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St Paul’s Of Old London

December 26, 2013
by the gentle author

At midnight on Christmas Eve, I found myself standing inside St Paul’s Cathedral among the the company of several hundred other souls. The vast interior space of the cathedral is a world unto itself when you are within it, as much landscape as architecture, yet when the great clock struck twelve overhead, my thoughts were transported to the rain falling upon the empty streets in the dark city beyond. Perhaps I was thinking of some of these lantern slides created a century ago by the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society for lectures at the Bishopsgate Institute?

Until 1962, St Paul’s was the tallest building in London and, in my perception of the city, it will always stand head and shoulders above everything else. Even before I saw it for myself, I already knew the shape of the monstrous dome from innumerable printed images and looming skyline appearances in films. Defying all competition, the great cranium of the dome contains a spiritual force that no other building in London can match.

A true wonder of architecture, St Paul’s never fails to induce awe when you return to it because the reality of its scale always surpasses your expectation – as if the mind itself cannot fully contain the memory of a building of such ambition and scale. No-one can deny the sense of order, with every detail sublimated to Sir Christopher Wren’s grand conception, yet the building defies you.

Although every aspect has its proportion and purpose, the elaborate intricacy expresses something beyond reason or logic. You are within the skull of a sleeping giant, dreaming the history of London, with its glittering panoply and dark episodes. The success of this building is to render everything else marginal, because when you are inside it you feel you are at the centre of the world.

Glass slides courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

You may also like to take a look at

The Lantern Slides of Old London

The Nights of Old London

The Signs of Old London

The Markets of Old London

The Pubs of Old London

The Doors of Old London

The Staircases of Old London

The High Days & Holidays of Old London

The Dinners of Old London

The Shops of Old London

The Streets of Old London

The Fogs & Smogs of Old London

The Chambers of Old London

The Tombs of Old London

The Bridges of Old London

The Forgotten Corners of Old London

The Thames of Old London

The Statues & Effigies of Old London

The City Churches of Old London

The Docks of Old London

The Tower of Old London

The Loneliness of Old London

10 Responses leave one →
  1. Greg Tingey permalink
    December 26, 2013

    Great Model, anyone?

  2. John Campbell permalink
    December 26, 2013

    Really interesting to see St Pauls as the tallest building in the old London landscape. A sight which sadly I never witnessed personally. There is an ‘Eiffel’ style tower in the right hand corner of picture number 12 which I have wondered could be Alexandra Palace? Perhaps considering the flat landscape, it may even be allowing us a clear vision of Crystal Palace?
    Be interesting to know.
    Belated Festive greetings to you GA and many thanks for another wonderful year of informative and warm daily correspondence.
    Tuppence the birds!

  3. Peter permalink
    December 26, 2013

    Many thanks for this,I especially like picture three,what a contrast; the poor,dear building can barely breathe hemmed in as it is these days.

  4. December 26, 2013

    Wonderful! Many thanks.

  5. aubrey permalink
    December 26, 2013

    I often played with my friends on the bomb sites that surrounded St Paul’s after the war. I suppose that these sites were a kind of pre-curser to later purpose designed adventure playgrounds. The solitary left standing cathedral overlooked all of our ‘adventures’ and hair raising exploits which we considered as a sort of sport. I’ve travelled around Europe and other parts of the globe, and in my humble opinion the Dome of St Paul’s is the finest in all of Christendom.

  6. Annie permalink
    December 26, 2013

    The ‘Eiffel Tower’ is the spire of one of the very many churches in the City. Not sure which one though. Would be toward the Tower.

  7. December 26, 2013

    I think it may well be All Hallows by the Tower.

  8. December 26, 2013

    Before leaving England in 1951 I worked in Gt. St Helen’s Bishopsgate. My favourite spots were the Bank, with the Mansion House, and Royal Exchange, also The Tower and of course St Paul’s.

    It was not until 2005 that I went back to these old haunts and I’m sorry I did, the magic had gone. In 51 London was still war torn (to use an over used term) but it was the London I grew up in and loved, full of quiet strength and power something you cold feel; sadly it is no longer there.

    Great photographs and post. Thank you.

  9. December 27, 2013

    Outstanding photographs of one of London’s most impressive building!


  10. Lancelot Taylor permalink
    December 28, 2013

    There can be little in pictorial London ‘atmospherics’ to match this marvellous collection of old photos of St Paul’s. And of them all, the inner dome ones of drab brick and nautical portholes – and, most memorable of all, the cathedral official looking down from the top of the inner dome occulus – the most mysterious.

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