaches an exercise class, c1969Lunchtime exercises

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.

Gerald Laing and friends in Fournier Street, 1962A 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.