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Forgotten Corners Of Old London

November 27, 2015
by the gentle author

Who knows what you might find lurking in the forgotten corners of old London? Like this lonely old waxwork of Charles II who once adorned a side aisle of Westminster Abbey, peering out through a haze of graffiti engraved upon his pane by mischievous tourists with diamond rings.

As one with a pathological devotion to walking through London’s sidestreets and byways, seeking to avoid the main roads wherever possible, these glass slides of the forgotten corners of London – used long ago by the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society for magic lantern shows at the Bishopsgate Institute – hold a special appeal for me. I have elaborate routes across the city which permit me to walk from one side to the other exclusively by way of the back streets and I discover all manner of delights neglected by those who solely inhabit the broad thoroughfares.

And so it is with many of these extraordinary pictures that show us the things which usually nobody bothers to photograph. There are a lot of glass slides of the exterior of Buckingham Palace in the collection but, personally, I am much more interested in the roof space above Richard III’s palace of Crosby Hall that once stood in Bishopsgate, and in the unlikely  paraphernalia which accumulated in the crypt of the Carmelite Monastery or the Cow Shed at the Tower of London, a hundred years ago. These pictures satisfy my perverse curiosity to visit the spaces closed off to visitors at historic buildings, in preference to seeing the public rooms.

Within these forgotten corners, there are always further mysteries to be explored. I wonder who pitched a teepee in the undergrowth next to the moat at Fulham Palace in 192o. I wonder if that is a cannon or a chimney pot abandoned in the crypt at the Carmelite monastery. I wonder why that man had a bucket, a piece of string and a plank inside the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. I wonder what those fat books were next to the stove in the Worshipful Company of Apothecaries’ shop. I wonder who was pulling that girl out of the photograph in Woolwich Gardens. I wonder who put that dish in the roof of Crosby Hall. I wonder why Charles II had no legs. The pictures set me wondering.

It is what we cannot know that endows these photographs with such poignancy. Like errant pieces from lost jigsaws, they inspire us to imagine the full picture that we shall never be party to.

Tiltyard Gate, Eltham Palace, c. 1930

Refuse collecting at London Zoo, c. 1910

Passage in Highgate, c. 1910

Westminster Dust Carts, c. 1910

The Jewel Tower, Westminster, 1921

Fifteenth century brickwork at Charterhouse Wash House, c1910

Middle Temple Lane, c. 1910

Carmelite monastery crypt, c. 1910

The Moat at Fulham Palace, c. 1920

Clifford’s Inn, c. 1910

Top of inner dome at St Paul’s Cathedral, c. 1920

Apothecaries’ Hall Quadrangle, c. 1920

Worshipful Company of Apothecaries’ Shop, c.1920

Unidentified destroyed building near St Paul’s, c. 1940

Merchant Taylors’ Hall, c. 1920

Crouch End Old Baptist Chapel, c. 1900

Woolwich Gardens, c. 1910

The roof of Crosby Hall, Richard III’s palace in Bishopsgate , c. 1910

Refreshment stall in St James’ Park, c. 1910

River Wandle at Wandsworth, c. 1920

Corridor at Battersea Rise House, c. 1900

Tram emerging from the Kingsway Tunnel, c. 1920

Between the interior and exterior domes at St Paul’s Cathedral, c. 1920

Fossilised tree trunk on Tooting Common, c. 1920

St Dunstan-in-the-East, 1911

Cow shed at the Queen’s House, Tower of London, c. 1910

Boundary marks for St Benet Gracechurch, St Andrew Hubbard and St Dionis Backchurch in Talbot Court, c. 1910

Lincoln’s Inn gateway seen from Old Hall, c. 1910

St Bride’s Fleet St, c. 1920

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

15 Responses leave one →
  1. Barbara Elsmore permalink
    November 27, 2015

    Fabulous. I particularly liked the corporation dustcarts and the refreshment stall that came with its own cow!

  2. November 27, 2015

    Wonderful and evocative photos. Thanks for sharing, Valerie

  3. Mike permalink
    November 27, 2015

    A delightful set of pictures of a bygone London. Thank you, Gentle Author for sharing these with us all

  4. Anita Sibrits permalink
    November 27, 2015

    Thank you, Gentle Author. Have you thought of publishing your “paths through the back streets”? I am sure many of us would love to meander in your paths, seeing better with the aid of your eyes. Or perhaps you have already done so….

  5. November 27, 2015

    I like hidden corners, smaller less frequented streets. To me they represent the secret presence of a city’s spirit. I had to smile at King Charles, he looks like a right miserable bugger.

  6. November 27, 2015

    Truly fascinating photographs. Where, I wonder is the waxwork of Charles II now?

  7. Brian R Bird permalink
    November 27, 2015

    Would be interested if you printed your side street routes across the city & central London ?

  8. Robert G. Redford permalink
    November 27, 2015

    Fabulously evocative photographs, thanks for letting us see them. I notice that Crosby Hall now relocated to the embankment at Chelsea has been undergoing massive restoration. I wonder who owns it now and whether it will ever be open to the public.

  9. Roger C permalink
    November 27, 2015

    Another great post 🙂 I’m with the others who would love to read your “paths through the back streets” routes, as I also love to get away from the crowds and photograph the little noticed parts of old London.

  10. Gloria Watson permalink
    November 27, 2015

    I could look at these old photos for ever. You are so lucky to be able to view these slides from the Institute which enables you to share them with us. Keep up the good work.

  11. Chris C permalink
    November 27, 2015

    The ‘Unidentified destroyed building near St Paul’s, c. 1940′ was the former Cordwainers’ Hall on Cannon Street by H Chatfeild-Clarke – see here for another image:

  12. Jenn permalink
    November 27, 2015

    Tried to find the parish boundary markers in Talbot Court today, but they no longer appear to be there. (And would love to know where that Highgate passage is located!)

  13. Stephen Barker permalink
    November 28, 2015

    I enjoyed the photos very much. I was interested in the boundary markers as I have seen a couple in Leicester.

  14. Margaret Gaskin permalink
    November 28, 2015

    I’m sure you know, but King Charles is back on display at Westminster Abbey – and appears to have got his legs back!

  15. Rod permalink
    December 1, 2015

    Its always a pleasure to wander down memory lane , thank you for the hours of work that must go into each article

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