A Model Of London, 1840
Andrew Byrne – ‘Today the East End, tomorrow the world!’
Today I introduce the beginning of a long story that will extend over many years to come – it is the making of a complete 1/1500 scale model of London in 1840, extending from Paddington Station in the west to the River Lea in the east. ‘I’d like to have a time machine to go back to London in 1840,’ admitted Andrew Byrne with a wistful smile, ‘but time machines don’t exist, so this model is the next best thing.’
On the top floor of an old stable block, at the edge of the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, the project has its genesis. Here, Contributing Photographer Colin O’Brien & I paid a visit upon Andrew and his collaborator David Armitage to record the beginnings of this ambitious endeavour.
Quite naturally, the project is starting with a model of East London. ‘Today the East End, tomorrow the world,’ as Andrew puts it with characteristic bravado. The laser cut baseboard of the territory lay before us with just a few terraces in place at present. David, who trained at the London College of Furniture and has a background in making early music instruments, cuts individual buildings from different strips of wood that have been fashioned to the profile of houses – just as you and I might slice a Battenburg cake. Meanwhile, Andrew scrutinises a table covered with old maps and cross references these with early aerial photographs to establish the nature of the roofs of the houses and terraces.
They have been working on the model since last August and – all being well – they hope to complete the East End before the end of this year. Already, a conversation is underway to discuss the possibility of installing the model in the new Museum of London when it opens in the former Smithfield Market building.
Volunteer model makers with experience are required to participate in this epic project, so if you have the necessary expertise, the willingness and six hours a week spare, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can expect further updates on this project from me in years to come.
David Armitage places a house in the East End, 1840
Andrew Byrne studies old maps and archive photos
David trims terraces of houses from a strip
David Armitage, modelmaker
The buildings are the size of Monopoly houses
Work in progress on the model of the East End at 1/1500 scale
Bedford Sq, Bloomsbury at 1/1500 – an experiment with scale for the model of London
Torrington Sq, Bloomsbury at 1/500, another experiment with scale for the model
Photographs copyright © Colin O’Brien
You might also like to read about