About

Join me on this journey through the most fascinating of cities. Enter your e-mail address in the box to the right and automatically receive new posts direct to your e-mail. Usually about one a week.

My father was born in London in 1928, lived in London throughout the 2nd World War and started taking photographs of the city from 1946 through to 1954. These show a city which had changed dramatically since the pre-war period and has changed, in many places beyond recognition, in the intervening years.

Through “A London Inheritance” I will document my exploration of London using these photographs as a starting point. To try and identify the original locations, show how and why these have changed and how the buildings, streets and underlying topography of the city have developed.

This journey will take me from Hampstead to Hoxton, Battersea to Greenwich, well known landmarks as well as hidden buildings, streets and steps, along with events such as the Festival of Britain and the Coronation.

To guide me on this journey I will use my father’s original 1940 London Street Atlas, along with books, documents and notes collected over many years.

Along the route, I will also cover aspects of London that interest me, the history and places that make London such an intriguing city.

My aim is for weekly updates, however the need for additional research, access to locations, weather etc. may make the occasional delay unavoidable. Please bear with me, this is a real time journey and I hope the results will be worthwhile.

 

37 thoughts on “About

  1. M@

    Was pointed this way by the Gentle Author and have enjoyed every single article so far. I’ve subscribed by RSS so will keep up with new articles. An excellent start, and I’m really looking forward to reading more. Cheers, M@. (from Londonist).

    Reply
  2. Barry

    I was born around Blackfriars in 1950. Seeing old London landmarks brings back a lot of memories for me. The research and time you are spending trying to locate exact sites your father took different photographs is wonderful. Although our family emigrated to Canada in 1963 I have always felt an attachment to London. It angers me somewhat that so much of the city was demolished and that no authority saw fit to try and protect some of these heritage buildings. Tourists come to the city to see history in its architecture not to look at these gaudy, over-sized monstrosities. Sorry- rant out of the way.
    Your photos with the old shot tower was one of the places we would play as kids so I was very interested in this location. During the 1950’s there were viewing platforms along the Thames just outside of Festival Hall. My brothers and I would have races up and down the stairs to the platforms to see who could get to the top first. I think there were 2 or 3 of these platforms. Do you know of any existing photos of these platforms and where I could view them.
    Your father probably did not realize how important his photography would be to future generations but to see you carrying on his work is very commendable. Congratulations and keep going. Thanks so much.
    Barry

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hi Barry. Many thanks for the feedback, much appreciated. I will have a look through and see if I have any photos of the platforms. Most of the photos of the Festival of Britain site were before construction started and during construction. I agree with your comments about the City. Just comparing the Queen Victoria Street photos, the original in my view, is a much better street environment. I bet you would not recognise that much of Blackfriars, there has been and continues to be so much development. Regards, David

      Reply
  3. jill sanders

    This is great information – all fascinating. Do you know what is the future of Bridge House, which stands on the north footing of Battersea Bridge on the downstream side? I can find only that there were plans for a make-over in 2005 but the building, which looks late Victorian, plain but handsome, is still there but partly boarded up and very unloved.
    Best wishes
    Jill

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hi Jill, thanks for the feedback. No, do not know the future of Bridge House, have not seen any details of what is planned for that building. Panoramaofthethames looks a fantastic project. I will watch with interest.

      Reply
      1. jill

        Thank you for the response – only just seen it – and for your latest information and images on the Southbank. How very interesting to see the earlier buiildings, including the shot tower and the brewery, topped with the Coade stone lion. The shot towers feature in the 1829 Panorama of the Thames published by Samuel Leigh and this image will be going online on our website. The tower was a wonder of its age, and we have the following entry for it: “This colossal building, built for Thomas Maltby & Co. in 1826 and designed by David Riddal Roper. stands over 160ft high.  Down the centre is dropped molten lead which, in falling, cools to the correct shape and weight to form ordnance.  It is built of stock brick and at the base measures 30 feet in diameter, with 3-foot thick walls.  At the gallery located at the top the tower tapers to 20 feet in diameter with 18-inch walls. The gallery chamber is surrounded by a cornice and parapet with an iron balustrade.  The gallery is 163 feet up and reached by a spiral staircase attached to the inside face of the wall. Halfway up there is a floor for making small lead shot, and the gallery at the top is used for making large shot.”
        One of your images also shows the Patent Shot Works, east of Waterloo Bridge, built in 1789 and about which we have this entry: “In 1791, Samuel Ireland in ‘Picturesque Views on the River Thames’ spoke of it thus:  ‘A little below this place (Beaufoy’s vineyard on the site of the old Cuper’s Garden), a new structure has been lately erected, called the patent shot manufactory.  It is near one hundred and fifty feet high, about nineteen feet in diameter, and works half a tun of lead in an hour.  It cost near six thousand pounds, but cannot be considered as an object ornamental to the river Thames.’” 
        I wonder what Mr Ireland would have to say about today’s architecture!
        A digital restoration of this image, a View of London from the Adelphi, will appear in a book later this year published by Thames and Hudson, along with most of the 60ft 1829 drawing of the original Panorama of the Thames published by Samuel Leigh. It is the social change that is so profound, and drives the change of use, landscape and architecture of the Thames riverbanks.
        It is all fascinating to see.

        Reply
      2. Sarah Aramakutu

        Hi Admin ,
        Im posting on behalf of a friend of mine living in New Zealand that has a box of photos and correspondance that had belonged to her father who was the Public Relations Officer and also fireman for the Thames River Fire Service in London back in the 1940s. If you could assist in any possible way that would be greatly appreciated as we dont want part of Londons history to be thrown away . His name was Bernard Alexander Dewsbury Dessau .
        Thank you
        Sarah

        Reply
  4. Jane

    I have been enjoying your posts since I saw the first one last February. Your feeds are the only ones that actually stop me doing whatever I am supposed to be doing – I always read every word and get lost in the photo comparisons.
    Keep on with the great work.
    All the best, Jane

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Jane, thanks very much for the feedback, really appreciated. I subscribe to janeslondon and you have a great eye for detail, fantastic photos.

      Reply
  5. Kathryn

    Hello! I stumbled across your site after Googling “Cockpit Steps”. My mother and I are planning a grand history-immersive tour of London next year–it’s the trip of a lifetime for a couple of American history buffs starved of local history–and your blog has become invaluable in helping us plan our visit! It’s so fascinating to see the juxtaposition of the old black and white pictures with the modern day color shots, and I love reading the stories behind the pictures. Truly enjoying this, and thank you for your work!

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Thank you very much for the feedback. I am sure you will have a fantastic time in London next year discovering the history of the city and I am pleased my blog is helping you plan. Despite the amount of new development, there is still so much to explore.

      Reply
  6. Ray

    I”m enjoying your the blog as much as ever and always learn something. No doubt like me you are a keen location spotter when old films of London are shown and recently LONDON LIVE gave us all a real treat by showing Sparrows Can’t Sing. Joan Littlewood’s film is a London location spotters dream. Keep up the good work and many thanks.

    Reply
  7. Ian Ashford

    I was fascinated by your blog on Cardinal Cap Alley. I have been working in Southwark Bridge Road for a few months in one of the old warehouse buildings which has now been refurbished and used for office space. I go for a walk along the riverside every day and, like you, was drawn toward Number 49 more so that the Globe reconstruction. I had assumed the plaque was genuine and surprised to read this was not the case. A great pity the alley is gated off as it would be an experience to walk through it if for no other purpose than to do so.
    Keep up the good work.

    Reply
  8. Patsy

    I have been an avid reader of your articles since I came across your site while researching for a book set in 1820. My protagonist walks from ‘The George’ in Borough High Street to St Katherine’s dock. I needed to describe the route as authentically as I could. It was a time when a lot of changes were taking place in that area, so I may not have got the facts as correctly written as they might have been – I continue researching as I write the rest of the book.

    I am 70 now and have seen enormous change in London during my lifetime.
    In 1970 to ’75, we lived in a police flat in Huntly Street, which runs parallel to Tottenham Court Road. I came to know and love that area, so steeped in History. The flats backed onto Heals, which stands on the site of ‘Capper’s Farm’, so I suppose the flats too cover some of the area that was the farm.

    Undoubtedly there is a ‘buzz’ around the old parts of London. Is that because so much has happened over the centuries? Have ‘marks’ been left in the very earth? Or am I being too fanciful?

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Hi Patsy, thanks for your comment and good luck with your book, sounds very interesting. That is an interesting route from Borough High Street to St Katherine’s dock. The past 70 years have seen so much change, it was just under 70 years (in 1947) that my father first started taking photos of London, but it does always surprise me that whilst some areas have changed beyond all recognition, other areas are almost the same.

      Reply
  9. Patsy

    Hi Admin
    Since my last post here, I discovered that St Katherine’s dock was not built in 1820.
    I had to move the action to London dock instead.
    Just shows you, It pays to do research.
    Nevertheless, Tom still walked the route described to meet his friend.
    The book is called ‘Tom Johnson’s submarine and how he met Napoleon.’
    Here is what it is based on:
    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-secret-plot-to-rescue-napoleon-by-submarine-1194764/?no-ist
    You don’t have to publish this if you don’t want to. Just thought you might be interested.

    Reply
  10. Candy

    Thank you for following. And how interesting that we are doing something very similar in exploring London past and present! Maybe we can do some joint or shared posts?

    Reply
  11. Sam

    I’m totally addicted to this site. My grandmother was evacuated from Bethnal Green to South Wales during the war, she was 14. She talks about it so vividly even though she’s almost 90. Thank you for sharing this, it must take some effort!

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      Thanks for the feedback Sam – really appreciated. Bethnal Green did suffer very badly during the war, I hope to do a post about this sometime in the future.

      Reply
  12. Jan Armitage

    Hello 🙂 what a great use of your inheritance of your father’s photos, it’s wonderful to see the comparisons. I arrived here because I’m googling the history of St John Zachary, and I went to this post of yours: http://alondoninheritance.com/thebombedcity/st-zachary-st-alban-and-blowbladder-street/. Is there any chance of using the photo of the bomb damaged garden, on my cat blog? I’ve given you the address of the blog when submitting this message, I don’t want to use this post to advertise, but I’d really appreciate it if I could. If you allow me, I’ll update the relevant post and list the credit, of course.
    Many thanks for your lovely postings, in any case.

    Reply
  13. Peter

    Hi,

    I just wanted to say what a great site you have here. I love the ‘then & now’ comparison photos.
    I know you generally use maps & walk to find locations, but do you also use Google Earth with the 3d models turned on, as well? I find it quite useful to get a general location – esp by matching up buildings in relation to each other.

    Also, Google earth has imager now of 1945+/- so that could be quite useful.

    All the best

    Peter

    Reply
    1. David Seddon

      With ref to the pic of a “a temporary café on a bomb site” on p9 of your blog, it looks to me that it is made from the top deck of an old pre war “Diddler” type trolleybus which used to run in the Twickenham area. Many of these were scrapped by Cox and Danks in the Bow area on withdrawal. A pic of an almost identical cafe can be found at http://www.flickriver.com/photos/23875695@N06/sets/72157626537594012/, picture no 50 or so. It may be the same one but I don’t think so as there seem to be detail differences as well as a different paint job.

      Excellent blog by the way!

      Reply
  14. Jane Parker

    Pleeeeeease….. can you include a SEARCH BOX so that I can find some things you mentioned in old posts… Thanks in advance.
    Apart from that, keep up the excellent work… I just love it
    Jane

    Reply
    1. admin Post author

      That is a good point, could have done with a search facility myself sometimes. Will have a look how I can add. Just get worried with adding facilities that I will break something !

      Reply
  15. Gavin Whitelaw

    Just found this blog. I wrote Vintage London – The Capital in colour 1910-1960 and have hundreds of original unpublished colour transparencies from the 1920s onwards of London. If you want to get in touch then email me as there is definitely a book there amongst your blog pages and I could help illustrate it in colour!

    Reply
  16. Gary Morris

    Hi,

    I came across your site and find it fascinating.

    I work for VoiceMap, a publishing platform for immersive, location-aware audio experiences. They play through our mobile apps, using GPS, and are made using our publishing tool, with free assistance from our editors.

    We are constantly publishing new tours and currently offer 34 tours in London
    https://voicemap.me/tour/london

    Here is a video that gives you an idea of how VoiceMap works:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyAY4geKALk

    Sir Ian Mckellen, for instance, takes the listener on a journey through the Theatreland of London’s historic West End.
    https://voicemap.me/tour/london/theatreland-tour-with-ian-mckellen

    If you are interested, please contact me,

    Regards,

    Gary

    Reply
    1. Tom Glasser

      Hi there,

      First of all, fantastic website. You’ve done some terrific work, so thank you.

      Secondly, I was wondering if I might be able to use your photo of the Gun tavern for an audiowalk I’m making about Wapping? On this page: http://alondoninheritance.com/londonpubs/the-gun-tavern-a-tale-of-two-wappings/

      I’d love to tell the story of how it was used to hold inquests, and showing how Foxtons used to be a pub would be really helpful.

      Many thanks,

      Tom

      Reply
  17. laura sims

    I love your father’s photos of crowds waiting at the coronation in 1953.
    I am making a short unfunded video for Wycombe Museum about people’s memories of the coronation. I wondered if I might use a couple of these photos to illustrate some-one’s memories of waiting all night for the procession?

    Reply
    1. Jayne Stokes

      I recently saw a photograph of the shop J Rogg in the East End of London on someones blog and noticed the copyright was attributed to you. I am an artist based in Scotland and I would love to make a painting from this image but need to check with you first this would be ok?

      Reply
  18. Rowena

    Thanks David for all the information and photography you have shared so generously on your blog. At the moment, my travels around London are restricted to blogs and Google maps. I have been wanting to attend the annual Bloggers Bash in London but haven’t made it yet. Have you been?
    London has so many, many layers of history. It’s incredible. I think it would blow my socks off if I could go there now. I share your love of detail and stories and would only have the time as a visitor to skim the surface…or see very little. That’s before I even get to the people I want to meet up with.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

    Reply
  19. Claire

    Hi
    Great blog and so much interesting information and history we just walk past every day.
    I’ve just found out my ancestors are from the St Olave area and I’m trying to locate two addresses where they lived but I guess the roads don’t exist:
    1891 – 10 Foxlow Street, St Crispen Bermondsey- worked as a corn porter on the docks.
    1881 – 8a Seven Step Alley, Christ Church Rotherhithe.
    Seems such a shame we have lost the information.

    Reply
  20. Jayne Pearson

    I love your blog – I lived in London from the mid 1980s until I moved here to Turkey 14 years ago. I lived and worked around the West End/Covent Garden/Soho, as well as a long spell in the original Paternoster Square in the late 1980s, so many of your photographs bring back happy memories of my time there.

    I wonder if you or any of your followers can help me with a puzzle. Back in the late 1980s – probably getting towards 1990/91, we used to go to a restaurant in Covent Garden that is no longer there, nor do I think the entrance to it is still there – i think it might have been removed as part of the renovations that took place in the 1990s relating to the Opera House. I think it was on the side of the Garden that faces the Jubilee Market Hall (ie south side of the Piazza), but can’t be absolutely sure – it might have been around one side, either Transport Museum side or the side facing the church (sorry, being a bit hopeless).

    I think it was called something like The Rock and Roll Cafe – you went up a flight of external stairs (covered I think) and on the landing upstairs that formed the main entrance there was a Harley motorbike behind a glass screen. The restaurant itself was laid out in booths and sold cocktails and burgers, ribs etc.

    Even my friends that I used to go there with cannot remember it – I think it had a late licence, as I seem to remember it was always a venue for later in the evening when everyone had the munchies. We either went there, or to the horrid Mexican restaurant on Leicester Square or to the Spanish Garden, which was a slightly dubious bar in a little pedestrianised street off Brook Street in Mayfair – now redeveloped and home to some very upmarket restaurants. I can only think that eating and drinking must have been a great deal cheaper in those days, as we seemed to do quite a lot of it!

    If anyone can remember the American place in Covent Garden that I am thinking of, I’d love any info that would satisfy my curiosity.

    Reply

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