After a relatively quiet night on London's streets, life started to return to normal Thursday following four nights of rioting that have left homes and shops in ruins and four people dead.

The owners of shops and cafes in districts of the British capital where rioters looted and set fire to shops put on a brave face and opened for business.

On London's Oxford Street, a shopping magnet for tourists, flagship department stores which have shut early for the past two days finally felt confident enough that the violence had receded to stay open late.

In the relatively affluent west London district of Ealing, shopkeepers were starting to reopen premises attacked in one of the most intense bouts of rioting on Monday night.

An entire row of shops were boarded up with chipboard, but under the gaze of policemen the owners of shops pushed open the makeshift doors cut into the wood and began to prepare to serve customers.

Organic cafe Farm W5 had its main window boarded up with chipboard but manager Hussein Hagg served coffees and juices in the darkness.

"The area is recovering quickly," he said.

"I opened yesterday straight afterwards. We all know each other and we have worked together. As soon as they opened the road, everyone started helping each other."

He said he hoped Ealing would recover. "I do not think it will have a permanent effect on the area. We just need time to get everything back to normal.

"The residents here are very nice. I have been here five years and I have never had any problems before."

Nearby, a homemade poster on the chipboard at a health food shop cheerfully announced: "We are open as usual," accompanied by a smiley face.

Longtime Ealing resident Helen Brooke, 64, admitted that behind the defiance, there was still fear that violence could erupt again, especially when the police reinforcements that have flooded the area disappear.

"I have no idea if it will change the area forever, but I know that people are scared," she said.

"There's definitely a lot of fear that it could flare up again. You can have a few days of extra police presence but they aren't going to stay around forever."

The red-brick building housing the Ealing Green Local corner shop, which was looted and burned out, destroying the flats above, was surrounded by scaffolding and police crime scene tape.

A crane carefully lifted the clock tower off on Wednesday while structural engineers assess whether the building can be saved.

In Birmingham, where three men died after being mowed down by a car during riots in the early hours of Wednesday, traffic began flowing around Britain's second city for the first time since the violence began.