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The Streets Of Old London

March 11, 2023
by the gentle author





Piccadilly, c. 1900

In my mind, I live in old London as much as I live in the contemporary London of here and now. Maybe I have spent too much time looking at photographs of old London – such as these glass slides once used for magic lantern shows by the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society at the Bishopsgate Institute?

Old London exists to me through photography almost as vividly as if I had actual memory of a century ago. Consequently, when I walk through the streets of London today, I am especially aware of the locations that have changed little over this time. And, in my mind’s eye,  these streets of old London are peopled by the inhabitants of the photographs.

Yet I am not haunted by the past, rather it is as if we Londoners in the insubstantial present are the fleeting spirits while – thanks to photography – those people of a century ago occupy these streets of old London eternally. The pictures have frozen their world forever and, walking in these same streets today, my experience can sometimes be akin to that of a visitor exploring the backlot of a film studio long after the actors have gone.

I recall my terror at the incomprehensible nature of London when I first visited the great metropolis from my small city in the provinces. But now I have lived here long enough to have lost that diabolic London I first encountered in which many of the great buildings were black, still coated with soot from the days of coal fires.

Reaching beyond my limited period of residence in the capital, these photographs of the streets of old London reveal a deeper perspective in time, setting my own experience in proportion and allowing me to feel part of the continuum of the ever-changing city.

Ludgate Hill, c. 1920

Holborn Viaduct, c. 1910


Trinity Almshouses, Mile End Rd, c. 1920

Throgmorton St, c. 1920

Highgate Forge, Highgate High St, 1900

Bangor St, Kensington, c. 1900

Ludgate Hill, c. 1910

Walls Ice Cream Vendor, c. 1920

Ludgate Hill, c. 1910

Strand Yard, Highgate, 1900

Eyre St Hill, Little Italy, c. 1890

Muffin man, c. 1910

Seven Dials, c. 19o0

Fetter Lane, c. 1910

Piccadilly Circus, c. 1900

St Clement Danes, c. 1910

Hoardings in Knightsbridge, c. 1935

Wych St, c.1890

Dustcart, c. 1910

At the foot of the Monument, c. 1900

Pageantmaster Court, Ludgate Hill, c. 1930

Holborn Circus, 1910

Cheapside, 1890

Cheapside ,1892

Cheapside with St Mary Le Bow, 1910

Regent St, 1900

Glass slides copyright © Bishopsgate Institute

You may also like to take a look at

The Nights of Old London

The Ghosts of Old London

The Dogs of Old London

The Pubs of Old London

The Doors of Old London

The Staircases of Old London

The High Days & Holidays of Old London

The Dinners of Old London

The Shops of Old London

14 Responses leave one →
  1. Eve permalink
    March 11, 2023

    wow! splendid glimpse of lovely old London in all it’s hustle bustle, busy, life affirming glory – thank you..

  2. Josephine Eglin permalink
    March 11, 2023

    Dirt and poverty not withstanding, forever the most magical city in the world. To know it is to love it.

  3. keithb permalink
    March 11, 2023

    I am wondering if anywhere in the archives there are London street scenes photographed in colour using the Edwardian era (1902-) autochrome process?

    Slow film so tripod based working would seem to lend itself to street views. Being a Lumiere brothers development there are some street views of Paris a google search away but I’m sure some enterprising londoner would have learned the technique.

  4. Annie S permalink
    March 11, 2023

    Great photographs.
    The rubbish in that street in Kensington – oh my goodness! I checked and can see the street no longer exists or the houses would probably be worth a great deal of money nowadays.

  5. John Campbell permalink
    March 11, 2023

    The image of Bangor Street, North Kensington is still recognisable in Roger Mayne’s photographs of half a century later. These areas were eventually designated slums and for many decades had been packed with many of the poorest families in London.

  6. Susan Locke permalink
    March 11, 2023

    Love these old photographs. Having London cab men and bin men in my family in those days I wonder if any of them are frozen in these pictures

  7. parktown permalink
    March 11, 2023

    …a couple more Light Reflectors to add to my collection, thanks ?

  8. March 11, 2023

    I love walking around streets where historic buildings remain and trying to imagine what it would have been like in the time when they were relatively new. It’s quite depressing when old, but serviceable, buildings are demolished to make way for glass, concrete and steel faceless lumps. Thankfully, where I now live, they have realised that the historic buildings still have a role to play in our beautiful city. In fact, I’ve just photographed some buildings over 450 years old, still in use as shops, cafes and restaurants on my walk home. There are different pressures in London sadly but hopefully the voices of resistance will prevail and good sense triumph

  9. Robin permalink
    March 11, 2023

    Pure magic…seeing into the past through these old photographs

  10. Wendy permalink
    March 11, 2023

    I can’t resist finding all these streets on Google Streetview now to see today’s versions.

  11. Ann Cornish permalink
    March 11, 2023

    I just LOVE these old photographs…thank you

  12. boudica Fawkesredd permalink
    March 12, 2023

    Welcome back as once again we can read your great works on you’re site great pics of a bygone era

  13. Fergus Sullivan permalink
    March 17, 2023

    I’ve worked out the location of the chaotic traffic on Piccadilly. It’s near Green Park tube station looking eastwards in the direction of Piccadilly Circus. The striped brick turret on the right belongs to the Walsingham House Hotel, torn down along with its neighbours around 1904-5 to make way for the Ritz. All the traffic seems to be headed eastward. I wonder if Piccadilly was one-way back then.

  14. David W permalink
    January 9, 2024

    It should be pointed out – for the avoidance of doubt – that in the photo titled “Wych St, c.1890” – Wych Street is the street to the right of the Dewars Whisky hoarding on the Rising Sun pub. The street on the left, which we can see straight down, is Holywell Street (AKA: Booksellers Row).

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