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Return To Long Forgotten London

April 16, 2014
by the gentle author

The six volumes of Walter Thornbury’s London Old & New, filled with richly detailed engravings, prove irresistible to me for compelling visions of a city I barely recognise. Published in the eighteen-seventies, they evoke a London that had passed away at the beginning of the century and contrast this with the recent wonders of the Victorian age which prefigure the city we know today.

Entrance to the Clerkenwell tunnel

Hackney, looking towards the church in 1840

Columbia Market, Bethnal Green

Crown & Sceptre Inn, Greenwich

St Dunstan-in-the-East

Kensington High St in 1860

Primrose Hill in 1780

The Tower subway under the Thames

Bunhill Fields

Red Cow Inn, Hammersmith

Chelsea Bun House in 1810

River Fleet at St Pancras in 1825

Rotunda in Blackfriars Rd, 1820

Somers Town Dust Heaps in 1836

The Old Cock Tavern, Westminster

Seven Sisters in 1830

Highgate Cemetery

Magnetic Clock at Greenwich

Great Equatorial Telescope in the Dome at Greenwich

Searle’s Boatyard at Bankside, 1830

Bridgefoot, Southwark in 1810

Sights of old Hackney 1. Br0ok House 1765 2.  Barber’s Barn 1750 3. Shore Place 1736

Izaak Walton’s River Lea 1.  Ferry House 2. Tottenham Church from the Lea 3. Tumbling Weir 4. Fishing Cottage 5. Tottenham Lock

Images courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

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13 Responses leave one →
  1. April 16, 2014

    These are very beautiful – I will share. Thank you.

  2. April 16, 2014

    How good to be able to step back in time and see pictures of how familiar places were then. Valerie

  3. Jake permalink
    April 16, 2014

    Columbia market?

  4. April 16, 2014

    How amazing! Now I understand where these names came from. Seven Sisters, the name of those trees, Primrose Hill so steep I can’t believe that I used to walk up that hill with those grand buildings lined with gorgeous plane trees when I was small. What happened to Columbia market’s building? Kensington High Street so quaint. How I wish I could step back in time to see what London was really like.

  5. April 16, 2014

    Know its a typo but rather fond of Primorose Hill. I’ll never look at it the same way again.

  6. Greg Tingey permalink
    April 16, 2014

    The accuracy of the pictures varies. Unfortunately the very first one contains a representation of something that never existed – the lower locomotive shown in the picture of the “Grid-Irons” just N of Farringdon Station – another site that is still recognisable.
    Yes, one or two scenes are still identifyable today, even so ….
    The Ferry-Boat crossing of the Lea, St Dunstans & one or two others.

  7. Mary bluer permalink
    April 16, 2014

    Thankfully High gate cemetery has not changed…apart from the odd lolly paper and swathes of longish grass.

  8. April 16, 2014

    Grand! These engravings are more informative than any photo… Very significant & meaningful!

    Love & Peace

  9. alison homewood permalink
    April 16, 2014

    I honestly think these Walter Thornbury postings are among my favourite Spitalfields Life postings, there is just SO much detail in them. Beyond lovely. Can we buy the books somewhere?

  10. April 19, 2014

    I’m in the process of doing a refurbishment of 5 of the volumes I have picked up so far. Its great to publish these on line as it brings the books to a much wider audience, they also make fascinating reading.
    Thanks Graeme

  11. April 20, 2014


  12. Keith H. Shepherd permalink
    May 9, 2017

    I think the date on the picture “Chelsea Bun House in 1810” is wrong. Looking at the men’s fashions I would put the date at around the 1770 – definitely in the 18th Century.

  13. Juliet Sebestyen permalink
    May 17, 2020

    I agree,the bun house 18th c. But what a wonderful collection..thanks very much..

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