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LAMAS Photographs

January 2, 2021
by the gentle author

To give you a chance to stock up for the cold months ahead, we are having a January sale. All titles in the online shop are half price with the discount code JANUARY until midnight on Twelfth Night.

Click here to visit the Spitalfields Life Bookshop

Hundreds of LAMAS photographs are featured in THE GENTLE AUTHOR’S LONDON ALBUM which is included in the sale.

Many years ago, I became enraptured by a hundred-year-old collection of four thousand lantern slides. They were once used for educational lectures by the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society (LAMAS) at the Bishopsgate Institute in Spitalfields. When Stefan Dickers became archivist there, he discovered the slides in dusty old boxes – abandoned and forgotten since they became obselete. Yet it has since become apparent that these slides, which were ignored for so long, are one of the greatest treasures in the collection. Thanks to the Institute, I was able to publish a selection of my favourite images in print for the first time in my London Album.

When I was first offered the opportunity of presenting these lantern slides which have been unseen for generations, I was overwhelmed by the number of pictures and did not know where to start. The first to catch my fancy were the ancient signs and symbols, dating from an era before street numbering located addresses and lettered signs advertised trades to Londoners.

Before long, I grew spellbound by the slide collection because, alongside the famous landmarks and grand occasions of state, there were pictures of forgotten corners and of ordinary people going about their business. It was a delight to discover hundreds of images of things that people do not usually photograph and I was charmed to realise that the anonymous photographers of the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society were as interested in pubs as they were in churches.

The more I studied the glass slides, the more joy I found in these arcane pictures, since every one contained the rich potential of hidden stories, seducing the imagination to flights of fancy regarding the ever-interesting subject of Old London. Once I had published The Signs of Old London, I realised there were many other such sets to be found among the slides, as a result of the systematic recording of London which underscored the original project by the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society, a hundred years ago, and parallels my own work in Spitalfields Life, today.

If you cast your eye over the list of categories at the end of this story, that I chose to arrange these slides, you will see that I arranged them quite literally – in terms of doors, or night, or dinners, or streets, or staircases. I did this because I was interested to explore how the pictures might speak to me and to you, the readers. No evidence has survived to indicate in what sequence or order they were originally shown and it was my intention to avoid imposing any grand narratives of power or poverty, although these pictures do speak powerfully of these subjects. Recognising that objects and images are capable of many interpretations, I am one that prefers museums which permit the viewer to decide for themselves, rather than be presented with artefacts subject to a single meaning within an ordained story and so, with the Album, we have presented the pictures and invited the reader to draw their own conclusions.

Equally, in publishing the slides, we chose not to clean them up or remove imperfections and dirt. Similarly, we did not standardise the colour to black or a uniform sepia, either. Instead, we have cherished the subtle variations of hues present in these slides and savoured the beautiful colour contrasts between them, when laid side by side. There is a melancholic poetry in these shabby images, in which their damage and their imperfections speak of their history, and I came to glory in the patina and murk.

Above all, in publishing these pictures in my Album, I wanted to communicate the pleasure I have found in scrutinising them at length and entering another world imaginatively through the medium of this sublime photography.

Dustcart, c. 1910

The construction of Tower Bridge, 1886 -1894

Balloon ascent at Crystal Palace, Sydenham c. 1930

The Old Mitre, Hatton Garden

Fair at Hampstead Heath, c. 1910

Houses of Parliament by moonlight

The Old Vine Tavern, Mile End Rd

Wapping Pier Head,


Trinity Green Almshouses, Mile End c. 1920

Throgmorton St, c. 1920

Vintners’ Company, Master’s Installation procession, City of London, c.1920

Tram emerging from the Kingsway Tunnel, c. 1920

Clare Market, Aldwych, c. 1900

Barges next to Houses of Parliament, c. 1910

Leadenhall Market, c. 1910

Covent Garden Flower Hall, c. 1910

Whitechapel Hay Market, c. 1920

Butcher’s Shop, Hoxton Market c. 1900

St. Martin, Ludgate with St. Paul’s Cathedral, c. 1900

Rose Alley, Southwark, c. 1910

Tomb of Daniel Defoe at Bunhill Fields, c. 1910

Wall’s Ice Cream Seller c. 1920

The London Mayor’s Parade passes St Paul’s

White Drawing Room, Buckingham Palace, c. 1910

Boys lining up at The Oval, c.1930

Monument to Lady Elizabeth Nightingale, Westminster Abbey, c.1910

St Dunstan in the East, City of London, 1911

Mercers’ Hall, c.1910

St Bride’s Fleet St, c. 1920

Muffin Man, c. 1910

Regent St, 1900

Glass slides courtesy of Bishopsgate Institute

Take a look at these sets of the glass slides of Old London

The Nights of Old London

The Signs of Old London

The Markets of Old London

The Pubs of Old London

The High Days & Holidays of Old London

The Dinners of Old London

The Shops of Old London

The Streets of Old London

The Tombs of Old London

The Bridges of Old London

The Forgotten Corners of Old London

The Statues & Effigies of Old London

Click here to order a copy for half price


7 Responses leave one →
  1. January 2, 2021

    Thank you for sharing these wonderful old photo’s I especially liked the one of the old Ice Cream Cart. HAPPY NEW YEAR to you

  2. January 2, 2021

    The uncaptioned photo after Throgmorton St c. 1920 shows the corner of Old Compton St and Greek St, in Soho, in 1934: Here’s How!, advertised on one of the hoardings, opened at the Saville Theatre in February 1934.

  3. Paola. Oore permalink
    January 2, 2021

    Magical glimpse into a time not so long ago. My father, born in 1922 would have loved these, having seen so many changes in his lifetime.

  4. January 2, 2021

    A fascinating selection, but I think ‘Barges next to Houses of Parliament, c. 1910’ [A6651.jpg] has been flipped.

  5. paul loften permalink
    January 2, 2021

    Thank You and the Bishopsgate Institute. Simply magnificent. This is our London, where has it gone. Am I justified in saying we have witnessed an act of theft in seeing the cold monstrosities that now appear from nowhere, before our eyes?

  6. Lizebeth permalink
    January 2, 2021

    Thank you so much for sharing these amazing photos. I only wish I could be walking the streets of London when they were taken. Why was life back then so much more beautiful, even in squalor, than ours today?

  7. Pamela Traves permalink
    January 3, 2021

    These have been Wonderful Pictures of Vintage Time. This is My Favourite Pics. Thank You So Very Much!!!???????????

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