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Looking Down On Old London

February 8, 2024
by the gentle author

Last tickets left for the VALENTINE’S CARD WORKSHOP next Saturday 10th February 2:30pm – 4:30pm at Townhouse, Spitalfields.

Introduced by Rupert Thomas, Director of Dennis Severs’ House, with an illustrated lecture on nineteenth-century Vinegar Valentines by The Gentle Author and a tutorial on the making of cards by floral designer and art director, Amy Merrick. 

Ticket price covers all materials including blank cards, replica Victorian paper cut-outs and a range of other decorative elements, as well as complimentary tea, coffee and freshly baked cake.



In my dream, I am flying over old London and the clouds part like curtains to reveal a vision of the dirty monochrome city lying far beneath, swathed eternally in mist and deep shadow.

Although most Londoners are familiar with this view today, as the first glimpse of home on the descent to Heathrow upon their return flight from overseas, it never ceases to induce wonder. So I can only imagine the awe of those who were first shown these glass slides of aerial views from the collection of the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society at the Bishopsgate Institute a century ago.

Even before Aerofilms was established in 1919 to document the country from above systematically, people were photographing London from hot air balloons, zeppelins and early aeroplanes. Upon first impression, the intricate detail and order of the city is breathtaking and I think we may assume that a certain patriotic pride was encouraged by these views of national landmarks which symbolised the political power of the nation.

But there is also a certain ambivalence to some images, such as those of Horseguards’ Parade and Covent Garden Market, since – as much as they record the vast numbers of people that participated in these elaborate human endeavours, they also reduce the hordes to mere ants and remove the authoritative scale of the architecture. Seen from above, the works of man are of far less consequence than they appear from below. Yet this does not lessen my fascination with these pictures, as evocations of the teeming life of this London that is so familiar and mysterious in equal measure.

Tower of London & Tower Bridge

Trafalgar Sq, St Martin-in-the-Fields and Charing Cross Station

Trafalgar Sq & Whitehall

House of Parliament & Westminster Bridge

Westminster Bridge & County Hall

Tower of London & St Katharine Docks

Bank of England & Royal Exchange

Spires of City churches dominate the City of London

Crossroads at the heart of the City of London

Guildhall to the right, General Post Office to the left and Cheapside running across the picture

Blackfriars Bridge & St Paul’s

Hyde Park Corner

Buckingham Palace & the Mall

The British Museum

St James’ Palace & the Mall

Ludgate Hill & St Paul’s

Pool of London & Tower Bridge with Docks beyond

Albert Hall & Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum & Victoria & Albert Museum

Limehouse with St Anne’s in the centre & Narrow St to the right

Reversed image of Hungerford  Bridge & Waterloo Bridge

Covent Garden Market & the Floral Hall

Admiralty Arch

Trooping the Colour at Horseguards Parade

St Clement Dane’s, Strand

Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens

Glass slides courtesy Bishopsgate Institute

You may also like to take a look at

The Nights of Old London

The Signs of Old London

The Markets 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

The Streets of Old London

The Fogs & Smogs of Old London

The Chambers of Old London

The Tombs of Old London

The Bridges of Old London

The Forgotten Corners of Old London

The Thames of Old London

One Response leave one →
  1. Adele permalink
    February 8, 2024

    The architecture never ceases to impress!

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