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Ernest George’s Old London

April 30, 2019
by the gentle author


Stefan Dickers, Archivist at Bishopsgate Institute, brought out these fine copper plate etchings by Ernest George (1839-1922) to show me this week. In the eighteen-eighties, George set out to immortalise those fragments of London which spoke of times gone by and Londoners long dead, recording buildings and views which have for the most part now disappeared.

I realise that my affection for these images sets me in line with the generations of chroniclers who have made it their business to document the transience of the city, starting with John Stow who wrote the very first Survey of London between 1560 and 1598 to describe the streets of his childhood that were vanishing before his eyes.

Ernest George’s etchings were published by the Fine Art Society in New Bond St in 1884, a magnificent temple of culture designed by Edward William Godwin which survived through the twentieth century only to close in August 2018.


Wych St, Strand

Fouberts Place, Soho

Crown Court, Pall Mall

St Bartholomew, Smithfield

Warwick Lane, City

Tower of London

London Bridge

Staple Inn, Holborn

Drury Lane

St John’s Gate, Clerkenwell



Images courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

You may also like to look at

Peta Bridle’s London Etchings

9 Responses leave one →
  1. Alan Mills permalink
    April 30, 2019

    Wonderful images; thank you very much.
    To think that our London ancestors lived in places like these …..

  2. April 30, 2019

    A wonderful glimpse into the past. Valerie

  3. Jill Wilson permalink
    April 30, 2019

    Fantastically atmospheric drawings of bygone London. They would be a great reference for a stage set depicting that time and place – it is difficult to imagine just how ramshackle the old buildings were!

  4. Steve Hanscomb permalink
    April 30, 2019

    Absolutely beautiful work. Each one has such life in it, wonderful!

  5. Connie Unangst permalink
    April 30, 2019

    This was such a fascinating look at Old London. Always helpful when looking for small details of everyday life in the 18th and 19th centuries. I always share a screen shot or two with my 18th century reenactors friends.

  6. Anne Scott permalink
    April 30, 2019

    I thoroughly enjoyed these – I keep going back to examine all the detail. Thank you for posting them.

  7. Harry Harrison permalink
    April 30, 2019

    As well as being a very fine artist Ernest George was an influential architect who was known as the ‘Eton of architects’. As well as being responsible with his partner Harold Peto for many fine late victorian buildings amongst his pupils were Edwin Lutyens, Guy Dawber, Herbert Baker and Ethel Charles who became the first woman to be elected a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects.

  8. April 30, 2019

    What beautiful etchings. Its as though they have a life of their own and draw you into a world which is pulsating with activity. I ask myself why streets have become so bland and desolate now. Perhaps the answer lies in the path we have taken with corporate entities dominating our every twist and turn. Perhaps the intricacies of the buildings reflect the nature of the times and the
    inner life of people that walked the Earth then .

  9. gkbowood permalink
    May 3, 2019

    From what angle is the etching of the Tower drawn? I am trying to reconcile it with today and of course there are no water steps…

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