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Vanishing London

May 21, 2018
by the gentle author

Four Swans, Bishopsgate, photographed by William Strudwick & demolished 1873

In 1906, F G Hilton Price, Vice President of the London Topographical Society opened his speech to the members at the annual meeting with these words – ‘We are all familiar with the hackneyed expression ‘Vanishing London’ but it is nevertheless an appropriate one for – as a matter of fact – there is very little remaining in the City which might be called old London … During the last sixty years or more there have been enormous changes, the topography has been altered to a considerable extent, and London has been practically rebuilt.’

These photographs are selected from volumes of the Society’s ‘London Topographic Record,’ published between 1900 and 1939, which adopted the melancholy duty of recording notable old buildings as they were demolished in the capital. Yet even this lamentable catalogue of loss exists in blithe innocence of the London Blitz that was to come.

Bell Yard, Fleet St, photographed by William Strudwick

Pope’s House, Plough Court, Lombard St, photographed by William Strudwick

Lambeth High St photographed by William Strudwick

Peter’s Lane, Smithfield, photographed by William Strudwick

Millbank Suspension Bridge & Wharves, August 1906, photographed by Walter L Spiers

54 & 55 Lincoln’s Inn Fields and the archway leading into Sardinia St, demolished 1912, photographed by Walter L Spiers

Sardinian Chapel, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, August 1906, demolished 1908, photographed by Walter L Spiers

Archway leading into Great Scotland Yard and 1 Whitehall, September 1903, photographed by Walter L Spiers

New Inn, Strand,  June 1889, photographed by Ernest G Spiers

Nevill’s Court’s, Fetter Lane, March 1910, demolished 1911, photographed by Walter L Spiers

14 & 15 Nevill’s Court, Fetter Lane, demolished 1911

The Old Dick Whittington, Cloth Fair, April 1898, photographed by Walter L Spiers

Bartholomew Close, August 1904, photographed by Walter L Spiers

Williamson’s Hotel, New Court, City of London

Raquet Court, Fleet St

Collingwood St, Blackfriars Rd

Old Houses, North side of the Strand

Courtyard of 32 Botolph Lane, April 1905, demolished 1906, photographed by Walter L Spiers

32 Botolph Lane, April 1905, demolished 1906, photographed by Walter L Spiers

Bird in Hand, Long Acre

Houses in Millbank St, September 1903, photographed by Walter L Spiers

Door to Cardinal Wolsey’s Wine Cellar, Board of Trade Offices, 7 Whitehall Gardens

Old Smithy, Bell St, Edgware Rd, demolished by Baker St & Edgware Railway

Architectural Museum, Cannon Row, Westminster

Images courtesy Bishopsgate Insitute

You may also like to look at

London’s Ancient Topography

Long Forgotten London

The Ghosts of Old London

A Room To Let in Old Aldgate

15 Responses leave one →
  1. Helen Webberley permalink
    May 21, 2018

    Those photos are precious. In many cases they may be the only recorded document of buildings that have disappeared forever. For example what happened to the Four Swans in Bishopsgate, after it was demolished in 1873? And what happened to the Sardinian Chapel in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, after it was demolished in 1908?

  2. Geoff Stocker permalink
    May 21, 2018

    Really does show that London was made up of lots of little villages. Some wonderful shop and trade signs sadly not around so much now.

  3. Christopher Glen permalink
    May 21, 2018

    Fascinating…and, as you say, people had no idea of the destruction that was yet to come with the arrival of the Blitz

  4. Richard Smith permalink
    May 21, 2018

    A fascinating and evocative post, thank you GA. This was a world that existed when my grandfather was born not that I’m sure if he ever ventured as far as London. It’s fascinating to see when the pictures were taken and when the buildings were demolished. Can I ask that were possible the date when the buildings were erected is included if it is known? Thank you.

  5. Sue permalink
    May 21, 2018

    Wonderful photos.

  6. Ron Bunting permalink
    May 21, 2018

    The last photo says alot.. When the stair case became so rotten it was too dangerous to use, a new one was built,right over the top of the existing one.

  7. pauline taylor permalink
    May 21, 2018

    Thank you GA for these evocative images of scenes long since gone but which would have been so familiar to all my London ancestors most of whom were born and lived and worked close beside the River Thames, and the Tearoes actually worked on it of course in earlier times ferrying the Archbishop along it and umpteen people across it from Lambeth to Westminster. I doubt if some of these scenes had changed much in all those years, and now sadly there would be very little that they would recognize, it really is a sad reflection of the times that we live in.

  8. Gregory Hubbard permalink
    May 21, 2018

    Evocative photos of a London that is long gone. I hope the interiors of some of these buildings were recorded as well.

    You could publish, again, a similar set of photographs of losses in the London of the 21st century. We have not learned as much as we thought…

  9. Marcia Howard permalink
    May 21, 2018

    Amazing images, taking us straight into an era long gone, but still feeling we’re right in it. Thank you for sharing.

  10. Robert permalink
    May 21, 2018

    What was the idea behind the shutters leaning outwards? Was it to reflect light into the rooms? When I see photos like these there are always buildings one could imagine being around today, but others that are of a style that has vanished completely.

  11. Sonia Murray permalink
    May 22, 2018

    Gentle Author, you never fail to surprise me! The photographs are fascinating glimpses of a bygone era. I only wish Gran could see your picture of 54-55 Lincoln’s Inn Fields as it existed in the early years of the century. In 1952 she took me there, was bemused that the building was new to her, and said “But this is where I met the man who became my husband.” Memories…!

    Let us have more photographs of Old London, please!

  12. Julian Woodford permalink
    May 22, 2018

    Frederick Hilton Price was the man behind the hanging signs of Lombard Street! See my post at:

  13. Peter Biernis permalink
    May 23, 2018

    Used to love delivering veg to Spitalfields think it has now lost some of its charm and been taken over by the hip crowd somewhat

  14. May 27, 2018

    Thank you very much for these. I was delighted to see the photo of No 2 Plough Court, which was the home and business address of Silvanus Bevan (1691-1765). He founded the Plough Court Pharmacy, which later became Allen and Hanburys. His brother Timothy, my 5th great grandfather, also traded there and married Elizabeth Barclay the daughter of the founder of Barclay’s Bank.

  15. Gillian permalink
    February 22, 2021

    A wonderful glimpse into a world long ago.

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