In a flap about fake Morley’s chicken shops

4-Best Mowleys, Hither Green

Source: Morley’s or Less

Three architects are exhibiting their photographs of a south London phenomenon. Jens Kongstad, Nick Blomstrand and William Molho explain why

Over the past three years, we have spent our weekends photographing the phenomenon of “fake” chicken shops. Not any or every imitation, but those which bear an uncanny resemblance to the iconic south London chicken shop chain Morley’s. The comprehensive collection of more than 50 photographs is currently being exhibited at the new gallery space in Deptford opened by architectural photojournalist Gareth Gardner.

We are three architects who met while at the Bartlett in 2015. We now work at different practices but have developed a common passion for documenting this curious phenomenon.

While Morley’s is an institution, it is not very well known outside its native heartland of south London. Originating in Sydenham in the mid-1980s, the very first outlet still sells fried chicken, with many of its original fittings, features and signage intact. Since then, countless franchises have opened across the south London boroughs, and its red-and-white branding has become a ubiquitous cultural element on this side of the Thames. So much so that fakes have become almost as commonplace as the authentic shops. Morley’s branding is evidently so recognisable that emulating it is an attractive way to lure in customers.

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