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People Of Wonderful London

March 2, 2016
by the gentle author

It is my pleasure to publish these dignified and characterful portraits of Londoners, believed to be by photographer Donald McLeish (1879-1950), selected from the three volumes of Wonderful London edited by St John Adcock and produced by The Fleetway House in the nineteen-twenties.

Telescope Man on Westminster Bridge

Old woman who inhabited the alleys off Fleet St

Breton Onion Seller

Costermonger and child

Cats’ Meat Man

Knife Grinder


Islington Window Cleaner

Flower Seller

Concertina Player

Hurdy-Gurdy Man

Gramophone Man


Wandering Harpist

Street Sweeper


District Messenger

Telephone Messenger

Railway Fireman

Railway Engine Driver


Railway Porter

Gold Beaters

Gas Fitters

Chimney Sweep

Telephone Cable Man

Photographs courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

You might also like to take a look at

John Thomson’s Street Life in London

London Characters

William Nicholson’s London Types

Julius Mendes Price’s London Types

Geoffrey Fetcher’s Pavement Pounders

12 Responses leave one →
  1. David Tarrant permalink
    March 2, 2016

    What wonderful photographs. I was spellbound looking at these. My great grandfather was a gas fitter so I particularly enjoyed that one.

    Thank you so much for sharing these.

  2. Joanne C permalink
    March 2, 2016

    Fantastic !

  3. Suzanne Keyte permalink
    March 2, 2016

    Wonderful photos – thank you but I’m a bit puzzled by the ‘Cats’ Meat Man’ – was there really such a person who provided meat for cats?

  4. Peter Holford permalink
    March 2, 2016

    I’ve got one or two carmen in my family tree so it’s good to see an example. The escapologist looks like Peter Cook to me – uncanny.

  5. neal nicholls permalink
    March 2, 2016

    The Harpist looks very nasty.

  6. March 2, 2016

    Great collection – i’d like to know though what a carman did? He seems to be with a horse. Thanks. Nicola

  7. Annie S permalink
    March 2, 2016

    Love the Telephone Cable man – no safety harnesses in those days!

  8. Linda Granfield permalink
    March 2, 2016

    I wondered what some of the jobs entailed, like other commenters.
    Did people have the money to buy meat for their cats? (sorry if a stupid question!)

    The balancing act of the telephone cable man makes me think of the famous shots of the builders high atop New York’s skyscrapers–oblivious to the vast height!

    thank you, as always, for the glimpse into the past

  9. March 2, 2016

    Yes, these are dignified portraits. Though the harpist is amusingly grumpy-looking. Perhaps wandering about with a harp was rather a chore.

    What’s more amazing is the quiet smiles of pride on so many of the faces of these hard working people, like the District Messenger.

  10. March 2, 2016

    These are such beautiful photographs. I mourn the slow demolition of our city by the wrecking ball of profit, profit, profit. Oh, I know that these people are long dead, and their occupations, but music in the street was not policed in living memory, and those who got by via scavenging were not criminalised and sanitised. Thanks, again, The Gentle Author.

  11. Clunking Fist permalink
    March 3, 2016

    Even the chimney sweep wore a jacket and collar. I always wonder where did the low paid got their clothing: hand-me-downs/second hand from the middle classes, or were the garments a lower quality/cheaper version of the “real thing”?

  12. Mark Loveday permalink
    March 3, 2016

    I am not convinced that our streets have been subjected to a wreaking ball driven by profit, as much as they were subject to the German Airforce in WWII.

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