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The Doors Of Old London

March 10, 2018
by the gentle author

The door to Parliament

Look at all the doors where the dead people walked in and out. These are the doors of old London. Some are inviting you in and some are shutting you out. Doors that lead to power and doors that lead to prison. Doors that lead to the parlour, doors that lead to the palace, and doors that lead to prayer. These are the doors that I found among hundreds of glass slides once used for magic lantern shows by the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society, many more than a century old, and housed today at the Bishopsgate Institute.

Looking at life through a doorway, we are all either on the way in or on the way out. Like the door to your childhood home that got sold long ago, each one pictured here is evidence of the transient nature of existence, reminding you that you cannot go back through the portal of time.

Yet there is a powerful enigma conjured by these murky pictures of old doors, most of which will never open again. Like the pauper or the lost soul condemned to wander the streets, we cannot enter to learn what lies behind these doors of old London. But a closed door is an invitation to the imagination and we can wonder and dream, entering those hidden spaces in our fancy.

London has always been a city of doors, inviting both the curiosity and the suspicion of the passerby. In each street, there is a constant anticipation of people popping out, regurgitated onto the street by the building, and the glimpse to be snatched of the interior before the door closes again.

I cannot resist the notion that every door contains a mystery and all I need is a skeleton key. Then we can set out to explore as we please, going in one door and out another, until we have passed through all the doors of old London.

The entrance to the Carpenters’ Hall

The doors of Lambeth Palace

Door in the cloisters in Westminster Abbey

The door to the chamber of Little Ease at the Tower of London.

In St Benet’s Church, Paul’s Wharf.

Back door of 33 Mark Lane

Back door to Lancaster House.

In Crutched Friars.

14 Cavendish Sq.

The door to 10 Downing St

39a Devonshire St.

The door to the House of Lords

Wren doorway, Kensington Palace.

The door to Westminster Abbey

St Dunstan’s in the West

The entrance to Christ Church, Greyfriars.

The door to St Bartholomew’s, Smithfield

Temple Church

The Watchhouse, St Sepulcre’s, Smithfield.

Door by Inigo Jones at St Helen’s Bishopsgate.

Prior Bolton’s Door at St Bartholomew the Great.

At the Tower of London

Glass slides courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

You may also like to take a look at

The Nights of Old London

The Ghosts of Old London

The Dogs of Old London

The Signs of Old London

The Markets of Old London

The Pubs of Old London

9 Responses leave one →
  1. Paul Phillips permalink
    March 10, 2018

    Incredible images, a shame they were not all captioned, it would have made the journey even more interesting . However, thank you for sharing with us who live so far away.

    As a former London Bobby I watched Charwoman after Charwoman scrubbing door steps with some kind of whitening stone before daybreak each morning. Thanks

  2. March 10, 2018

    Such a rich, astonishing, beautiful collections of doors, entrance to a lost world of rich detail and good design. Such sadness too that so much has been lost.

  3. Paul Loften permalink
    March 10, 2018

    The Tower of London door is definitely not a friendly door

  4. Helen Breen permalink
    March 10, 2018

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, thanks for sharing this wonderful collection of portals. I enjoy wandering around London observing such architectural delights.

    Particularly liked that elaborate entry to the House of Lords…

  5. Gary Arber permalink
    March 10, 2018

    Such skill !
    Take a collection of pictures of old doors, preface it with a fantastic introduction and it turns into a tour back in history populated with ghosts.
    Thank you G.A.

  6. W. Peter Dunne, G. Cm. permalink
    March 10, 2018

    What a wonderful and lovely selection of Photographs.

    My only regret is that all were not identified.

    Thank you.

  7. Gary Arber permalink
    March 10, 2018

    A large number of these old buildings with their ornate stoneware were destroyed in the war.
    On a large riverside bombsite where the Festival Hall now stands a company named “Willment Waterloo” set up a crushing plant in 1946 where lorries carrying the rubble brought it too be crushed into aggregate for the huge rebuilding programme. A huge crusher, about 50 feet high stood beside the roadway up to Waterloo Bridge, a conveyor belt about 75 feet long carried the rubble up to it, this belt was about 6 feet from the pavement parapet and I used to stand and watch the material going up. Pieces of stone statue went by, heads, arms, legs lions heads, tails and paws etc. It was a sad procession.

  8. March 11, 2018

    What beautiful doors. Living in the US we have nothing to compare. At all.

  9. March 11, 2018

    Those are some proud entrances! By comparison, 10 Downing Street’s looks positively humble. And I have to wonder what the front of 33 Mark Lane looks like, if that’s the tradesmen’s way in!

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