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The London Alphabet

April 9, 2018
by the gentle author

Although this Alphabet of London in the archive at the Bishopsgate Institute dates from more than one hundred and fifty years ago, it is remarkable how many of the landmarks illustrated are still with us. The original facade of newly-opened ‘Northern Station’ which is now newly-uncovered after recent renovations – at the terminus we know as ‘King’s Cross’ – reveals that this alphabet was produced in the eighteen fifties. The Houses of Parliament which were begun in 1840 and took thirty years to complete were still under construction then and, consequently, Big Ben is represented by an undersized artist’s impression of how it was expected to look. Naturally, I was especially intrigued by – “O’s the market for Oranges, eastward a long way. If you first ask for Houndsditch you won’t take the wrong way.” I wonder which East East market this could refer to?

Pictures courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

13 Responses leave one →
  1. April 9, 2018

    I would have loved this had I been a C19th kid. I would have dreamed of visiting the great city.

  2. Paul Loften permalink
    April 9, 2018

    T is for thanks for showing this to us
    Now its always upstairs for me on the bus

  3. Stephen Barker permalink
    April 9, 2018

    A 150 years on Parliament is going to cost a great deal of money to bring its infrastructure up to date and to prevent it going up in flames again.

  4. Akkers permalink
    April 9, 2018

    Great article as always. According to one of my Aunts, the Orange Market was an old Victorian market at Duke’s Place in Houndsditch.

  5. April 9, 2018

    You always paint a grand picture, with intriguing images. Here in the Hudson River Valley, I am working with a remarkable photographer, B Docktor, to put together an exhibit for our town hall,
    “Ancram A to Z”. Using her images, we are creating a visual microcosm of our unique slice of the world. Like you, GA, she is an inveterate chronicler of her surroundings. She captures the beauty of this place with every click of the lens. I just forwarded her your London alphabet, to keep the inspiration going.
    Thank you for always sharing the continuum of ideas. These historic images are lovely.

  6. April 9, 2018

    Interesting but apparently only 7 images contain images of animals , however the numbers of buildings are somewhat extant even though the images took place so many years ago.

  7. Helen Breen permalink
    April 9, 2018

    Greetings from Boston,

    “Although this Alphabet of London in the archive at the Bishopsgate Institute dates from more than one hundred and fifty years ago, it is remarkable how many of the landmarks illustrated are still with us.”

    Agreed. And it was fun to follow along and recognize so many sites that survive, accompanied by appropriate verse. Gracias…

  8. pauline taylor permalink
    April 9, 2018

    These are wonderful and still very informative, thank you.
    And it has given me an idea as to suggesting a similar alphabet about the sights to see here in Colchester, Britain’s First City, I am sure that it is something that our destination Colchester could market to good effect. All we need is to find our Roman amphitheatre for A. I think we could easily find all the others B for Balkerne Gate, C for the biggest Roman Circus in Europe and so on ~~~ I can’t wait to get started.

  9. Chris H permalink
    April 10, 2018

    As noted by someone already in the comment to this post, the Orange Market near Houndsditch appears to have been in Duke’s Place. It gets a mention in “London Exhibited” of 1852 which has a list of markets. “London Labour and the London Poor” of 1851, however, prefers Duke Street.
    At first sight, it might look as if there were disagreement – but as can be seen from the 1896 OS map
    all this is the same area with one arm of Duke St opening into St James’ Sq, which is close to and connected to Mitre Sq.
    That just leaves Duke’s Place. In 1868 we still see St James’s Sq (extra “s” in that one) separated from but linked to Mitre Sq
    but in 1827 they are more contiguous (and called Broad Place)
    Further back again the detail is not so good but we can see the combined areas are named Duke’s Place
    So the Orange Market was in St James’ Sq which was Duke’s Place which is at the end of Duke St and was once part of Mitre Sq which was also Broad Place – so everyone was right. Hooray.
    Today the arm of Duke St that led to the St James’ Place is Creechurch Lane (which it was already on the other side). Another arm of Duke St has become today’s Dukes Place and what’s left of St James’s Place is now Creechurch Place and had just the narrow Mitre Passage through a building linking it to Mitre Square – last time I was there it was blocked off by building work, but given the City’s policy on such things hopefully the new building will still have the passage.

  10. Chris H permalink
    April 10, 2018

    A nice item and very well drawn. The generic “Government Offices” are clearly recognisable as 70 Whitehall, today’s Cabinet Office.
    The gay Docks may be harder to pin down though.
    It can be dated to a three-year period in the 1850s as the Great Northern Station (or great Northern as it had to be to begin with N) opened in 1852, and the livestock market shown in Smithfield moved to the Metropolitan (Caledonian) Market in 1855.
    Nice to see the old (and then very new) east wing of Buckingham Palace – a different design to today’s façade. Nice also to see it being renamed in desperation to get something beginning with Q 🙂

  11. April 12, 2018

    What I like about this ABC is that it has none of the pomposity you find in little educational Victorian books of the time, especially the Q. & A. types. and yes, lovely clear drawings.

  12. tovangar2 permalink
    May 25, 2018

    Akkers is correct, Duke’s Place, Houndsditch was a market for oranges and nuts

  13. tovangar2 permalink
    May 26, 2018

    Goodness, that imagined Big Ben (at “P”) was an eye-opener.

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