Brown Bread

The sad demise of a much loved baker to the people of east London
The death of a chain of east London bakers in 2020 illustrates a broader story of how the pandemic has accelerated a move that sees local, well established smal and medium-sized businesses hammered by the unrelenting forces of unfettered late capitalism.
Percy Ingle was a much loved institution that sold bread, sandwiches and cakes to people in east London. With over 50 outlets from Holloway Road in north London near the Arsenal stadium to Romford, deep into Essex, the chain was the biggest independent player in east London. 
Ask any regular and they’d tell you the quality of its offering was in a different league to the now ubiquitous Greggs. Freshly made in its Leyton factory, the bread didn’t have to travel far to get to its customers. 
The bakery shops provided jobs for local youngsters and treats and breakfasts to workmen, commuters and school children. You could pick up a freshly made fried egg or bacon roll for little more than £1. The cakes tasted as good as they looked, which was saying something. 
But in March 2020, just as the first covid lockdown was set to sweep the nation, all the stores closed, never to re-open. Many high streets across east London have a sad green metal boarded-up front where these emporiums of good-value treats offered locals cakes, sausage rolls, freshly made sandwiches and loaves.
Percy Ingle, founder of the chain, died in xxxx, but his heirs seem to have decided that selling up valuable east London retail real estate offered an easier way of weathering the pandemic than employing hundreds of staff to keep cockneys in bread and cake. 
Rewind just a year before the pandemic and the picture looked very different. Percy Ingle was getting a re-brand. It’s distinctive green and orange livery was being replaced with a more modern, stylish branding and a name that showed it was now a multi-generational family business: Ingles. 
Recipes were being revised, new products offered, but old favourites like the Tottenham Cake (a sponge cake with Jam and coconut topping) held their spot on the shop-floor. In 2022 some of the shops have been redeveloped with new businesses. A desert shop at the top of the Roman Road in Bow looks fun; Route a chain of Turkish owned cafes offers high-end cakes and snacks in Broadway Market, in the fashionable bit of Hackney near London Fields.
But many sites remain closed two years later. Here my photos show the chain after its upgrade, and then some of the sites after their closure. I’ve also taken some of the many derelict sites in East London, but also in more affluent areas of the capital and elsewhere in England. A general sense of town centres being neglected has led to graffiti across many areas being the norm as well as some wonderful street-art.