Clothes-Exchange, Houndsditch, No. 1

Impression: Hunterian Art Gallery
Hunterian Art Gallery
Number: 358
Date: 1887
Medium: etching and drypoint
Size: 162 x 242 mm
Signed: butterfly at left
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 2
Known impressions: 12
Catalogues: K.287; M.282; W.231
Impressions taken from this plate  (12)


baby, city, clothing, dog, market, people, shop, street, warehouse.


There are small variations in the titles given by Whistler and other cataloguers, as follows:

'Clothes Exchange' (1886/1887, Whistler). 2
'Exchange No. 1' (1887, Whistler). 3
'Clothes Exchange No. 1' (1887, Whistler). 4
'Clothes Exchange No. 1, Jew's Quarter, London' (1889, Exposition Universelle). 5
'Old Clothes Exchange' (1899, Frederick Wedmore (1844-1921)). 6
'Exchange. - Houndsditch No 1' (1903/1935, possibly Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958)). 7
'Clothes-Exchange, Houndsditch. No. 1' (1909, Howard Mansfield (1849-1938)). 8
'Clothes-Exchange, No. 1' (1910, Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932)). 9

The reason for the numbering is that Whistler etched a series of subjects in the area of the Exchange. 'Clothes Exchange, Houndsditch, No. 1' combines the essential elements of titles used by Whistler and later cataloguers. The additional description 'Jew's Quarter, London', given for the Exposition Universelle in 1889, may have met with Whistler's approval but did not meet with general acceptance by later cataloguers.

Houndsditch was and is the most common spelling, although the shorter form of Hounsditch is often used. 10

2: Written on verso of Graphic with a link to impression #K2870102.

3: List, [August 1887/1888], GUW #13233.

4: Whistler to T. McLean, 17 November 1887, GUW #13016.

5: Paris Exp. Univ. 1889 ( 419).

6: Wedmore 1899 (cat. no. 231).

7: Envelope containing copper plate, Hunterian Art Gallery.

8: Mansfield 1909 (cat. no. 282).

9: Kennedy 1910 (cat. no. 287).

10: Thomas Miller, Picturesque Sketches of London, London, 1852; James Greenwood, Journeys; or Byways of the Modern Babylon, London, 1867.


A warehouse, with a wide, open entrance, stands at the end of a broad street lined by three- or four-storey buildings. The warehouse has a shallow roof with skylights at the right, and a high wall with a window, partly boarded up, at the left, with 'PHILP & Co., PACKERS' written under the window. There are boxes and goods piled up in the shadows of the warehouse, and numerous figures in front of it. In the middle distance, at right, is a woman with a bucket, sweeping the pavement. Behind her a young family sits outside a shop. On the pavement at left is a women carrying a baby, and to her left, another mother and baby climbing steps to a building. In the roadway, near the front, are some fighting dogs, and a passing cat.


The Clothes Exchange was in Houndsditch in the East End of London. The proprietors were Myers and Abrahams.

Phillips & Co., packing case makers, were based in the exchange. Whistler recorded their signboard as reading 'PHILP & Co., PACKERS' (not Philip as read by Mansfield) but this is either a mistake, or a contraction of the name. 11

Henry Mayhew in London Labour and the London Poor recorded the recycling of every scrap of clothing by Londoners. 12 Mayhew described the old market as follows:

11: London Postal Directory, London, 1889.

12: 'Of the Uses of Second-Hand Garments' in London Labour and the London Poor, Vol. 2, London, 1851, at (accessed 2008).

'... anything like the Old Clothes Exchange of the Jewish quarter of London, in the extent and order of its business, is unequalled . ... until the last few years, the trade in old clothes used to be carried on entirely in the open air ... in ... the Petticoat-lane district. ... The head-quarters of the traffic at that time were confined to a space not more than ten square yards, adjoining Cutler-street. The chief traffic elsewhere was originally in Cutler-street, White-street, Carter-street, and in Harrow-alley - the districts of the celebrated Rag-fair. Mr. L. Isaac, the present proprietor, purchased the houses which then filled up the back of Phil’s-buildings, and formed the present Old Clothes Exchange. This was eight years ago [i.e. 1843]. ' 13

13: Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, London, 1851.

Mayhew continues:
'Of Old Clothes Exchanges there are now two, both adjacent, the first one opened by Mr. Isaac being the most important. This ... is the mart to which the collectors of the cast-off apparel of the metropolis bring their goods for sale. The goods are sold wholesale and retail ... The second Exchange, which is a few yards apart from the other is known as Simmons and Levy's Clothes Exchange, and is unemployed ... except in the mornings. The commerce is then wholesale, for here are sold collections of unredeemed pledges in wearing apparel, consigned there by the pawnbrokers, ... In the afternoon the stalls are occupied by retail dealers ... ' 14

14: Mayhew 1851, ibid.

J. Ewing Ritchie elaborated on Mayhew's description: 'A small entrance fee is demanded. ... If it be Sunday ... The scrambling ... and pushing ... are dreadful. ... Near is the "City Clothes Emporium," and all the streets and alleys in the neighbourhood are similarly occupied. The place has the appearance of a foreign colony.' 15

15: J. Ewing Ritchie, Here and there in London, London, 1859, pp. 117-123, on-line at (accessed 2008).

In a later description Mayhew and Binny commented : 'Some dozen years ago, one of the Hebrew merchant dealers in old clothes purchased the houses at the back of Phil's Buildings -  a court leading out of Houndsditch, immediately facing St Mary Axe, and formed the present market, now styled the "Old Clothes Exchange"'. The Exchange was busiest, they noted, 'About three or four o'clock in winter, and four or five in summer.'     16

16: Henry Mayhew and John Binny, The Criminal Prisons of London and Scenes of London Life (The Great World of London), London, 1862, pp. 39-40.


This is one of several etchings of Houndsditch, focussing on Cutler Street and the Clothes Exchange (see also Fleur-de-lis Passage [360], Cutler Street, Houndsditch [361], After the Sale, Clothes Exchange, Houndsditch [357]). It incorporates order and chaos - the women carrying children, or sweeping the pavement, the dogs fighting, and the dilapidated buildings.

It is interesting that in 1889 it was exhibited as 'Clothes Exchange No. 1, Jew's Quarter, London': it may have had associations for Whistler with the Jewish characters drawn and etched by Rembrandt Harmens van Rijn (1617-1681).