Aerial Views Of Old London
In my dream, I am flying over old London and the clouds part like curtains to reveal a vision of the dirty monochrome city lying far beneath, swathed eternally in mist and deep shadow.
Although most Londoners are familiar with this view today, as the first glimpse of home on the descent to Heathrow upon their return flight from overseas, it never ceases to induce wonder. So I can only imagine the awe of those who were first shown these glass slides of aerial views from the collection of the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society at the Bishopsgate Institute a century ago.
Even before Aerofilms was established in 1919 to document the country from above systematically, people were photographing London from hot air balloons, zeppelins and early aeroplanes. Upon first impression, the intricate detail and order of the city is breathtaking and I think we may assume that a certain patriotic pride was encouraged by these views of national landmarks which symbolised the political power of the nation.
But there is also a certain ambivalence to some images, such as those of Horseguards’ Parade and Covent Garden Market, since – as much as they record the vast numbers of people that participated in these elaborate human endeavours, they also reduce the hordes to mere ants and remove the authoritative scale of the architecture. Seen from above, the works of man are of far less consequence than they appear from below. Yet this does not lessen my fascination with these pictures, as evocations of the teeming life of this London that is so familiar and mysterious in equal measure.
Tower of London & Tower Bridge
Trafalgar Sq, St Martin-in-the-Fields and Charing Cross Station
Trafalgar Sq & Whitehall
House of Parliament & Westminster Bridge
Westminster Bridge & County Hall
Tower of London & St Katharine Docks
Bank of England & Royal Exchange
Spires of City churches dominate the City of London
Crossroads at the heart of the City of London
Guildhall to the right, General Post Office to the left and Cheapside running across the picture
Blackfriars Bridge & St Paul’s
Hyde Park Corner
Buckingham Palace & the Mall
The British Museum
St James’ Palace & the Mall
Ludgate Hill & St Paul’s
Pool of London & Tower Bridge with Docks beyond
Albert Hall & Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum & Victoria & Albert Museum
Limehouse with St Anne’s in the centre & Narrow St to the right
Reversed image of Hungerford Bridge & Waterloo Bridge
Covent Garden Market & the Floral Hall
Trooping the Colour at Horseguards Parade
St Clement Dane’s, Strand
Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens
Glass slides courtesy Bishopsgate Institute
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