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Frank Merton Atkins’ City Churches

March 7, 2019
by the gentle author

A collection of photographs by Frank Merton Atkins – including these splendid pictures of City churches published today for the very first time – have recently been donated to the Bishopsgate Institute by his daughter Enid Ghent who had kept them in her loft since he died in 1964.

‘My father worked as a cartographer for a company of civil engineers in Westminster and he drew maps of tram lines,’ Enid recalled, ‘Both his parents were artists and he carried a camera everywhere. He loved to photograph old pubs, especially those that were about to be demolished. Sometimes he got up early in the morning to take photographs before work and at other times he went out on photography excursions in his lunch break. He was always looking around for photographs.’

Captions by Frank Merton Atkins

Christ Church, Spitalfields, 1 October 1957

All Hallows Staining Tower, 25 June 1957, 1.22pm

Cannon Street, looking west from corner of Bush Lane, 7 June 1957, 8.21am

St Botolph Aldgate, from Minories, 31 May 1960, 1.48pm

St Bride from Carter Lane, 31 May 1956, 8.20am

St Clement Danes Church, Strand, from Aldwych, 14 October 1958, 1.22pm

St Dunstan in the East (seen from pavement in front of Custom House), 13 June 1956, 1.14pm

St George Southwark, from Borough High Street, 14 August 1956, 8.15am

St James Garlickhithe, from Queenhithe, 20 May 1957, 8.23am

St Katherine Creechurch, 27 May 1957, 8.32am

St Magnus the Martyr, from the North, 26 June 1956, 8.17am

St Magnus the Martyr, Lower Thames Street, 26 June 1956, 8.23am

St Margaret Lothbury, 2 August 1957, 1.12pm

St Margaret Pattens, from St Mary At Hill, 13 June 1956, 1pm

St Mary Woolnoth, 8 August 1956, 5.49pm

St Pauls Church, Dock Street, Whitechapel, 3 September 1957, 1.09pm

St Pauls and St Augustine from Watling Street, 7 May 1957, 8.25am

St Vedast, from Wood Street, 30 July 1956, 8.17am

Photographs courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

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23 Responses leave one →
  1. Georgina Briody permalink
    March 7, 2019

    Brought back so many memories – thank you GA.

  2. Jill Wilson permalink
    March 7, 2019

    Great photos which make one appreciate yet again what a fantastic variety of extraordinary shapes the London church spires are. I wonder if they deliberately tried to outdo each other with more and more decorative designs when they were built?

    Also fascinating to see them in the context of the fifties with all the bomb damage, and construction work starting which is about to swamp the churches.

    How glorious the spires must have been before the age of skyscrapers…

  3. March 7, 2019

    So they were in the loft since 1964? I don’t think that I have seen better photos than these . The churches are the subject but the street is the story. I can’t quite put my finger on it but they brought the London of the 50s to life once again . Each one captured not just a view but a feeling of a hidden memory brought to life. I can only thank you , the Bishopsgate Institute, Enid Ghent for preserving and bringing them to us but and most of all Frank Merton Atkins for taking the photos .

  4. March 7, 2019

    Wonderful photos, thanks for showing. Valerie

  5. Greg Tingey permalink
    March 7, 2019

    How DIRTY everything was in the fifties …..
    One or two interesting vehicles in the pictures, too.

  6. Philip Marriage permalink
    March 7, 2019

    Lovely – a real treasure trove – more please!

  7. Richard Smith permalink
    March 7, 2019

    Fascinating photographs of a bygone age. Their impact is somehow heightened by the fact that each is so carefully dated and the precise time given. Truly a fleeting glimpse of a moment in time, thank you GA.

  8. Richard permalink
    March 7, 2019

    Love the streamline curves of the Ford Consul. Great pictures. Thanks

  9. Dave R permalink
    March 7, 2019

    Breathtaking. Hours of study here. That Cannon-Street shot has the feel of a Magnum photo – “Leave your headache here”. Thanks to all involved for sharing these.

  10. Helen Breen permalink
    March 7, 2019

    Greetings from Boston,

    GA, thanks to Enid Ghent for sharing those great photos of London churches taken by her father in the mid 20th century. Evidence of London’s post war re-construction is obvious with the lovely spires peeking out above.

    I particularly liked “St George Southwark, from Borough High Street, 14 August 1956, 8.15am” with the horse and cart plodding along in traffic.

    A welcome addition to the Bishopgate Institute I am sure…

  11. March 7, 2019

    What a wonderful collection of photographs. Apart from the excellent photographs of the churches themselves, it was great to be able to see the motorcars of the areas depicted.

    Tom French

  12. DAVID LAWSON permalink
    March 7, 2019

    Fascinating glimpses of London in the late 1950s. The churches are interesting but for me the people and vehicles and everyday life of my childhood are equally attractive.
    I would love to see more examples of his work

  13. Brent Thompson permalink
    March 7, 2019

    Surely the subject for another wonderful book?

  14. edith douglas permalink
    March 7, 2019

    Magnificent, thanks!

  15. Lew Tassell permalink
    March 7, 2019

    Wonderful photographs, what a find. I especially like the unusual shot of the Hawksmoor church, St Mary Woolnoth, with the building construction behind it.

  16. M D West permalink
    March 7, 2019

    A quick trawl through Google suggests only St Dunstan in the East has gone (for a garden), All Hallows Staining and St Augustines (by St Pauls) survive as towers, the latter having had its superstructure restored after Frank Merton Atkins photo…and the rest still stand

  17. Linda Pagnani permalink
    March 7, 2019

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos. I’m a Yankee born to British parents, made my first trip to England in 1986 nd fell deeply and eternally in love with London. I have ancestral connections with several of the old churches and have visited as many as possible. They are London’s treasures and I hope those that remain will be protected and stand forever.

  18. Jill Wilson permalink
    March 8, 2019

    My friend Ray has noticed that there is a sign for developing photographs in 6 1/2 hours which presumably was a really fast service for the time!

  19. Enid Ghent permalink
    March 8, 2019

    Thank you for all the interest shown in my Dad’s photos. I know he would be delighted that so many people had shown an interest in them. He was not a professional photographer but was very careful about the images he produced. He had his camera with him whoever he went. My 21yr old grandson Jack is also an amateur photographer, although he has had a few images published, and I will ensure that he sees them. I have given him my Dad’s camera.

  20. Bernie permalink
    March 8, 2019

    Those lovely images perfectly captured “My” London, which I left (with many regrets) in 1959.

  21. Marcia Howard permalink
    March 16, 2019

    An amazing collection

  22. Mandy Smith permalink
    April 10, 2020

    Hi, I would love to contact Enid as we have a large collections of her fathers photographs (taken in Croydon) in our local history collection and we would like to know more about her Father and the time he was in Croydon.

  23. Enid Ghent permalink
    July 13, 2020

    Mandy Smit,
    Happy for you to be in touch by email.
    Great to read all the lovely comments about my Dads photos. He would be thrilled.

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