The Streets of Old London
Piccadilly, c. 1900
In my mind, I live in old London as much as I live in the contemporary London of here and now. Maybe I have spent too much time looking at photographs of old London – such as these glass slides once used for magic lantern shows by the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society at the Bishopsgate Institute?
Old London exists to me through photography almost as vividly as if I had actual memory of a century ago. Consequently, when I walk through the streets of London today, I am especially aware of the locations that have changed little over this time. And, in my mind’s eye, these streets of old London are peopled by the inhabitants of the photographs.
Yet I am not haunted by the past, rather it is as if we Londoners in the insubstantial present are the fleeting spirits while – thanks to photography – those people of a century ago occupy these streets of old London eternally. The pictures have frozen their world forever and, walking in these same streets today, my experience can sometimes be akin to that of a visitor exploring the backlot of a film studio long after the actors have gone.
I recall my terror at the incomprehensible nature of London when I first visited the great metropolis from my small city in the provinces. But now I have lived here long enough to have lost that diabolic London I first encountered in which many of the great buildings were black, still coated with soot from the days of coal fires.
Reaching beyond my limited period of residence in the capital, these photographs of the streets of old London reveal a deeper perspective in time, setting my own experience in proportion and allowing me to feel part of the continuum of the ever-changing city.
Ludgate Hill, c. 1920
Holborn Viaduct, c. 1910
Woman selling fish from a barrel, c. 1910
Trinity Almshouses, Mile End Rd, c. 1920
Throgmorton St, c. 1920
Highgate Forge, Highgate High St, 1900
Bangor St, Kensington, c. 1900
Ludgate Hill, c. 1910
Walls Ice Cream Vendor, c. 1920
Ludgate Hill, c. 1910
Strand Yard, Highgate, 1900
Muffin man, c. 1910
Seven Dials, c. 19o0
Fetter Lane, c. 1910
Piccadilly Circus, c. 1900
St Clement Danes, c. 1910
Hoardings in Knightsbridge, c. 1935
Wych St, c.1890
Dustcart, c. 1910
At the foot of the Monument, c. 1900
Holborn Circus, 1910
Cheapside with St Mary Le Bow, 1910
Regent St, 1900
Glass slides copyright © Bishopsgate Institute
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