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Libby Hall’s Dogs Of Old London

January 13, 2015
by the gentle author

As the Bishopsgate Institute announces an exhibition of the Dogs Of World War One and an entire season of canine-related cultural events, it is my pleasure to publish this splendid London selection from Libby Hall‘s wonderful collection of dog photography

Click to enlarge

Sometimes in London, I think I hear a lone dog barking in the distance and I wonder if it is an echo from another street or a yard. Sometimes in London, I wake late in the night and hear a dog calling out to me on the wind, in the dark silent city of my dreaming. What is this yelp I believe I hear in London, dis-embodied and far away? Is it the sound of the dogs of old London – the guard dogs, the lap dogs, the stray dogs, the police dogs, the performing dogs, the dogs of the blind, the dogs of the ratcatchers, the dogs of the watermen, the cadaver dogs, the mutts, the mongrels, the curs, the hounds and the puppies?

Libby Hall, who has gathered possibly the largest collection of dog photography ever made by any single individual, granted me the privilege of a private viewing of her pictures. We took Libby’s treasured photographs from their storage boxes, spread them out upon a polished table top together and began to look. We were seeking the dogs of old London in her collection. We pulled out those from London photographic studios and those labelled as London. Then, Libby also picked out those that she believes are London. And here you see the photographs we chose. How eager and yet how soulful are these metropolitan dogs of yesteryear. They were not camera shy.

The complete social range is present in this selection, from the dogs of the workplace to the dogs of the boudoir, although inevitably the majority are those whose owners had the disposable income for studio portraits. These pictures reveal that while human fashions change according to the era and the class, dogs exist in an eternal universal present. Even if they are the dogs of old London and even if in our own age we pay more attention to breeds, any of these dogs could have been photographed yesterday. And the quality of emotion these creatures drew from their owners is such that the people in the pictures are brought closer to us. They might otherwise withhold their feelings or retreat behind studio poses but, because of their relationships with their dogs, we can can recognise our common humanity more readily.

These pictures were once cherished by the owners after their dogs had died but now all the owners have died too, long ago. For the most part, we do not know the names of the subjects, either canine or human. All we are left with are these poignant records of tender emotion, intimate lost moments in the history of our city.

The dogs of old London no longer cock their legs at the trees, lamps and street corners of our ancient capital, no longer pull their owners along the pavement, no longer stretch out in front of the fire, no longer keep the neighbours awake barking all night, no longer doze in the sun, no longer sit up and beg, no longer bury bones, no longer fetch sticks, no longer gobble their dinners, no longer piss in the clean laundry, no longer play dead or jump for a treat. The dogs of old London are silent now.

Arthur Lee, Muswell Hill, inscribed “To Ruby with love from Crystal.”

Ellen Terry was renowned for her love of dogs as much as for her acting.

W.Pearce, 422 Lewisham High St.

This girl and her dog were photographed many times for cards and are believed to be the photographer’s daughter and her pet.

Emberson – Wimbledon, Surbiton & Tooting.

Edward VII’s dog Caesar that followed the funeral procession and became a national hero.

A prizewinner, surrounded by trophies and dripping with awards.

The Vicar of Leyton and his dog.

The first dog to be buried here was run over outside the gatekeeper’s lodge, setting a fashionable precedent, and within twenty-five years the gatekeeper’s garden was filled with over three hundred upper class pets.

Libby Hall, collector of dog photographs.

Photographs copyright © The Libby Hall Collection at the Bishopsgate Institute

You may like to read my original profile

Libby Hall, Collector of Dog Photography

32 Responses leave one →
  1. January 13, 2015

    These pictures are adorable and poignant. I have hundreds of pictures that I have taken of my dogs vs. very few of myself. My dogs are cute, I’m not.

  2. Catherine permalink
    January 13, 2015

    Looking forward to seeing this very much.

  3. January 13, 2015

    Is it just an illusion or true: In many cases dogs have the same physiognomy as their owners…? It’s funny!

    Love & Peace

    *** JE SUIS CHARLIE ***

  4. Eileen Coleburn permalink
    January 13, 2015

    I loved them all, but oh, “Our Billy and me” brought a tear to my eye….

  5. Greg Tingey permalink
    January 13, 2015

    Lots of terriers, esp “fox-terriers” …
    What about CATS of old London, then?
    ( Starting with “Hodge” I assume … )

  6. January 13, 2015

    Great to have Libby’s dogs back. What is it about dogs? I gaze at my own rescue, tiger brindle lurcher in adoration and admit I might be in love!

  7. marcus ainley permalink
    January 13, 2015

    These wonderful photographs deserve to be made into a book, along the lines of Spitalfield Nippers – (Nipper being the name of the HMV dog at the gramophone) – Jack Russell owner (Dipity) and graphic designer (Marcus)

  8. Jude permalink
    January 13, 2015

    Felt quite teary, seeing all the adoring owners…and maybe thinking of my old dogs too! A lovely collection.

  9. January 13, 2015

    What wonderful pictures, thanks for showing these.

  10. January 13, 2015

    Ah, what would we do without ardent collectors!
    These do so bring a smile to the face and a song in the heart.
    Heart-warming and marvellous.
    (And I echo Belle’s ‘adoration’ comment :-))

  11. Judith permalink
    January 13, 2015

    Thank you, wonderful photos and always wonderful writing. Your blog is a delight for a Lover of London an ocean away, and one of only a few I read regularly.

  12. Teresa Stokes permalink
    January 13, 2015

    The pet cemetery at Hyde Park is now closed to the public and had no burials for years, but can still be glimpsed through the railings. It’s in the garden of the Gatekeeper’s Lodge at Victoria Gate.

  13. Lynn F permalink
    January 13, 2015

    Lovely photos! Thank you for sharing them.

  14. January 13, 2015

    Wonderful photos! Valerie

  15. Barbara permalink
    January 13, 2015

    Have to admit that although I am a ” cat ” person myself, these photographs are absolutely beautiful . Thank you Libby for saving them from the dustbin . Will try and get to see the exhibition .

  16. Ros permalink
    January 13, 2015

    A really excellent selection, of dogs and owners. Thanks Libby, and thanks GA.

  17. anne permalink
    January 13, 2015

    What wonderful pictures! Would love to see the return of your features of modern day dogs of Spitalfields too.

  18. Neville Turner permalink
    January 13, 2015

    A truely captiivating collection of photo’s of our animal freinds some of the best i have seen, thank you Libby and let us see more.

  19. January 13, 2015

    Absolutely charming set of photographs. I particularly liked the one of The Vicar of Leyton and his dog, the Chow Chow. My how much those dogs have changed over the years with breeding.

    Thank you for sharing.

  20. Juliet. Shipman permalink
    January 14, 2015

    I loved the little girl who had written ‘our Billy and me’ on the photo. What love and pride there is expressed between owner and dog.

  21. Richard permalink
    January 14, 2015

    The girl in ‘our Billy and me’ seems to have an art nouveau pattern on her dress. Must have been made for her by her mum.

  22. Mary Moulder permalink
    January 15, 2015

    What charming photographs! I’m not sure if the dogs reflect their owners, or the owners reflect their dogs. Such kindness and connection between sensitive beings!
    Thank you.

  23. Bee permalink
    January 15, 2015

    A wonderful selection – please tell me there is a book or there will be a book. I would love to see more. Thank you.

  24. BARBARA KIDD permalink
    January 16, 2015

    My Daughter sent these photos to me from a friend in England, I think they are just adorable and they bring tears to my eyes looking at them , as you can see I’m a dog lover,I’d love them in a book form eventually, Regards BARBARA.

  25. Matt Gurney permalink
    January 30, 2015

    Always been a nation of Dog lovers, these photographs are fantastic ..more please!!

  26. Maggie K permalink
    January 31, 2015

    “Our Billy and me”. As a first child my parents were obsessed with pictures of me. I refused to have one taken without the dog. Now, with four dogs, at age 70, they are very crowded photos.

  27. Kittie Aldakkour permalink
    February 1, 2015

    What an interesting group of photographs. I collect old photos of people and their dogs as well, and have several albums full. It would be nice to share this collection on Pinterest and Facebook for others to see as well. We will be visiting London in April and I am going to look into a visit to the Bishopsgate Institute. Thank you.

  28. Marie permalink
    February 12, 2015

    Beautiful photographs. These, and your story reminded me that we used to train dogs to sit up and beg, and to shake hands – we don’t really do this now. Does anybody teach dogs ‘tricks’ anymore? It’s an interesting reflection on our relationships with animals, in different times, and how we see them in relation to ourselves.

  29. April 24, 2015

    The pug looks more of a Hogarth type, a lot healthier..
    Loads of terriers.. ratters?

  30. Chris Clinton permalink
    April 27, 2015

    wonderful photos – and I have to say it, many of the purebreeds pictured look better to me than some today, and I am a past breeder of Border Terriers, who thankfully stay true to their original type.

  31. Linda from Cape Cod permalink
    September 10, 2017

    Loved all the dog photos but as a Schipperke lover I am especially fond of the woman and her Schipperke. The look of love they are exchanging is priceless! Thank you for sharing your wonderful collection.

  32. Barbara Miller permalink
    June 29, 2024

    I love collecting and I love dogs but I never thought of collecting old pictures of dogs. So glad you did. As a woman whose only dog was a Sealyham I was hoping to find one in the collection. I did, a girl with a Jack Russell and a Sealyham. My dog was the best dog but I suppose all of us who love our dogs think that we have the best. Wonderful photos, the love between humans and their dogs is very apparent, not a dog there I wouldn’t have stopped to visit with for a while.

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