65A Whitechapel High Street

c1897 commercial building first occupied by Abraham Goldenfeld, substantially restored in 2010-12 | Part of 65A Whitechapel High Street

SMEM sewing machine repairs
Contributed by toni on Jan. 16, 2019

Tony Passa (formally Pasavitch, born 25 April 1927 in Bethnal Green), was a sewing-machine mechanic who worked at SMEM from when he was demobbed after the Second World War until it closed in 1991.

Tony (or Mr Reece as he was known because he was the only one who could/would fix the cantankerous Reece sewing machine) travelled all over London mending sewing machines for the whole of his working life. There were a number of other engineers, Monty and Alf among others, who worked in the workshop. The car park SMEM used was next to what is now 17 Osborn Street.

Tony was a regular fixer of machines at the National Theatre (where he regularly got lost) at London Fashion week when quick fixes were needed, and for up and coming designers like Vivenne Westwood and later Rıfat Özbek. But most of his working life was spent in your bog standard clothing factory, coaxing ageing machines back into life.

I remember as a child in the 1960s visiting Tony at work at another SMEM workshop location close to the car park but there is no one else who remembers this.

65A Whitechapel High Street
Contributed by Survey of London

No. 65a Whitechapel High Street has its origins as a building of c1897. Prominent from the west, it was well finished with lavish use of Portland stone dressings on red brick. It appears to have been built for a Mr Jenkins with Aaron Cooperman; Abraham Goldenfeld, a warehouseman, was the first occupant.1 The building was substantially refurbished in 2010-12 by Julian Harrap Architects (Robert Sandford, job architect), with PAYE as contractors. Applied stucco was removed and the red brick restored. Lion masks in the frieze and the parapet with its pediment and ball finials were reinstated. This work was the first part of the High Street 2012 project, ninety per cent funded from Tower Hamlets Council with English Heritage through a Heritage Lottery Fund Townscape Heritage grant. The project had been conceived when it was anticipated that the 2012 Olympics Marathon would pass by. 2

  1. The National Archives, IR58/84814–5/3198–3205: Post Office Directories. 

  2. East London Advertiser, 22 May 2014 - http://www.eastlondonadvertiser. co.uk/news/heritage/harrup_architects_get_riba_award_for_restoring_high_st_201 2_back_to_1900_1_3612037: information kindly supplied by Robert Sandford 

65A-68 Whitechapel High Street in 2010
Contributed by Julian Harrap Architects

65A-71 Whitechapel High Street
Contributed by Derek Kendall

Tony Passa, sewing machine mechanic
Contributed by toni