Category Archives: London Photography

London In Pictures – A London County Council 1937 Guide

The London County Council (LCC) along with the metropolitan boroughs, transformed London.

The LCC was responsible for the coordination and provision of a wide range of services across London, for example the growth of council provided housing, education, provision of medical services, parks and gardens, infrastructure and consumer services. The LCC, along with authorities such as the Metropolitan Water Board, the London Passenger Transport Board, the London Fire Brigade and the Metropolitan Borough Councils transformed London from the 19th century city to the city we recognise today.

The London County Council produced a considerable number of publications on almost any aspect of the running and organisation of a major city that you could imagine. Within these publications there is a common theme – a considerable pride in the city and the services that the LCC provided to Londoners.

Much of this can look strange from a 21st century viewpoint – too intrusive, too organising, too much “authority knows best”. However with austerity, drastic reductions in council services, library closures, funding challenges for the NHS, Police and Education, the past can look deceptively attractive, but dig deeper and comparisons are never simple.

I have collected a wide range of LCC publications over the years, they provide considerable insight into the development of the city from the formation of the LCC in 1889 until the transfer to the Greater London Council in 1965.

For this week’s post, I would like to feature a publication which provides an overview of all the services provided by the LCC and other London authorities. A snapshot in one specific year – 1937.

This is London In Pictures – Municipal London Illustrated.

London County Council

London in Pictures is a guide-book, but a guide-book with a difference as the foreward to the book describes:

“Many London guide books are published every year and many picture books illustrating the external beauties of London streets and street scenes and buildings of architectural and historic interest. None of these publications, however, devotes adequate attention, even if any notice at all be given, to the municipal interests of London”

The guide-book was targeted at visitors to, and those on holiday in London, and the foreward goes on to explain that if the visitor can understand the government of the city and how London is delivering municipal activities, they can take back this knowledge to help solve problems in their own town or city. Possibly a very limited readership, but again, this demonstrates the LCC’s pride in the way that London was administered and the services provided to the city’s inhabitants.

The book is divided into sections focusing on a specific aspect of the LCCs services, so lets start with – Block Dwellings built by the Council.

In 1937 the LCC owned around 25,000 flats across London. These were typically in estates with blocks of flats to a common design, however many designs were unique and still look good today.

One of these was the Oaklands Estate in Clapham. This estate occupied around 3 acres and provided 185 dwellings with a total of 582 rooms. The estate was built between 1935 and 1936 and the following photo is of Eastman House on the Oaklands Estate.

London County Council

The Clapham Park Estate is of the more traditional London County Council design. This is a view of Lycett and Cotton Houses on the estate which was built between 1930 and 1936, with the overall estate comprising 759 dwellings.

London County Council

The LCC also developed Council Cottage Estates. These estates consisted of houses and smaller flats, providing a low-rise appearance and reduced housing density. This is the Old Oak Estate – the estate which is located between Westway (the A40 road) and Wormwood Scrubs.

London County Council

In 1937 the Old Oak Estate consisted of 1,055 houses and flats.

Occupying around 202 acres of land across Chislehurst and Sidcup districts was the Mottingham Estate. In 1937 the estate consisted of 2,356 houses and flats with further growth planned by the reservation of space for a cinema, shops, schools and a church and 25.5 acres of open space.

London County Council

Londoners also needed education and the London County Council designed new school buildings with large windows for natural lighting, assembly halls, gymnasium, libraries and rooms designed for specific subjects such as science and art. The book highlights that LCC schools were provided with hot water facilities (with the implication that earlier schools lacked this feature).

This is the King’s Park School in Eltham. The senior school in the two storey block with the single storey infant school to the right.

London County Council

As well as education, health care was important, and in 1937 the NHS was still a distant dream. In 1930 the LCC took over responsibility for hospitals controlled by Boards of Guardians and the Metropolitan Asylums Board. This allowed the council to start a programme of modernisation and standardisation of health services across the city and in 1937 there were 43 general hospitals and 31 special hospitals controlled by the LCC.

This is the Operating Theatre and X-Ray Unit completed in 1936 at St. Mary Abbots Hospital, Kensington.

London County CouncilAs with new schools, LCC designed hospitals also featured large windows to maximise natural lighting and a belief in the importance of fresh air to aid recovery. This is the Sun Balcony at St. Olave’s Hospital:London County Council

One of the departments within the London County Council was the rather 1984 Orwellian named “Public Control Department”.

This department had a wide range of services which today would be included within the scope of departments such as Trading Standards.

The Public Control Department was responsible for services such as for weights and measures, testing of gas meters, control and storage of petrol, licensing employment agencies and massage establishments, administration of the Shops Act, diseases of animals, sale of fertilizers and animal feed stuffs and the registration of theatrical employees.

The following three photos from the book show the type of activities carried out by the Public Control Department. The first is testing a weighbridge:

London County Council

Measuring the weight of a sack of coal to ensure that the contents met the specified and charged for weight:

London County Council

Checking the weights and measures in a shop:

London County Council

The London County Council became the local education authority for London in 1904, and was responsible for:

  • To co-ordinate the activities of its predecessors, the School Board for London and the Technical Education Board,
  • To place those elementary schools provided by voluntary bodies on the same basis as regards maintenance as those provided by the Council itself,
  • To establish a system of secondary schools linked to the elementary schools by a scholarship scheme,
  • To reorganise the former ‘night schools’ into a comprehensive system of continuative education,
  • To expand technical, commercial and art education,
  • To build up a system of school medical inspection and treatment, and of special schools for children with physical and mental defects.

In 1937 the LCC was responsible for nearly 800,000 pupils. 512,000 under the age of 14, with 125,000 between 14 and 18 and a further 163,000 in adult education.

An annual nativity play by junior boys and girls:

London County Council

Mid-morning milk at a junior school:

London County Council

Practical work – Domestic Subjects:

London County Council

Residential schools in camp:

London County Council

The scope of education covered by the London County Council included training colleges which focused on specific subjects and skill sets. These colleges included teacher training colleges and in the photo below, poultry farming:

London County Council

A teacher training college:

London County Council

The London County Council was also responsible of the main drainage services for London, which in 1937 meant servicing the needs of 5.5 million people.

The main treatment works were at Beckton, which dealt with 280 million gallons of sewage a day, with effluent being discharged into the river, and 2 million tons a year of solid matter being dumped at sea by a fleet of four, wonderfully named “sludge vessels”.

This view is of part of the 7.5 miles of aeration channels at Beckton:London County Council

An example of the tunnels that transported sewage for treatment – 10 foot and 11.5 foot diameter sewers:

London County Council

Included within the wide range of infrastructure services for which the LCC was responsible were ferries, tunnels and piers, including the Rotherhithe Tunnel:

London County Council

Greenwich Pier:

London County Council

And the Woolwich Ferry, which in 1937 carried 4,000 vehicles and 7,000 pedestrians daily between the weekday hours of 6 a.m. and midnight.

London County Council

Originally, fire brigade services had been built up across London by private enterprises such as insurance companies, however by the 1860s, the costs of providing the service were escalating and the insurance companies requested that the Government took over the service.

This was achieved by the 1865 Metropolitan Fire Brigade Act which consolidated the individual services into a single, London fire service.

In 1889 the London County Council took over the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, and in 1904 the name was changed to the London Fire Brigade.

In 1937 the new headquarters building and fire station for the London Fire Brigade on the Albert Embankment had only just been completed. The fire services moved from this building a few years ago, and it is currently being redeveloped, however it will retain a link with the fire service as the London Fire Brigade museum is planned to return to a new and upgraded facility within the building.

In 1937, the London Fire Brigade were equipped with a range of leading edge appliances, including a Hose Lorry:

London County Council

And a Breakdown Lorry:

London County Council

The London Docks were a high fire risk, due to the dense storage of large amounts of inflammable materials, with probably a lack of attention to fire prevention measures. The following photo from the book shows a typical fire that the London Fire Brigade had to deal with, a large fire in July 1935 at Iceland Wharf, Old Ford.

London County Council

The Municipal Hospitals of London were the responsibility of the London County Council, with 74 hospitals taken over from the Boards of Guardians and Metropolitan Asylums Board.

In 1937, these hospitals contained at total of 38,500 beds. This was before the establishment of the NHS, so treatment was not free for all. The book explains that “Admission may usually be secured on the certificate of a private doctor, without any suggestion of poor law ‘taint’, and except in certain circumstances, patients are required to contribute according to their means.”

The Children’s Ward at a LCC hospital:

London County Council

A London County Council hospital operating theatre:

London County Council

The London County Council also ran medical inspections and treatment of school children. Children would be ‘inspected’ at the ages of 7, 11 and between the ages of 13 and 14. This included dental inspections with the possibility of follow-up treatment at 74 medical and dental treatment centres across London.

Probably a nightmare for most children – school dental treatment:

London County Council

A minor ailment centre:

London County Council

The London County Council set-up the London Ambulance Service in 1915, initially to focus on street accidents. There was a separate ambulance service run by the Metropolitan Asylums Board, which was used for the transfer of patients with infectious diseases, and another service run by the Boards of Guardians. All these services came under the central control of the LLC in 1930 under the Local Government Act of 1929.

The interior of a 1930s ambulance:

London County Council

Control of ambulances was from County Hall and an ambulance could be summoned by calling WATerloo 3311.

in 1937 there were 153 ambulances covering London. These were based at 6 large ambulance stations and 16 smaller stations. By comparison in the financial year 2017/18 the London Ambulance Service consisted of over 1,100 vehicles based at 70 ambulance stations and support offices across London. In the same year the service dealt with 1.9 million 999 calls – a truly extraordinary number.

If you needed an ambulance in 1937, this is the vehicle that would arrive:

London County Council

Parks and Open Space were also the responsibility of the London County Council, with a total of 6,647 acres of space managed by a staff of 1,500.

The LCC provided and managed parks such as Battersea Park, as well building and managing facilities within parks, such as the open-air swimming pool at Victoria Park:

London County Council

One of the responsibilities of the LCC, in the terms used in the 1937 book was the “Care of the Mentally Afflicted”. The LCC had started to change how mental health was treated with a move from the custodial approach to proper nursing care, however it was a very institutionalised approach with 20 hospitals and institutions providing treatment for 33,600 patients from a staff of 9,000.

This is Forest House, the admission and convalescent villa in Claybury Hospital:

London County Council

In the same hospital, the Needleroom where “many patients can still do useful work”.

London County Council

The guide-book also included the other governance authorities within London, including the City of London Corporation. This included the City markets, with this superb aerial view of the London Central Markets at Smithfield:

London County Council

And a very quiet Spitalfields Market:

London County Council

The other key element of London governance were the Metropolitan Borough Councils. These were formed by the 1899 London Government Act and were responsible for a number of local services such as the collection of refuse and the maintenance of streets.

In 1937, 16 out of a total of 28 borough councils were still electricity supply authorities, having their own local generation and distribution capabilities. These services would not consolidate further until after the war with the creation of the Central Electricity Generation Board and the regional distribution boards, such as the London Electricity Board.

The establishment of the Metropolitan Borough Councils resulted in the building of impressive Town Halls across London. The book includes a night view of St. Marylebone Town Hall:

London County Council

Municipal Borough Councils also provided local facilities, for example, local parks and playgrounds, libraries and swimming pools.

One impressive example in 1937 was the Poplar Swimming Bath and the books show how the same building could support very different uses:

London County Council

In 1937. the London docks were still major centres of trade. Containerisation and the shift of ports from inland rivers to coastal centres such as Southampton and Felixtowe was still decades in the future.

The Port of London Authority was responsible for the management of the ports and river. In 1937 the Port of London dealt with more shipping than any other UK port and over a third of UK overseas trade passed through London. In 1937, approximately 43 million tons of goods were managed through the London docks.

A ship entering the King George V Dock:

London County Council

The Wine Gauging Grounds operated by the Port of London Authority:

London County Council

London County Council publications are always fascinating and London in Pictures provides a really good overview of the governance of London and the breadth and depth of the services provided by the LCC.

Two years after the guide was published, the Second World War would bring devastation to the city, but would also mark one of those break points in history with, for example, the coming NHS taking over the provision and considerable expansion of health services.

The London Docks would soon start their gradual decline which would end in the closure of all central London docks. The population of London would also reverse the centuries long expansion and would go into a decline that would only start to recover in the 1980s.

Council house provision would reduce to almost nothing and “right to buy” would transfer council owned accommodation into private ownership.

The 1937 guide therefore provides a snapshot of LCC services at the end of an era.

alondoninheritance.com

The GLC Birthday Cake And Other Views Of London

I have a couple of shoe boxes stuffed with London postcards collected over the years. They serve as reminders of events and places and provide views of London back to the time when cheap photographic printing and postal rates kicked off a new form of communication.

With Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp etc. killing off postcards as a means of communication, here is a rather random selection of postcards showing the diverse way in which London has been photographed and posted across the world.

My first postcard dates from 1984 when the GLC created an exhibition on the Southbank, celebrating 95 years of the London County Council / Greater London Council working for London. The rather novel form for the exhibition was within a giant birthday cake.

views of London

I had completely forgotten about this until I looked at the postcard again. I was working on the Southbank at the time and have some of my own photos of the exhibition on some unscanned negatives I need to find.

The exhibition ran from the 9th August to the 31st October 1984 and was held at a time of political friction between the Conservative Government and the Labour majority GLC. This would lead to the GLC being disbanded two years later.

The birthday cake was even mentioned in Parliament during a question from Tony Banks (Labour MP for Newham North West) and William Waldegrave (Conservative Minister of State). The questioning was regarding the abolition of the GLC (who had put considerable sums of money into the development of the Southbank) and what would happen to the area after the GLC was abolished and the Southbank came under the proposed South Bank Board. The birthday cake is referenced in one of William Waldegrave’s replies:

“I can understand why the hon. Gentleman is worried. He and his colleagues at county hall must be wondering where to put their great pink birthday cake. This was another triumph for the GLC! It was forecast in a committee paper last March that 1 million visitors would see this object and unfortunately 950,000 of them have not turned up. Only 50,000 had come by the end of September. If we assume, charitably, a last-minute rush of another 25,000 in the remaining weeks that the cake is open, that still works out at a cost of £3.30 per visitor. I am sure that hon. Members, and perhaps even the hon. Gentleman, would agree that the £250,000 could have been spent in much better ways to help the arts.”

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the later years of the GLC, the previous 95 years were worth celebrating as the London County Council and Greater London Council had achieved much in raising standards across London and bringing a much needed central coordination and investment to the city’s infrastructure.

An example of one of these investments is illustrated on the following card, titled “Opening of the L.C.C Steamboat Service by H.R.H The Prince of Wales”

views of London

The photo shows the steamboat service being opened in June 1905. The LCC had acquired and built piers along the river along with a fleet of 30 paddle steamers. There were expectations that the new service would provide an efficient and fast method for transporting passengers to locations along the river, however it quickly became apparent that the service would not be economic.

Although the steamboat service was not intended to generate profits, it was expected to cover costs, however passenger numbers were not as expected and the service rapidly went into debt, finally closing only two years later in 1907.

There may also have been issues with the frequency of steamboats as this letter to the Globe on the 29th June 1905 illustrates. Mr Arthur Tuff of Barnsbury writes:

“Sir,-I purchased a penny ticket to London bridge on the Temple Pier at 3:50 pm today. I waited there till 4:30 pm. No boat going down the river called there during the 40 minutes, nor was there one in sight, although one can see nearly as far as Westminster. Several others, like myself, were compelled to leave the pier in consequence of this delay. This seems to be very bad management, and if not remedied, must mean a great loss to the ratepayers.”

The steamboats were sold at considerable loss and the press was highly critical of the service and the loss of money to the London ratepayer. The Illustrated London News included a full page cartoon titled “Posers for Posterity : Strange Finds 500 Years hence”:

views of London

The caption to the cartoon reads: “Unearthing The Popular L.C.C. Steamboat – While a party of scientists were burrowing about in the Thames Valley last week, they found a structure that has been identified as belonging to an early form of soup kitchen. The evidence suggests it has been run more as an amusement than as a paying concern, although we should imagine that large profits were earned by it, especially in the winter months, when it would be so greatly in demand among the poorer classes.”

The River Thames features in another postcard from May 1954, titled “The Royal Homecoming – Britannia Enters The Upper Pool Of London”.

views of London

This was the return of Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh following a world tour. Tower Pier is on the left of the photo.

It must have been a dramatic arrival as it was accompanied by a large flypast. The following newspaper report explains:

“As the Britannia approached Woolwich, along Gallions Reach, 180 jet fighters and bombers roared overhead in the R.A.F. and Canadian Air Force ‘Welcome Home’ fly-past.

Leading were four tight arrowhead formations of Meteors flying at about 1,000 feet, followed by two formations of 24 Sabres each. Then, half a minute later, and flying just above the low scurrying clouds through which they were seen at intervals, came four echelon formations of nine Canberra bombers each.

With a tremendous roar flying at 350 miles an hour, the jets swept over the Britannia’s bow in a majestic and graceful salute. The sirens of tugs and small boats added to the tumult.”

A much more peaceful view, especially compared to the same view today is this postcard showing Parliament Square and looking across to St. Margaret’s Church and Westminster Abbey.

views of London

Whilst the view today is much the same, there are a number of significant differences. The road appears empty of traffic, but today is an almost constant stream to traffic – no chance for a casual wander across the street today.

The area is also a tourist hot spot and on almost every day of the year the streets are full, although I suspect that the current state of the Elizabeth Tower, surrounded in scaffolding, must be a serious disappointment if you have traveled halfway across the world.

One area that fascinates me is the Barbican. My father took a number of photos of the area in 1947 / 1948 showing the remains of the bombed buildings, St. Giles Cripplegate, Redcross Street Fire Station and what was left of once densely built streets.

I have not yet posted these photos as I want to map out the area, align the photos, gather more detail and show the area before bombing. There do not appear to be that many pre-war photos of the ordinary streets of the Barbican, however I have found a number, one of which was a postcard of Tranter’s Hotel, Bridgewater Square, Baribican:

views of London

The square was badly damaged during the war and completely rebuilt as part of the overall Barbican development. The square looks completely different today and will feature in my future set of posts on the Barbican, however for now, this link to Google Maps shows the location of the square today.

The following postcard was sent from a visitor to London to an address in Folkestone, Kent. It includes a photo of St. Paul’s Churchyard as “The Shopping Quarter” – a function we would not associate with the area today.

views of London

St. Paul’s Churchyard was a popular pre-war shopping destination with a range of different shops including clothes, materials and book shops. The large white building in the centre of the photo is that of Hitchcock, Williams & Co. I wrote about their business in a post at the end of last year. All the buildings in this photo would be destroyed in December 1940.

The following postcard is from the Widow’s Son pub, best known for the custom on Good Friday which the postcard explains.

views of London

The Widow’s Son is one of the reasons why I seem to have developed a fascination with London’s history. It was the early 1970s and I was listening to BBC Radio London (dreadful choice of music for my young age at the time, but interesting as a London local radio station – this was just before Capital Radio started). It was Good Friday and they had a reporter live at the Widow’s Son. For some reason that event stuck in my mind and helped with the realisation that there was a world of interesting history out there to be discovered.

Postcards have always been used for advertising, and London’s hotels made good use of the format. The Hotel Metropole looks rather impressive in this card.

views of London

The Hotel Metropole was located on the corner of Northumberland Avenue and Whitehall Place, and opened in 1885. The building is still there and is now the Corinthia Hotel.

Another hotel that used a postcard format for advertising was the Imperial Hotel, Russell Square.

views of London

This is a far more interesting use of the format, compared to the Metropole Hotel as it has a map.

The map shows the location of the Imperial Hotel in Russell Square, as well as the eight other hotels that belonged to the group. All the main London stations are numbered, and the red lines show the “Electric Railways”, or the Underground train network, which is shown as a rough geographic layout of the network, rather than in the traditional underground map format.

This card was used for advertising rather than as a card you would post to a friend as rather than a space for writing on the reverse, this card has a list of all the other hotels in the group along with the room rate.

views of London

The Imperial Hotel still operates in Russell Square (although a later incarnation of the building). This was the hotel when the above card was in use:

views of London

And this is the hotel today, where rooms start at £101 for an overnight stay, compared to roughly 39p when the card was issued. The Imperial Hotel today:

views of London

There are a variety of cards that provide a rather surreal view of London. This card is titled “If London were Venice – Fleet Street”:

views of London

The card was printed in the days before global warming and the risks of rising sea levels were understood, and was probably seen as a rather fanciful view. However with predictions of the impact of long term increases in sea level and the impact of storm surges, this may not be so far away from some longer term future flood (but without the Venetian poles and boats)..

Full colour, photographic postcards, with their glorious, brilliant colours, started in the 1950s and presented a different view of London to a global audience. I find them interesting as they show how London has changed in the last half of the 20th century.

The first postcard is a view across the River Thames to St. Paul’s Cathedral from Bankside.

views of London

This shows the old warehouses along the north bank of the river as well as a working wharf at Bankside with cargo being loaded / unloaded from a barge. A view that has changed significantly since this photo was taken.

Another view that shows an activity no longer practiced by those visiting Trafalgar Square is this postcard showing pigeon feeding.

views of London

The photo shows a rather relaxed view of pigeon feeding, however it did get out of control and the thousands of pigeons that would flock to Trafalgar Square created a significant nuisance and mess.

Pigeon feeding in Trafalgar Square was banned in 2003 and a new by-law introduced that included the potential for a £50 fine for anyone caught feeding pigeons.

The Post Office / BT Tower was a remarkable structure when first built. This postcard was posted from Kew to Newmarket, Suffolk in December 1969.

views of London

I find it amusing when the urban myths about the towers secrecy are mentioned. There was no way that the tower could be kept secret and the text on the rear of the postcard makes clear the tower’s role: “619 feet high, this tower is the centre of a new communications system which supplies long distance telephone services and additional television channels. Two lifts convey the public to the top where there is an observation platform, a cocktail bar, and a revolving restaurant”.

The postcard emphasises the height of the tower and the generally low rise construction of buildings across London at the time.

Development in London is continuous, and is often seen to be negative, however there have been times when development considerably improved an area. This postcard dating from 1978 is looking towards Westminster from the west. Millbank Tower is on the right, adjacent to the Thames, where we can see first Lambeth Bridge, then moving up the river, Westminster Bridge, Hungerford and Waterloo Bridges.

views of London

To the left of the photo there are three identical, tall office blocks. These were government buildings along Horseferry Road and Marsham Street.

Their height was such that they were in the background of the view when looking across the river towards the Palace of Westminster / Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Fortunately they were demolished and replaced by lower rise buildings which do not have the same visual impact.

A favourite location for postcard photographs is Piccadilly Circus. Night photos bring out the lights, which looking back over the years provide a snapshot of how brands and their branding have evolved.

views of London

Piccadilly Circus also features during the day.

views of London

The text for both postcards emphasises the global nature of the city – “There’s an old saying that if you stand in Piccadilly Circus for long enough, you’ll see the whole world pass before you. If you stand there for 10 minutes you’ll soon understand what it is that makes London famous throughout the world, At night, theatre land awakes, heralded by many thousand of bright lights”.

This postcard takes me back to visits when I was a child. This is the London Planetarium.

views of London

The London Planetarium was a magical experience. You would walk into a large circular auditorium under the dome. Seats were arranged in circular rows and in the centre there was a large, strangely shaped projector.

The lights would go down and the night sky would light up on the interior of the dome.

Unfortunately, educational attractions such as the planetarium are not commercially attractive, and the London Planetarium closed in 2006. It is part of the adjacent Madame Tussaud’s and now shows a Marvel Superheroes 4D attraction.

There is still a planetarium in London, at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, which is well worth a visit.

My final three postcards are all from the same area, and show different aspects of the River Thames around Tower Bridge. These are all from a time when this part of the river was still a working port.

The first photo is from the walkway alongside the Tower of London, looking across to Tower Bridge and the southern bank of the river. The tower of the old Anchor Brewery building can be seen on the right and cranes lining the river bank can be seen along the river past Horselydown Old Stairs.

views of London

The following postcard shows an aerial view looking up river towards London Bridge. The river bank on the left is lined with cranes between Tower and London Bridges. This is where City Hall and HMS Belfast are now located. In the years after this photo was taken, the majority of the buildings lining the river, along with the cranes, would disappear.

views of London

Another view of the same area, probably taken from London Bridge, again shows the cranes that lined the south of the river between the two bridges.

views of London

These views of London were sent across the UK and the world and set expectations for future visitors. Many postcards featured red buses and phone boxes and I have a theory that these only became associated with London in the way they have, once colour postcards emphasised their distinctive colour.

They are a means of communication, art form and historical record that I suspect will soon disappear. They are still to be found for sale, but it is sometime since I have seen anyone buy one. No point in posting a card with days or weeks delay, when with a couple of taps on the phone, a photo and message can be sent anywhere within seconds.

I also doubt I will ever again see a giant birthday cake on the South Bank.

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The West End At Christmas

Last year I took a walk around the City at Christmas. A time of year when construction stops, the majority of office workers take a long Christmas / New Year break, and the streets take on a silence not seen at any other time during the year. For this year, I took a walk around the West End at Christmas to find a very different city, one that was still busy. Streets, shops, restaurants, theatres and pubs all still crowded.

Whenever I walk, I always take photos. I have learnt from my father’s photos and any old photo in general that even the most ordinary scene is of interest, and with the rapid state of change across London, streets and buildings can look very different in just a few years.

For a New Year’s Day post, join me for a short walk and a sample of photos that hopefully bring across the atmosphere of the West End at Christmas.

I started in the Strand, just off Trafalgar Square.

The first photo is of one of my pet hates – the renaming of an area which comprises streets which already have their own distinct identity. Here the “Northbank” is bringing together Trafalgar Square, Strand and Aldwych.

West End at Christmas

The “Northbank” is a Business Improvement District (BID) created by the business community in the area. The “Northbank’s” website explains: “With a shrinking public sector threatening the breadth and longevity of some council services, BIDs are able to carry out additional services bespoke to the needs of the local community” . Whilst I can understand the motivation, this appears to be another symptom of the under-funding of Councils and transfer of services to a potentially unaccountable private sector.

There are a number of Business Improvement Districts across London and the Mayor of London / London Assembly web site has more details.

Leaving the Strand, I walked up Charing Cross Road and then along Cecil Court. These individual shops always look good as dusk falls.

West End at Christmas

West End at Christmas

Up St. Martin’s Lane to photograph and have a last look around Stanfords in Long Acre before the store closes in mid January to reopen nearby in Mercer Walk.

West End at Christmas

West End at Christmas

Back up Upper St. Martin’s Lane and a crowd of Father Christmases, with many more following behind.

West End at Christmas

Monmouth Street:

West End at Christmas

Laptops and mobile phones:

West End at Christmas

The Two Brewers, Monmouth Street:

West End at Christmas

Seven Dials:

West End at Christmas

Leaving Monmouth Street, along St. Giles High Street and into Denmark Street to see what remains of the street:

West End at Christmas

Hanks is holding out:

West End at Christmas

Westside at number 24 surrounded by scaffolding:

West End at Christmas

Regent Sounds, also surrounded by scaffolding:

West End at Christmas

Rose Morris, guitars and drums:

West End at Christmas

The new Foyles store in Charing Cross Road. I was really sorry to see the old Foyles store disappear, but it is good that the book shop is still in Charing Cross Road, and that this building remains as it was here that my father went to college and used the basement as a bomb shelter.

West End at ChristmasDown Charing Cross Road, then I turned into Shaftesbury Avenue:

West End at Christmas

Wardour Street:

West End at Christmas

West End at Christmas

West End at Christmas

Along Coventry Street and an alternative method to see Christmas Lights, however I prefer walking:

West End at Christmas

The 453 to Deptford Bridge leaves Piccadilly Circus:

West End at Christmas

Down to Waterloo Place:

West End at Christmas

West End at Christmas

Walking the streets of London at any time of year is a pleasure, however in the week’s before Christmas the streets of the West End provide a different perspective to the rest of the year. The same shops, theatres, all you can eat buffets, pubs, hotels, clubs, restaurants, but all looking a bit different, however with the same underlying commercial drive to make money.

Thank you all for reading my blog during the last year, for the comments and e-mails and helping me to learn more about the city.

The days are now slowly starting to get longer and I am looking forward to lots more walking and exploring across London during 2019. A very Happy New Year to you all.

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Old Photos Of London

Old photos of London provide views of a very different city and old postcards provide a wide range of photos of the city, and often a very brief insight into the lives of the many millions of people who have passed through the city.

For this week’s post, here are a selection of old photos of London found on some of the postcards I have come across over the years.

Above London

To start, here are some views from above the streets of London. This first postcard provides a rather unusual view as it was taken from the top of the Shot Tower which once stood on the Southbank.

Old Photos of London

The view is looking towards the City and shows the industrial nature of the south bank of the river.

The photo was taken from the top of the Shot Tower which survived the demolition of the area in preparation for the Festival of Britain, along with the general post war reduction of industrial sites along the south bank. The use of the Shot Tower as a feature during the Festival of Britain is probably the main reason why it is known as “the” Shot Tower however look at the photo and there is another tower that looks like a lighthouse, with circular windows running up the tower and a dome-shaped roof at the top.

This was another Shot Tower owned by Lane Sons & Co, Lead and Shot Works. The towers were used for the production of shot balls by dropping molten lead from the top of the tower which would form into circular lead shot during the fall.

As well as the industrial buildings along the south bank, the photo shows the multiple landing stages into the river.

The scene is so very different today with the space along the river now being occupied by the river walkway, the National Theatre, IBM offices and the office tower and studios of the London Television Centre.

The next postcard is a photo of the river taken from the top of Tower Bridge, looking towards the west and London Bridge.

Old Photos of London

The view shows a low-rise City with the Monument, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the steeples of the City churches still standing well above their surroundings.

On the south bank of the river is the tower of Southwark Cathedral, and past that we can just see the towers and chimneys that feature in the previous postcard.

The view in the following postcard is looking down on Ludgate Hill, leading up to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Old Photos of London

The bridge is carrying the railway along to Holborn Viaduct station, and the building to the left of the bridge is the King Lud pub.

The King Lud finally closed in 2005, I took a photo of the pub in 1981 whilst walking the route on the evening before a royal wedding. It was a shame to lose this lovely Victorian pub.

Old Photos of London

Photos of Westminster Abbey are usually from ground level so it is difficult to appreciate the scale and full architecture of the building.

Old Photos of London

This view is from the south and I have been trying to work out from where the photo was taken, which I suspect was from the top of the church of St. John’s Smith Square, and this view does fully demonstrate the overall size of the building.

Street Scenes

Old photos of London also frequently featured street scenes across the city. The photo on the following postcard was taken at the junction of New Oxford Street (the road running into the distance on the right of the photo), Charing Cross Road on the right and Tottenham Court Road on the left.

What I find interesting is that the photo includes the large brewery that occupied the space where the Dominion Theatre now stands. This was the Horse Shoe Brewery.

Old Photos of London

The brewery opened around 1764 and gradually expanded to occupy a large site as one of London’s largest breweries.

The brewery was taken over by Henry Meux in 1809 and five years later the brewery was the scene of one of London’s more unusual disasters – the great beer flood.

The following account of the event, titled “Dreadful Accident” is from the Morning Post on the 19th October 1814:

“The neighbourhood of St. Giles was on Monday night thrown into the utmost consternation and delay, by one of the most melancholy accidents we ever remember. About six o’clock, one of the vats in the extensive premises of Messrs. Henry Meux and Co, in Banbury-street, St. Giles’s, burst, and in a moments time New-street, George-street, and several others in the vicinity were deluged with the contents, amounting to 3,500 barrels of strong beer. The fluid, in its course, swept every thing before it. Two houses in New-street, adjoining the brew house, were totally demolished. the inhabitants, who were of the poorer class, were all at home. In one of them they were waking a child that died on Sunday morning.

In the first floor, in the same house, a mother and daughter were at tea – the mother was killed on the spot. The daughter was swept away by the current through a partition, and dashed to pieces. The back parts of the houses of Mr. Goodwin, poulterer, of Mr. Hawse, Tavistock Arms and several others in Great Russell-street, were entirely destroyed. A little girl, about ten years of age, was suffocated in the Tavistock Arms.

About six o’clock, three of Mr Meux’s men employed in the brewery, were rescued with great difficulty, by the people collected to afford relief, who had to wade up to their middle through the beer.

To those who even approached the scene of ruin, the fumes of the beer were very offensive and overcoming. It is therefore presumed that many have perished by suffocation. No time was lost to set about clearing the rubbish. Great numbers of men have been incessantly employed in this work.

Several persons have been dug out alive. Many of the cellars on the south side of Russell-street are completely inundated with beer; and in some houses the inhabitants had to save themselves from drowning by mounting their highest pieces of furniture.”

The disaster did not seem to harm the Meux brewing company as there were no financial penalties on the company and they were also able to reclaim the tax paid on the lost beer.

The brewery continued in production until closure in 1921 as there was no available space for expansion and savings could be achieved by consolidation of the multiple breweries that operated across London at the start of the century.

As with the view from the Shot Tower, the photo of the Meux Brewery shows how much industry there was in central London in the early years of the 20th century.

The next postcard is also of New Oxford Street, but is looking down the full length of the street. Awnings are over the shop frounts along the entire north side of the street as these shop windows were facing south, and would therefore get the full impact of the sun.

Old Photos of London

The following postcard of Piccadilly and the Institute of Painters was posted in Paddington on the 9th April 1904 to an address in Yeovil. The reverse only carries the address and there is a brief note on the frount describing the sender as “Here in London tonight”:

Old Photos of London

The sender of the following postcard of Covent Garden Market was also on a trip to London and staying in Harold Road, Upton Park. It was sent on the 10th October 1907 to an address in Gorleston on Sea in Norfolk. Both the houses still exist.

Old Photos of London

The sender appears to be having a good time in London as they write:

“Dear Martha, I have sent you a postcard. I have not had time to send it for I have been out all day long from morning till late at night. I went and spent a day at the Crystal Palace, it is very nice. I am enjoying myself all right.”

London Bridge was a regular subject for postcards of London, however the majority were from the early decades of the century, or later colour photos. A view across the bridge in the 1950s was an unusual find (the postmark dates the sending of the card to 1956).

Old Photos of London

London Bridge has always been a busy walking route from London Bridge Station across the river to the City, and in this photo there is also a long queue of 1950s vehicles in the opposite direction.

The five cranes on the opposite side of the river are alongside New Fresh Wharf, a busy wharf that handled very large volumes of general goods, fruit and canned goods as well as operating as a terminal for passenger ferries. The buildings were demolished in 1973.

Houndsditch (note the spelling mistake on the postcard) was known for many years as the part of London where there were shops piled high with cheap clothing, novelties etc.

Old Photos of London

The church at the end of the street is St. Botolph Without Bishopsgate and the photo was taken roughly at the junction with Stoney Lane. Whilst all the buildings have changed and the street is now lined with recent office buildings, the alignment of the street and view to the church is much the same.

I bought my first proper camera, a Canon AE-1 in a long gone camera shop in Houndsditch in 1978.

Objects In A Photo

Old photos of London also show objects in the view which would not be expected from looking at the scene today.

The following postcard, sent in 1912 shows the Queen’s House in the background and the entrance to the Royal Hospital School. The photo was taken from the Romney Road in Greenwich, and shows what appears to be a fully operational sailing ship some distance from the river.

Old Photos of London

The ship is a purpose built training / drill ship that was built for the boys of the Greenwich Hospital School. There were three variations of the ship with the first being built in 1843 and the final ship, named Fame, (seen in the photo) built between 1872 and 1873 and demolished in 1933.

The ship even made it onto the 1895 Ordnance Survey map where it is shown as a “model ship”. It may have been a model, but it does look rather impressive in the above photo.

Old Photos of London

The next photo is of the church of St. Clement Danes in the Strand. To produce this postcard, the sky has been coloured while the rest of the photo is in black and white – an early attempt at producing more realistic views.

Old Photos of London

What interested me in this photo is not the church, but the street light in the centre of the photo. This is an example of an electric arc light, the first type of electric street lighting.  These were fed by DC current and whilst the lighting column design was different across London, the design of the glass bulb where the arc was produced at the end of the metal fitting was the same. The original lamp posts can still be found on Tottenham Court Road as shown in the photo below (see my post about the Regent’s Park Power Station And The First Electric Lighting In Tottenham Court Road).

Old Photos of London

The following postcard has the title “Old Roman Bastion in Cripplegate Churchyard”.

Old Photos of London

The whole area around the bastion was heavily damaged during the blitz, and the bastion now sits within the Barbican complex. I was hunting for my photos of the bastion today, however the only one I found was the following which shows the bastion on the right, covered in sheeting, however it does illustrate the new surroundings for the bastion compared to the above photo, however this is only one change in the many changes the bastion has seen over the centuries and will no doubt see many more changes.

Old Photos of London

Crossing The River Thames

The following postcard shows the paddle steam Duncan, one of three such steamers that formed the Woolwich ferry at the end of the 19th century.

Old Photos of London

The Duncan was built in 1889 and was not replaced until the 1920s. The lower deck appears to be full of people, including many in military uniform whilst the upper deck appears to have vehicles and cargo.

An alternative method of crossing the River Thames was by going underneath and the following postcard shows the Poplar entrance to the Blackwall Tunnel. The card was posted in 1904, so just seven years after the tunnel was opened in 1897, probably why a photo of the entrance was deemed worthy of being on a postcard.

Old Photos of London

The postcard was sent to an address in Belgium so I am not sure what the recipient thought of receiving a postcard of the entrance to a River Thames tunnel.

Celebrations

London has seen many celebrations over the centuries and since the start of photography, many of these have been shown on postcards ready to send around the world.

The following two postcards show one of the remarkable constructions built to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. This is the Canadian Coronation Arch in Whitehall on the ceremonial route from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey.

Old Photos of London

The purpose of the arch was to advertise Canada to the British population. It was decorated with the products of Canada (woods, grains and fruits as well as the maple leaf as the national symbol of Canada).

One side of the arch advertised Canada as Britain’s Granary whilst the other side advertised Free Homes For Millions to advertise the attraction of Canada as the home for British immigrants.

Old Photos of London

The postcard was posted in 1902 to a Miss Schofield in Dorset with the only written comment “Hope you have not this one”.

The arch was also lit up at night and covering the width of Whitehall as well as being at the same height as the surrounding buildings must have been an impressive sight.

Another London celebration just a few years later was the Centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar on the 21st October 1905.

Old Photos of London

Trafalgar Square and Nelson’s Column were the centre for the centenary celebrations and the column was covered in some rather impressive decoration.

Monuments

Old photos of London also show monuments across London that have disappeared, are still there, or have moved. Starting off with one that has disappeared is this view of the Poets Memorial in Park Lane:

Old Photos of London

The Poets Memorial was built in the mid 1870s following a bequest by a Mrs M. Brown of Hertford Street, Mayfair. The memorial was designed by Thomas Thorneycroft and shows Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare and John Milton standing around the middle of the memorial.

The memorial was demolished in the 1950s.

The following statue of Prince Albert at Holborn Circus is still in place, although the surroundings of the statue and the road traffic have changed considerably.

Old Photos of London

The following postcard shows the church of St. Lawrence Jewry in Gresham Street in the City, but what interested me is the rather ornate structure to the right side of the church.

Old Photos of London

The structure was a drinking fountain installed in 1866 as a gift from the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association to the City of London. The street running in front of the church and fountain leads up to the Guildhall which at the time was a far more enclosed area than the large courtyard between the Guildhall and church that we see today.

The creation of the large courtyard and redevelopment of the Guildhall was the reason for the removal of the drinking fountain in the 1970s.

It was put in storage until a restoration project resulted in the installation of the fountain opposite the south side of St. Paul’s Cathedral in 2010.

The restored fountain today looking the same as in the original photo, but in a very different location:

Old Photos of London

A plaque on the fountain records the original location and the restoration and move.

Old Photos of London

The old photos of London shown on these postcards demonstrate how London has changed over the years, Frequently significant, in other places minor, but change is a constant for London.

Many of these postcards were posted, to destinations within the UK and abroad, a reminder also that as well as comprising buildings, streets and monuments, London has always been a destination for travelers. I also agree with the comment sent to Martha in Gorleston on Sea that London is a good place to be  “out all day long from morning till late at night”.

alondoninheritance.com

A Child’s View Of London

My first experiences of walking London were back in the late 1960s when our parents took my brother and I for walks around the city. I cannot remember too much about them, but something must have sunk in as it is still something I enjoy doing today.

Hoping to pass on an interest in the city, we have taken our granddaughter on a number of walks including one last year which started at the London Eye and ended up at St. Katherine Dock and the Tower of London. I gave her my camera and let her take photos of what she found interesting, so for today’s post, here is a child’s view of London.

Hello!

My name is Keira and this is my first blog as a guest. I have been invited to write a blog for the fourth anniversary of  ‘A London Inheritance’. I have a blog coming soon and it will be about book reviews, days out, information and much more. It will also be more for kids. I will try to make it entertaining and interesting.

Lovely London

We started off by going on the London Eye and got some amazing views of the Houses of Parliament, the busy London roads and the tall buildings.

Random, Funny and Amazing

London is an amazing place with people making sculpture, singing, dancing and showing their outstanding talents. It is also a place where lots of random and funny things are made. These pictures show why London is such an excellent place.

The Old Bridge

These are the piers of an old bridge, which was taken down, however, they left the piers there.

The Walkie Talkie and the Cheese Grater

This is a picture of The Walkie Talkie and the Cheese Grater. They are both magnificent buildings and I would definitely like to get some pictures from that high. I’m certain it is amazing.

It started raining so we found shelter. While we were waiting for the rain to stop I got some lovely pictures.

Lovely London Shopping Time And Others

We went shopping and found some random things on the way

Harry Potter Bridge

This is the bridge used in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Pizza Time

Finally, we stopped at Zizzi where we had some delicious pizza. On the way there, we went past the Queen’s barge! It looks beautiful.

I had an absolutely lovely time in London and would love to come again. Even after it rained I got some good pictures:

So, overall I had the best time in London and I’m very proud of the pictures I took. I have loved being a special guest especially for the fourth anniversary of this amazing blog. I might be able to do this type of thing on my blog (when I get it) but for now,

Goodbye!

alondoninheritance.com

The City At Christmas

For fifty one weeks of the year, the City of London is busy. During the working week, the City is full of office workers, the pubs and restaurants are busy in the day and evening, and building sites are covered by workers in hi-vis jackets. During the weekend the City still does not sleep. Roads will be closed for roadworks, or to allow cranes to block the road as they lift equipment into construction sites. Hi-vis jackets continue to be a common site across the weekend as building work does not stop.

There is one week in the year when all this stops. Between Christmas and the New Year the City turns into a rather magical place. The number of office workers is considerably reduced and almost all the construction sites are closed for the week. The City takes on a very different appearance, much quieter, less traffic, the cranes are still and there are very few walkers along the City streets.

At the end of 2017, between Christmas and New Year I took a walk through the City. I waited until late afternoon as the City looked better after dark than on a grey December day.

I took the underground to Tower Hill and then followed a random route to Blackfriars. Along this route I found streets where on a late afternoon / early evening I could stand for twenty minutes and not see another person (this could also have been longer but after twenty minutes I was getting bored and cold).

Leaving Tower Hill station, I walked up Coopers Row and passed one of the entrances to Fenchurch Street Station with only a solitary passenger making their way up to the platforms:

Christmas in the City

In Crutched Friars, underneath the rail tracks leading into Fenchurch Street Station is the Cheshire Cheese. A warm, welcoming glow coming from the pub, but few customers at this time of year:

Christmas in the City

I walked up Lloyd’s Avenue, along Fenchurch Street to the junction with Leadenhall Street. The Aldgate Pump is on the corner and along Leadenhall Street is the Leadenhall Building (perhaps better known as the Cheesegrater):

Christmas in the City

There is a common scene in the entrance foyers to many of the office buildings. A solitary security guard sits behind the reception desk and decorated Christmas Trees celebrate the season, but with very few people around to admire them – they will probably have been removed by the time the City returns to life after New Year’s Day.

Christmas in the City

Just off Leadenhall Street is Creechurch Lane. The church of St. Katherine Cree is on the corner, and part of the church is on the right of the photo below looking down Creechurch Lane. Despite the City’s 2,000 year history, the noise, traffic, construction work and numbers of people often make it hard to reconcile the City streets with that long period of time, however at this time of year, and along such a street, it is possible to feel the history of the City.

Christmas in the City

At the base of the Leadenhall Building. All the escalators were running, but at this time of year there were no passengers for them to take up into the building.

Christmas in the City

The Gherkin, or officially, 30 St. Mary Axe:

Christmas in the City

At the base of The Scalpel – work having ceased on the construction of one of the City’s latest towers until the new year:

Christmas in the City

From Leadenhall Street, I walked up St. Mary Axe:

Christmas in the City

Among the increasing number of glass and steel towers, there are still historic buildings to be found. This is the church of St. Helen’s, Bishopsgate.

Christmas in the City

Opposite the church is the base of the Gherkin:

Christmas in the City

And here it is possible to appreciate the multi-dimensional nature of the City. An entrance to a recently built underground car park is next to a church which was originally established here in the 13th century, whilst the City’s original tall tower, the NatWest Tower, now Tower 42 stands in the background with the frame of a new building to the left.

Christmas in the City

There are so many take away food outlets across the City, but at this time of the year, many are closed, or close early:

Christmas in the City

Leaving St. Mary Axe I turned into Camomile Street to find more building sites, although they were quiet and empty. Only a few security staff taking an occasional walk around the site:

Christmas in the City

Leaving Camomile Street I turned into Bishopsgate. One of the narrow streets leading off from Bishopsgate is Alderman’s Walk, silent on a December evening with no footsteps echoing off the walls.

Christmas in the City

My next stop was Liverpool Street Station. Outside the station was the busiest street that I would see during the evening with plenty of taxis waiting for passengers:

Christmas in the City

The concourse of the station was the quietest I have seen for many years. A reduced service during the Christmas / New Year period was serving a reduced number of passengers.

Christmas in the City

Outside Liverpool Street Station, the construction site for the Elizabeth Line / Crossrail was closed, also part of the construction break between Christmas and the New Year.

Christmas in the City

One of the entrances to Liverpool Street underground station on the right and Liverpool Street station in the background.

Christmas in the City

Walking along Old Broad Street, this was the view along New Broad Street:

Christmas in the City

The entrance to Tower 42 in Old Broad Street (although I still think of this building as the NatWest Tower):

Christmas in the City

There has been building work around the base of the tower, however the walkways that lead from Old Broad Street, round the base of the tower to Bishopsgate are now open and a number of businesses targeting the local working population have now taken up residence:

Christmas in the City

Leaving Bishopsgate, i then walked down Threadneedle Street. Normally these streets would be busy, but this was the view down Finch Lane from Threadneedle Street:

Christmas in the City

I then walked round the back of the Royal Exchange towards Cornhill:

Christmas in the City

The Cornhill pump:

Christmas in the City

There are many narrow lanes and alleys running south from Cornhill. These follow an old street plan and were often the location for the City’s original coffee houses. This one is Change Alley:

Christmas in the City

At the Bank junction of Threadneedle Street and Cornhill looking back at the Royal Exchange. The towers of the City form a menacing backdrop to the low-rise buildings around this usually busy junction.

Christmas in the City

A quiet entrance to the Bank underground station:

Christmas in the City

Leaving the Bank junction, I walked up Cheapside. All still relatively quiet, the pavements were getting busier as I left the central area of the City. The church of St. Mary-le-Bow always looks magnificent after dark:

Christmas in the City

The Plane tree that stands at the site of St. Peter Cheap (one of the churches destroyed during the Great Fire, but not rebuilt) has been decorated for Christmas:

Christmas in the City

I turned off Cheapside and walked down Wood Street. Many of the office buildings looked as if everyone had suddenly just got up and left. This office still had football playing on the ceiling mounted screens:

Christmas in the City

From Wood Street I turned into Gresham Street and this is the view looking down to the church of St. Lawrence Jewry:

Christmas in the City

And from Gresham Street I turned up Noble Street to see the remains of Roman and later buildings that run along the side of the street:

Christmas in the City

At the top of Noble Street is London Wall. It was easy to take a casual wander across the road, unlike most days when there is usually plenty of traffic.

Christmas in the City

From London Wall, I walked up Aldersgate Street, then turned into Long Lane to head towards Smithfield. This is East Passage that runs parallel to Long Lane and Middle Street, between the backs of the buildings that face onto these two streets. Another place where I stood for some time without seeing another person.

Christmas in the City

Back into Long Lane and this is the junction with Lindsey Street. The Smithfield market buildings are on the left and one of the new ticket halls for the Crossrail Farringdon Station is on the right:

Christmas in the City

The Crossrail / Elizabeth Line ticket hall for Farringdon Station. This is planned to open in a year’s time in December 2018 and will probably be the catalyst for significant development in the area. For now, all is quiet.

Christmas in the City

from Long Lane I walked up Rising Sun Court into Cloth Fair. The Rising Sun pub was open and looking very inviting on a cold December evening:

Christmas in the City

Into West Smithfield and the view across to the market buildings:

Christmas in the City

From West Smithfield I walked under the gatehouse into the alley leading to the church of St. Bartholomew the Great. Again one of the places where the past feels almost tangible (despite one of the towers of the Barbican in the background). Whilst I was here, one person did walk across the graveyard and then along the alley – the noise of their footsteps, echoing of the buildings was surprisingly loud and emphasised the lack of other sounds in the alley.

Christmas in the City

The central square at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital:

Christmas in the City

From West Smithfield, I walked along Giltspur Street, turning left into Newgate Street then down into Paternoster Square. The Temple Bar gateway looks very good after dark.

Christmas in the City

Walking around St. Paul’s Cathedral. This is a view from the south:

Christmas in the City

From St. Paul’s it was then down to Queen Victoria Street to my destination of Blackfriars underground station, although before reaching the station I had a much needed stop off at the Blackfriar.

Christmas in the City

Photographing London over the Christmas to New Year period can be a bit of a cliché, however I really do find that walking the City at this time of year, without the noise, construction work, traffic and crowds does help to bring the history of the City to life – so many of the normal distractions have been removed.

Standing in places such as Creechurch Lane, East Passage and the entrance alley to St. Bartholomew the Great feel like standing in places unchanged for hundreds of years.

The City pubs are also much quieter in the evenings at this time of year and there is nothing better than walking into a warm, inviting pub from a cold street – which is exactly where I finished.

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The Westferry Road, Emmett Street Newsagent

Gala Day London by Izis was published in 1953 and brings together the photography of Izis Bidermanas with the words of writers. artists and poets of the day. The aim of the book was to have:

“Twenty-two amongst the most representative of our writers, poets and artists have contributed original texts relating to the photographs. Together their work forms a unique anthology both of the creative impulse which is alive in Britain today and of how London appears to our generation.”

The book is a wonderful collection of full page black and white photographs of London and Londoners, providing a snapshot of the city in 1953.

Westferry Road

Izis Bidermanas was born in Lithuania in 1911, but moved to Paris in 1930 to pursue his interest and career in photography. Being Jewish, he had to leave Paris during the war and escaped to Ambazac in south central France, part of Vichy France. It was here that he changed his first name from Israëlis to Izis to try to disguise his origin, but he was still arrested and tortured by the Nazis. He was freed by the French Resistance, who he then joined and took a series of portraits of resistance fighters which were published after the war to great acclaim.

After the war he returned to Paris to continue his photographic career and also started publishing books which portrayed his subjects in a humanistic, affectionate and nostalgic style.

Izis published a couple of books of London photography in 1953, The Queen’s People and Gala Day London – both full of wonderful photos that capture London at a specific point in time.

So why am I featuring Gala Day London for this week’s post?

It was one of my father’s large collection of London books and I was browsing through the book a few months ago and found one of his photos between two of the pages. Written on the back of the photo was “Newsagent – Emmett Street / Westferry Road, 5th September 1986”.

The photo was inserted alongside the page that had the following Izis photo:

Westferry Road

And this is the photo I found inserted in the book, my father’s photo taken on the 5th September 1986:

Westferry Road

Remarkably the photo is of the same location. Under the white washed walls, the bricked up windows, the loss of all the signage and the bollards on the pavement the building is the same.

The Emmett Street sign appears to be the same, but has been moved lower down the wall and painted over so is not immediately obvious. The larger wall of the building behind can also be seen in both photos.

It is incredibly sad to compare the two photos. What had in 1953 been a typical East London newsagent was now derelict and waiting for demolition as part of the redevelopment of the area around Canary Wharf.

My father’s notes on the back of the photo gave me the location – Emmett Street and Westferry Road so I had to find the location today.

The map below is an extract from the 1940 Bartholomew’s Atlas of Greater London. I have put a red circle around the junction of Emmett Street and Westferry Road where I believe the newsagent was located.

Westferry Road

I then checked the 1895 Ordnance Survey map as this is far more detailed and at the same junction there is a building on the corner of the junction with the same angled corner of the building where the entrance was located. I knew the building was on this side of the street as in my father’s photo the pole in front of the wall is casting a shadow, so the wall is facing south.

Westferry Road

The Ordnance Survey map is on the wonderful National Library of Scotland web site and the site has the ability to overlay a modern map on the 1895 map with adjustable transparency, so with a modern overlay and transparency the map looks like this:

Westferry Road

The link to the NLS site for the map is here.

The map gave me the exact location for the newsagent – underneath Westferry Road where it runs up to Westferry Circus.

A note on Westferry Road. In the 1895 OS map, the road is named as Bridge Road. At the time Westferry Road only ran as far north as the entrance to the South Dock, from there onwards it was named Bridge Road, presumably as this part of the road crossed the entrances to the South Dock and the Limehouse Basin.

By the 1940 map, Bridge Road had been renamed West Ferry Road.

Today, it is still the same name, however in the 1895 and 1940 maps it is West Ferry, today on maps and signs the two words have been combined to Westferry Road.

A couple of weeks ago I had a day off from work and for a change the weather was brilliant so I headed out on the DLR to Canary Wharf and took the short walk to Westferry Circus.

Emmett Street today has been lost beneath all the development of recent decades. Hotels, apartment buildings and one of the entrances to the Limehouse Link Tunnel have all erased this street. Emmett Street developed during the early 19th century to provide a link from Three Colt Street to Bridge Road along the back of the buildings constructed along the river front.

Westferry Circus was partly built over the old Limehouse Basin and the Limehouse entrance from the river. It is an elevated structure built higher than the original level of the land so Westferry Road slopes upward to meet Westferry Circus.

This is the view of Westferry Road as it slopes up to Westferry Circus. I tried to accurately locate the old newsagent building by referencing its position on the National Library of Scotland map, using the buildings alongside, the black lights along the edge of the road which appear visible as black dots on the overlay map, and the position of Ontario Way.

I have marked the location of the newsagent building using red lines in the photo below:

Westferry Road

It depends how the land levels have changed with all the building work, but the top of the upper floor of the newsagent would probably have been above the current level of the road.

There are also roads running either side of the elevated approach road to Westferry Circus. This is the view from the side, again I have marked where the old newsagents was located:

Westferry Road

This is the view looking up towards Westferry Circus. The newsagent was on the elevated road, to the left of the direction sign. I doubt if the three men sitting outside the newsagent could have imagined that their view would be changing to this over the coming decades – I wonder what they would have thought?

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As the weather was so good, here are a couple more photos, this one looking across Westferry Circus:

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And this one looking from the edge of Westferry Circus along the Thames to the City. It was here that the Limehouse entrance from the river ran across the open space at the bottom of the steps to a set of locks roughly where I am standing.

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It was fascinating to find my father’s photo in among the pages of Gala Day London. It was one of a number he took in the 1980s around the Isle of Dogs and East London.

The layout of the book consists of an Izis photo on the right hand page and a poem or descriptive text on the left. A wide range of authors and poets contributed to the book including John Betjeman, Laurie Lee and T.S. Lewis.

Opposite the Emmett Street photo was a poem written by Clifford Dyment, a poet, literary critic, editor and journalist, who lived from 1914 to 1971. His contribution appropriately is to the wonderful variety of the corner shop:

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The lines “it may be sherbet suckers, dabs, straps of liquorice” perfectly describe my memories of corner shops as a boy.

I do not know why Izis singled out this newsagent out of all the newsagents and cornershops there were across London at the time, or if the photo was natural or had been set up. The majority of his work in the two London books look natural. The following from the introduction to Gala Day London provides some clues of how he selected his subjects:

“Izis Bidermanas is both a foreigner and a poet who uses a camera. When we look at his photographs we recognise that the obvious subjects have been avoided and that ‘there is a poetry of cities which has nothing to do with things that receive three stars in the guide books. Perhaps it has been specially by way of Londoners rather than by stone and stucco that he has grown to know London. His pictures are above all an evocation of daily life. He has had a capricious sitter and has not attempted to bend her to his will but has preferred to attend upon her whim. This attitude has probably been responsible for the sense of humanity which arises from the pictures.”

It is always strange to stand at places such as Westferry Circus and look down on the view today knowing what was once here – it was then time to move on and make the most of the weather as I had a few more East London locations to track down and photograph.

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London Life In Postcards

The problem with trying to research a weekly post is that work frequently gets in the way and the last couple of weeks have been rather busy, so for this week, let me show you some aspects of London Life as portrayed by postcards.

I am always on the lookout for London postcards, they help with understanding how the city has changed over the years and how Londoners have lived and worked. Some postcards show similar scenes that my father photographed and it is fascinating to compare these, and also to visit the locations of these photos today. Some have changed beyond all recognition whilst others are much the same.

Postcards were published covering a wide range of different topics and below are a sample of some individual cards as well as a series of cards published in the early 1950s titled “London Life”.

The Stock Exchange, London – Throgmorton Street.

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The use of roof space for gardens, restaurants and bars is not a new phenomena, Selfridges had the Hanging Gardens of London.

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The view along the Strand towards the church of St.Mary-le-Strand. According to the postmark on this card it was posted on the 8th June 1907.

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The photo used for the following postcard must have been taken around 1932 as it shows the Daily Express building at 120 Fleet Street and presumably from the remaining scaffolding on the top levels, construction was almost complete.

This remarkable building was constructed between 1930 and 1932 as the headquarters of the Daily Express Newspaper and in the early 1930s must have seemed very futuristic.

The building was technically difficult to construct as printing presses had to be accommodated in the basement. A reinforced concrete deck was used between the ground floor and the basement to provide sufficient free space in the basement for the printing presses.

The distinctive facade of the building comprised black panels, clear glass and chrome strips with curved corners. The building is now Grade II listed.

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The Daily Express building must have seemed so out of character with the surrounding buildings on Fleet Street. I do not know what the reaction was at the time, but it does make me question my own views on some of the new developments today, whether in 80 years time they will be considered classic examples of an architectural style and protected.

There are many postcards showing the surprising number of exhibitions that were held in London during the early decades of the 20th century. The scene in the following postcard is of the Scenic Railway at the Coronation Exhibition held at White City to commemorate the coronation of George V. Rather tame by the standards of today, but it must have been an adventurous ride at the time. If you look on the left there are many light bulbs across the rather realistic rock so this must have been lit up at night and must have been a sight for 1911.

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Two very early postcards of Petticoat Lane. Poor quality, but they do provide a good impression of this crowded street market.

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Postcards can confirm that some things do not change. Oxford has always been crowded with buses. The advertising banners on the right selling a Whole Head Permanent Wave for either 30 or 25 shillings. When you have had your hair done, you could then get a passport photo taken at the Venus Studio.

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The Guildhall as it was before bombing during the 2nd World War reduced the Guildhall to a shell, and destroyed the surrounding buildings. The card was posted on the 15th July 1907

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View down Kingsway. The building at the far end is Bush House, the old location of the BBC World Service. The card was posted on the 31st August 1942 so must show Kingsway in the 1930s.

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Leicester Square at night. Interesting that most of the photos of London at night that I have seen on postcards were taken after rain, a trick that brings out the reflections of the lights.

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Queen Victoria Street. The corner building on the right is still there as is the church of St. Mary Aldermary on the left.

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The following photo of Tower Bridge must have been taken from the brewery by Horselydown Old Stairs. I find the scene behind Tower Bridge interesting as it is very different now. If you stood in the same position today, the view would be dominated by the towers of the Walkie Talkie, the Cheesegrater and the Gherkin.

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The following photo must have been taken from the tower of St. Clement Danes looking back along Fleet Street towards the City. The Royal Courts of Justice are on the left, followed by the tower of St. Dunstan in the West, with the tower of St. Brides further to the right with St. Paul’s Cathedral behind.

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View towards Holborn Viaduct. On the left is the shop and workshops of Negretti and Zambra, manufacturers of scientific and optical equipment at 38 Holborn Viaduct.

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Postcards were used for advertising by many businesses including restaurants such as Simpson’s in the Strand. Originally opened in 1828 and still in business with carvers and roast beef a specialty, although I doubt that today’s staff have the same length of service as the carvers in the photo. The “youngest of them has served there for over a quarter of a century”.  I also suspect you would not want to complain about your Sunday Roast to these rather intimidating carvers.

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The original City of London School on the Victoria Embankment by the northern end of Blackfriars Bridge. Although the school has relocated the buildings are still there. At the far edge can be seen the corner of De Keyser’s Royal Hotel.

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Earl’s Court was an entertainment and exhibition centre long before the large exhibition centre (currently being demolished) was built-in the 1930s. An early wooden roller coaster is on the right and I am not sure what the ride is on the left which seems to provide some means of gliding people to the top.

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London Life

In the 1950s, Charles Skilton published a series of twelve postcards called “London Life”, typical scenes of people and events across London. Often this type of postcard would be a posed, however these photos all look to be natural.

Costermonger ‘Pearly Kings and Queens” in Southwark.

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Orators’ Corner, Hyde Park. A well known spot for open-air speaking.

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The busy docks in the Port of London.

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Judges leaving a service in Westminster Abbey.

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Posing for a photograph with the pigeons in Trafalgar Square.

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A Flower Seller in Piccadilly Circus.

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An Entertainer escapes from a bound sack in the Charing Cross Road. I think this must have been Johnny Eagle as the performers look the same as in the photos my father took on Tower Hill.

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A pavement artist outside the National Portrait Gallery.

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A Street Market in Soho – the view is looking down Rupert Street with Archer Street running to the immediate left. The pub on the corner, The White Horse is still there and the building on the immediate right is the Gielgud Theatre, which at the time was called the Globe (the name change to Gielgud Theatre was in 1994 as a tribute to Sir John Gielgud).

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Artists show their pictures in the open-air at Hampstead. There were a number of open-air art exhibitions in London, as well as Hampstead, I have a series of photos my father took of an open-air exhibition in the Victoria Embankment Gardens.

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An East End Rag-and-Bone Man. Crockery is offered as an alternative to cash.

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The Guards in Whitehall are a familiar spectacle.

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Postcards were generally used by tourists to London, or for sending a brief message which could be quickly written down and posted rather than writing a letter. With the growth in use of technologies such as e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp etc. I suspect that the future for postcards is in a very sharp decline and postcards of London Life will no longer provide a record of the changing city.

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Wonderful London

I have been collecting books about London for many years, my first purchase was in the mid 1970s in a second-hand bookshop in one of the alleys leading into Greenwich Market. It was H.V. Morton’s London, first published in 1940, a collection of three individual books published in the 1920s. H.V. Morton was a journalist and his writing about London was probably embellished somewhat, but at the time it seemed to bring alive the history and romance of London.

I recently bought a remarkable 3 volume set – Wonderful London, published in the late 1920s. It was edited by St. John Adcock (a prolific author and poet who lived in Hampstead and died in 1930) and described as “The World’s Greatest City Described by its Best Writers and Pictured by its Finest Photographers”.

Wonderful London has chapters on all aspects of the city, each written by a different author, for example “How London Strikes A Provincial” by J.B. Priestley, “The Case For Old London” by G.K. Chesterton and “Sunday In Town” by H.V. Morton.

The three volumes run to over 1100 pages and 1200 photos and provides a fantastic snapshot of London in the 1920s with the text highlighting the social attitudes of the time.

As I scanned through the book, many of the photos are of the same scenes that my father took in the late 1940s and early 1950s and which I have been photographing over the years. There are also some remarkable photos showing London in the first decades of the 20th century and for this week’s post, let me bring you a sample of photos from Wonderful London.

To start, the first photo is a fantastic aerial view of Wembley Stadium. the title to the photo is “Ants Nest Carelessly Broken Open Or Wembley Stadium Seen From The Cockpit Of An Aeroplane”. The caption to the photo reads:

“When at the end of 1925, after two years of stucco splendour, the pavilions and palaces of the British Empire Exhibition melted beneath the workmen’s hands, one building, as though in irony remained, the Wembley Stadium, solid-built as the shrine of professional football. It is symptomatic boast that the Stadium exceeds the Colosseum in size by one-half. During the period of the Exhibition the arena was used for various pageants and military displays, but it is not on record that they ever drew a crowd nearly as dense as the one on which we are gazing.”

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Continuing on the football theme, the following photo is titled “Street Hawkers Sell Football Favours At Walham Green” and has the caption:

“At Walham Green coloured favours and match programmes are for sale near Stamford Bridge, the ground of the Chelsea Football Club.”

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Walham Green is a name that is rarely heard today. Originally the name of a village in west London, dating back to at least 1383 when it was known as Wandongrene. As the above reference to Chelsea Football Club suggests, it was integrated into Chelsea and Fulham. The underground station on the District Line that is now called Fulham Broadway was originally called Walham Green. See the following scan from a 1937 underground map. The name changed to Fulham Broadway in 1952.

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Last year I published a couple of posts on the Caledonian Market, including climbing the Clock Tower which can be found here and here. Wonderful London includes a few photos of the market, including the following photo showing an overview of the market in action. The clock tower is still there, but the surroundings are now completely different.

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As well as the main cattle market, the Caledonian Market area was also the site of a Friday “pedlars’ market”  where is was possible to buy almost anything. The following photo shows the sale of poultry at the pedlars market.

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A couple of months ago, I published a photo my father took after the war of the ruins of Chelsea Old Church. In frount of this photo there is a cart with a few children. The cart appears to be an ice cream cart. In Wonderful London there is the photo below of a similar scene with the title “A Son Of Italy Does A Brisk Trade In Frozen Something-Or-Other.”

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At the end of last year, I went on the Massey Shaw Fireboat as it traveled along the Thames to demonstrate how river based firefighting was carried out. Wonderful London includes the following photo of a huge warehouse fire at Millwall with “thousands of tons of rubber are burning here besides large quantities of tallow and carpets”, being fought by fireboats on the river.

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Wonderful London includes a couple of full-page spreads showing views along the Thames. The following photo shows the original Waterloo Bridge from the top of the Savoy Hotel and is titled “Before Evil Days Fell Upon Waterloo Bridge After A Century Of London Traffic.” The caption reads:

“This is a last look at the old bridge as it was before two of its arches failed and began to take up that bent and disquieting appearance which caused the steel auxiliary to be built, the old bridge shored up and so much ink spilt about it.”

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Another of the panorama photos is the following photo taken from the roof of Bush House. The photo is looking towards the South Bank and shows the Shot Tower and the industrial area on the South Bank prior to the post war redevelopment leading to the Festival of Britain.

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It is interesting that London has always been the subject of “before and after photos”, which is also one of my aims for this blog, to take photos today of the locations my father photographed in the 1940s/50s. Wonderful London includes a number of examples, including the following two photos taken from the same position in the Strand. The first photo shows the original Temple Bar city boundary in 1878. The second photo shows exactly the same scene in the 1920s following removal of Temple Bar, widening of the street and new buildings on either side of the Strand. The location can be confirmed by building number 229 which is on the right of both photos.

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Wonderful London features a range of photos of London children, including the two photos below which are titled “A Budding Humorist Of The East-End And The Serpentine Smile”. the caption for both photos reads:

“A water-tank covered by a plank in a back-yard among the slums is an unlikely place for a stage, but an undaunted admirer of that great Cockney humorist, Charlie Chaplin, is holding his audience with an imitation of the well-known gestures  with which the comic actor indicates the care-free-though-down-and-out view of life which he has immortalised on the screen. Below is a group of summer paddlers in the Serpentine. On the extreme left is a boy holding the shafts of the inevitable sugar-box cart fixed on perambulator wheels.”

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In last week’s post I featured photos my father had taken from the river looking at the north bank of the river. One of these photos had the shell of the church of Allhallows by the Tower which had suffered severe bomb damage during the war. Wonderful London includes the following photo of the church in the 1920s, looking south. The buildings behind the church to the right are between the church and the river. The majority of the surrounding buildings would also be destroyed by bombing in just over 10 years following the decade when this photo was taken.

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Photos of views along the river with many of the earlier bridges are included. The following photo shows the view from the Adelphi Terrace looking eastward along the river. The bridge is the original Waterloo Bridge that crossed the river before the version of the bridge in place today, and was photographed after the failures mentioned in the earlier photo. The bridge has the “steel auxiliary” also mentioned above.

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The markets of London feature in Wonderful London. Here is Covent Garden, with the title “Early Morning In The Convent Garden Which Has become Covent Garden” and the caption reads:

“It seems that the Convent Garden of Westminster stretched along the north side of the Strand between Drury Lane and St. Martin-in-the-Fields. When Henry VIII made his pounce upon the monasteries and flung the pieces to his followers, the Russell family got the garden and built themselves Bedford House on the south side. They caused Inigo Jones to lay out a piazza on the north and east and a church on the west. Stalls for selling fruit and vegetables were already established. In 1704 the Russells (or Bedfords) moved to Bloomsbury, and in 1830 most of the current buildings were put up. Soon after midnight the carts start their journeys from the market gardens beyond outer London to reach Covent Garden in time.”

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Another London market is Billingsgate Market and the photo in Wonderful London below of the streets outside the market is taken from roughly the same location as one my father had taken (see here). The photo is titled “Fish-Porters Of Billingsgate Gathered About Consignments Lately Arrived From The Coast” and the caption reads:

“At Billingsgate is the chief fish market of London. and to it are brought all kinds of fish from aristocratic salmon and oysters to democratic shrimps and dog-fish of rock salmon. At one time smacks brought all the fish sold in the market, and were unloaded at Billingsgate Wharf, which is said to be the oldest in London. Today however, most comes by train, and little by boat.  The daily market is always crowded, and business is conducted at a speed extremely confusing to the casual spectator. Here we may see the fish porters, who have an almost legendary reputation for bad language, handling the slippery loads with the precision of experts. In the background of this view, to the right, is seen the monument.”

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One of the ancient customs covered by Wonderful London is Swan Upping. A custom which my father photographed, as did I during the 2015 event. My post can be found here. Photos of the event in the 1920s look almost identical to the event of today.

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Among photos of Londoners and their trades is the following of “old cabbies headed by an ancient who claims that he once drove King Edward when Prince of Wales, from Waterloo to Marlborough House, in 1868.” You probably would not want to question the route taken by these cabbies!

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A chapter in Wonderful London covers Social Work, but a very different form of Social Work to that we understand today. Provided to Londoners through a range of organisations such as the Salvation Army, Police Court Missionaries, Dr. Barnardo’s, the Watercress and Flower Girls’ Christian Mission, St. Dunstan’s, the Morning Post Home for Destitute Men, a Medical Mission for ailing working women and children and the YMCA.

The following photo has the title: “Little Citizens Of London Who Ask For A Change In Life” and is captioned:

“There is no more important branch of social work in great cities than amelioration of the slum child’s lot. The public conscience is difficult to stir, but much is nevertheless being done by philanthropical societies and by individual effort to brighten the drab lives of these little unfortunates, to rescue them from surroundings of cruelty or crime and to start them upon happy and useful careers. Many east-end children have never been beyond their own disease-ridden courts and the dingy streets that form their playground.”

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There are many photos in the books which show exactly the same scenes that my father would later photograph. One of these is The Flask in Highgate (see my post on The Flask which can be found here). The caption to the photo reads:

“At The Flask, labourers from the few surviving farms still drink the good ale, as their forerunners did a century ago. This tavern was much frequented by revellers’ clubs of late Georgian times.”

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It is interesting that in almost 100 years, aspects of London’s transport system have not really changed.  The following photo has the title “Herding Passengers On To A Bus On Ludgate Hill” and the caption starts “Londoners endure a state of perpetual and acute discomfort in the daily travelling to and from their work which is really astonishing.” A sentence that could equally apply today.

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One of the chapters in Wonderful London covers second-hand bookshops and includes the following photo of a second-hand bookshop in Charing Cross Road, which as well as being the home to Foyles (which originally had a second-hand department) also had many other book shops.

Just looking at this photo makes me wonder what treasures could be found in this shop. Had I been around at the time I would probably have spent far too much time and money in shops like this one.

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A range of occupations are covered in the three volumes, including the following photo of steeplejacks defying vertigo on the spire of All Saints, Poplar.

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In last weeks post I included a photo taken from the river showing Adelaide House adjacent to London Bridge. Wonderful London includes the following photo of the building soon after completion. The title reads “Adelaide House, A Monument of Modern Architecture On The Site Of Old London Bridge”. The caption to the photo reads:

“In observing this new expression of the architect’s attempt to meet the problems of rebuilding in London it must be remembered that, according to design, a superstructure has yet to be added, and that the bridge level is not the ground level of the building. To get the full height effect, Adelaide House must be viewed from the river or else its south bank. Another place from which to be impressed or perhaps oppressed by the height of the thing is Lower Thames Street. Sir John Burnet and his partners were responsible for the huge study in concrete, and several designs for it were submitted and revised. There is a curious effect about the main entrance as though doorways had shrunk under the tremendous weight above.”

Interesting that the height of buildings has always been an issue in London.

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When the telephone was introduced across London, the majority of wiring was above ground. Old photos often show telegraph poles on top of office buildings with wiring strung across the rooftops and streets. These required a good head for heights to maintain. The title for the following photo reads: “Suspending a telephone cable between Conduit and Maddox Streets.”

And has the caption:

Twice a year the steel wires which support London’s telephone cables – each cable may hold the lines of thirty subscribers – are inspected. The cables are fastened to the wires by rawhide suspenders and this man is detaching the thick dark cable from the old wire and fastening it to the new wire, which shows fresh and bright above. The new wire also supports the worker. He sits in a bo’sn’s chair, consisting of a board slung by a loop at either end, which is fastened to the wire. Overhead wires are gradually being superseded by underground systems.”

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Some jobs are almost the same now as they were then, for example overnight maintenance work on the city’s railways. The following photo has the caption:

“A gang is at work on the permanent way on Charing Cross Bridge. The lights of the station can be seen in the distance.”

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Fog was very much a problem for London in the 1920s. The following photo is titled “Fogbound, Flares For Traffic In A London Particular” and is captioned:

“When the minute particles of dust which are always overhanging London become coated with moisture and the temperature falls below what is called dew point, that is when the temperature at which the moisture in the atmosphere condenses, fog blankets the streets. It is one of the scourges of the city, and much time and money are lost annually by its delaying the traffic. In a real pea-souper acetylene flares are placed at traffic control points. In the photo a constable is directing traffic where Charing Cross meets Trafalgar Square.”

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Interesting that the caption refers to the time and money lost due to London fogs rather than the impact on the health of Londoners. Business, trade and making money has always been the main driver of London life.

I covered the cannon in frount of the Tower of London in a post showing my father’s 1947 photo of the area.  Wonderful London includes a photo of the same area from the 1920s with the title “Tower Wharf: One Of London’s Lunch-Time Gathering Grounds” and the caption:

“Despite the tremendous number and variety of eating places, many hundreds of those who work in the City and its surroundings prefer, in fine weather, to eat their lunch on a park seat or as here, seated on the slippery surface of an old cannon. Tower Wharf, whatever its merits as a restaurant, is a fine place to view the Tower, and also the shipping in the Upper Pool and the opening of Tower Bridge. The wharf was built by Henry III who also made Traitors Gate. The wharf gave the fortress one more line of protection. On the very ground where this crowd is sitting another crowd assembled day after day to scream for the trembling Judge Jeffryes to be thrown to them, in quittance for the Bloody Assize.”

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A theme during the 1920s was the growth in motorised traffic across London and the need to manage traffic. This required new systems of control and in 1925 manually operated traffic lights were installed at the junction of St. Jame’s Street and Piccadilly.

The photo below shows the junction. Look in the middle of the photo and there is a small hut.

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Within this hut is the control equipment for the traffic lights. Operated manually by the levers at the bottom of the photo with the street layout and indicators showing the status of the traffic lights above. Requiring an operator for each set of traffic lights, it is no wonder that they only really started to proliferate across London when automated lights were developed a few years later.

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The book also features trades that have long since disappeared. Tanneries were a major industry in 19th century London but in the first decades of the 20th century they were gradually disappearing. The following photo shows one of the remaining tanneries and is captioned:

“At Bermondsey tanning is, so to speak, in the air as one traverses the dingy streets towards the Neckinger Mills, where the photograph was taken. We are looking at the lime yard full of pits about seven feet deep, and built some 60 or 70 years ago. Fifteen to thirty dozen skins go to a ‘pack’ and each pack is soaked in fresh water, then in a solution of limewater, for 3 – 6 weeks to remove the hair. Goat skins are being dealt with here.”

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Radio broadcasting, or wireless was a new technology in the 1920s with the BBC having started daily broadcasts in 1922. Wonderful London shows how this technology is starting to impact the lives of Londoners with two photos under the title: “Broadcasting Noises From The Zoo To The Aerials Of Suburbia”

The photos are captioned:

“Howling is only approved of by ‘listeners-in’ when it comes from the Zoo, and several experiments have been made in bringing the wild animal into the home by wireless. We see the officials of the British Broadcasting Co. preparing to receive a few screeches from the aviary.”

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“These will be wafted over the forest of wireless poles that has sprung up all over London since the broadcasting craze took its hold on the inhabitants. The poorer neighbourhoods seem particularly to bristle with aerial poles, and this is very noticeable from a train traversing such districts.”

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As well as radio providing a new means of communication and entertainment another new technology that started to be widely available and continues to have a huge impact on London is flight.

Long before Heathrow or Gatwick, Croydon was London’s airport, and the following photos show the first steps in London’s aviation journey. The first photo is titled “The Air Port of London As It Was In 1925” and is captioned:

“The official designation of the great aerodrome is “The Air Port Of London” though it is popularly known as the Croydon, or Waddon aerodrome for it is included in the latter parish”

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And the following photo “Loading Cargo and Passengers”

“Passengers are embarking for Paris by an Imperials Airways machine.”

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When you consider how quickly these first tentative steps in commercial aviation transformed into the scale and complexity that we now see at Heathrow, it does make you wonder what the next 90 years will hold for London.

Wonderful London does live up to its name and with the written chapters that cover almost any topic you could think off, and with so many photos the books really do justice to describing the world’s greatest city.

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A Walk Through 1980s London

When I get the time, it is great to have a walk round London without any fixed purpose other than look at the buildings, shops, streets and people. I always have a camera with me to record how London continues to change.

Last year I posted a number photos we took of 1980s London on a number of walks just exploring the city, and for this week’s post I have another selection of photos from across London in 1986. (The earlier posts can be found here and here)

Many of these shops and businesses have long since disappeared, however surprisingly a number still remain and thankfully many of the buildings have survived.

This was only thirty years ago, but in some ways, a very different City.

To start with, this is the shop of Amos Jones, theatrical chemist on the corner of Drury Lane and Long Acre, Amos Jones has long since disappeared however the building is still there and looking much the same.

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S. Krantz & Son, Specialist Shoe Repairers, 180 Drury Lane. Another closed business, but the building remains.

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L. Cornelissen & Son, Artists’ Colourmen in their original shop in Drury Lane. The business is still going and is now located at 105 Great Russel Street. The photo also has one of the parking meters that were so common on the streets in the 1980s (on the left, underneath the number 22). Funny how what was so common on the streets can disappear without really being noticed.

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G. Smith & Sons – Smith’s Noted Snuff Shop Est 1869 at 74 Charing Cross Road. Lasted for over 120 years, but now closed. The building remains the same.

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Dodds the Printers, 193 King’s Cross Road. Again, closed but the building is still much the same.

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Covent Garden now and N. Mann, Picture Framers, closed many years ago.

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Into the City, and the corner of Wood Street and Cheapside. The building is still there, but L & R Wooderson, Shirtmakers, have been replaced by a gift card shop.

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Attenborough Jewelers, 244 Bethnal Green Road. The past 30 years must have been good to them as they now occupy the building to the right as well as the original building.

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The Monmouth Coffee House at 27 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden. Still at the same location, but now called the Monmouth Coffee Company. Unfortunately the impressive display of coffee beans hanging above the shop are not there now.

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Albert France & Son, not sure where this photo was taken, however they are still in business and based in Lamb’s Conduit Street.

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James Smith & Sons, 53 New Oxford Street. Umbrella manufacturers since 1830. Still in the same shop with the same signage as back in 1986.

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F. W. Collins & Son, 14 Earlham Street, Covent Garden. Run by seven generations of the Collins family, with each first-born son always being named Fred to ensure the continuity of the business. Closed around 2006.

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J. Evans, Dairy Farmer on the corner of Warren Street and Conway Street. The shop has long closed, however the exterior decoration has remained and the shop is now a cafe.

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LLoyd and Son, Dairy Farmers on the corner of River Street and Amwell Street. The shop has closed, but the building and the original exterior decoration is still in place.

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Another photo of Lloyd & Son showing one of the shop windows. Corner shops like this just do not exist anymore.

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Camden:

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Another Camden shop – walk along Camden High Street today and the shops are much the same,

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Syd’s Coffee Stall, opened in 1919 and still going strong on the corner of Shoreditch High Street and Calvert Avenue.

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Did not make a note of the location of this building – original signs on the walls. Do not recall having seen this building in recent years.

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B. Flegg in Monmouth Street. I suspect these signs are not there anymore as I do not recall seeing them when I last walked down Monmouth Street as I would have taken another photo.

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Advertising signs on building on the corner of Cambridge Gardens and Ladbroke Grove. The building is still there (much cleaner now) but the signs have gone.

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F. Bowman, Engineer’s Pattern Makers, 13 Amwell Street. Although the business has long since closed, the shop front is still in place.

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London is a fantastic city to walk, having a few hours to go on a walk with no clear direction and turning down streets at random just to see what is there often reveals so much about the city. Hopefully now that the lighter evenings are here with the hope of better weather, there will be plenty of opportunities for more long, random walks.

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