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John Thomas Smith’s Antiquities Of Old London

April 27, 2022
by the gentle author

For good reason John Thomas Smith acquired the nickname ‘Antiquity Smith’ – while working as Keeper of Drawings at the British Museum, between 1790 & 1800, he produced a large series of etchings recording all the antiquities of London, from which I publish this selection of favourites today

Old houses in the Butcher Row near Clement’s Inn, taken down 30th March 1798 – the right hand corner house is suggested to have been the one in which the Gunpowder Plot was determined and sworn

A Curious Pump – in the yard of the Leathersellers’ Hall, Bishopsgate

Sir Paul Pindar’s Lodge, Half Moon Alley, Bishopsgate

A Curious Gate in Stepney – traditionally called King John’s Gate, it is the oldest house in Stepney

London Stone – supposed to be the Millinarium of the Romans from which they measured distances

The Queen’s Nursery, Golden Lane, Barbican

Pye Corner, Smithfield – this memorialises the Great Fire of 1666 which ended at Pye Corner

Old house in King St, Westminster – traditionally believed to have been a residence of Oliver Cromwell

Lollards’ Prison – a stone staircase leads to a room at the very top of a tower on the north side of Lambeth Palace, known as Lollard’s Tower

Old house on Little Tower Hill

Principal gate of the Priory of St Bartholomew, Smithfield

Savoy Prison – occupied by the army for their deserters and transports

Mr Salmon’s, Fleet St

Gate of St Saviour’s Abbey, Bermondsey

Rectorial House, Newington Butts

Bloody Tower – the bones of the two murdered princes were found within the right hand window

Traitors’ Gate

The Old Fountain in the Minories – taken down 1793

The White Hart, Bishopsgate

The Conduit, Bayswater

Staple’s Inn, Holborn

The Old Manor House, Hackney

Dissenting Meeting House at the entrance to Little St Helen’s, taken down 1799

Remains of Winchester House, Southwark

London Wall in the churchyard of St Giles Cripplegate

London Wall in the churchyard of St Giles’ Cripplegate

Figures of King Lud and his two sons, taken down from Ludgate and now deposited at St Dunstan’s, Fleet St, in the Bone House

Images courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

You may also like to take a look at

John Thomas Smith’s Ancient Topography

John Thomas Smith’s Vagabondiana

John Thomas Smith’s Vagabondiana II

John Thomas Smith’s Vagabondiana III

6 Responses leave one →
  1. Maureen permalink
    April 27, 2022

    Superb information as always. I truly love reading your articles. I read them before I read any other messages in the morning. Thank you.

  2. April 27, 2022

    Another fascinating selection from Smith’s works. Was he the same John Thomas Smith who wrote a biography of the sculptor Nollekens, with whom he had trained?

  3. the gentle author permalink*
    April 27, 2022

    Yes, he was apprenticed to Nollekins…

  4. April 27, 2022

    The stalwart, the crusty, the upright, the wobbly, the thatched, the mullioned. It’s ALL here.
    GA, you’ve given us the “whole nine yards” this morning.
    Perhaps…….just maybe……..this noble endeavor to document “all the antiquities of London” inspired our American version? Our Index of American Design was created between 1935 – 1942.
    Hundreds-maybe-thousands of artists were put to work, doing faithful renderings of our legacy items, creating a comprehensive overview of all-things-American. Imagine the skill required to
    do a faithful watercolor rendering of — lets say — a woven coverlet, or an embroidered sampler, or a carved ship’s figurehead? Initiated for the dual purpose of “putting artists to work” plus establishing a visual archive of our traditional designs — this singular archive abides.
    Saluting your grand history — and ours. Stay safe, all.

  5. Saba permalink
    April 27, 2022

    I was fascinated by the story of Smith. He worked as an archivist but somehow had enough time to make detailed drawings of historical sites. Because the drawings are careful but often awkward, I had pictured him as an art lover who spent all the time away from his day job drawing. But, no — he was an author, a trained professional artist, and an archivist. Maybe he did have a full-time day job and spent his free time writing and using his art training. Whatever the answer, he was a noble soul who recorded history for those of future generations.

    And, then, King Lud. Wow, a whole new door opened to a history or maybe a body of traditions new to me.

  6. gkbowood permalink
    April 27, 2022

    Aren’t these etchings wonderful!? The textures and details are so enthralling and the sagging- oh yes, don’t forget the massive sagging! Loved this post, Thank you.

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