Chaos in King William Street, London, c.1860

King William Street, London

c.1860

king william st london

King William Street, London

c.1860

king william st 2

The two stereographs show that London has always been a crowded city! It’s interesting to remember that this is the London that was familiar to Dickens, a claustrophobic mass of horses, carriages, carts and people. When it comes to expressing the atmosphere of 19th century London these are two of the best stereographs I’ve seen.

‘Ocean Liners at Albert Docks on the Thames’, c.1910

‘Ocean liners at the Albert docks on the Thames, below the world’s greatest city, London’

Underwood & Underwood

c.1910

albert docks london

London’s Royal Albert Dock was opened in 1880 at the height of Britain’s power as a global empire. It had three miles of quay, but the dock’s usefulness waned with the Empire and the decline in transatlantic liners. It eventually closed in 1980. The dock itself is still used for watersport activities and part of the quay is soon to be redeveloped as the ‘Asian Business Port’.

‘The Bank of England from Mansion House’, 1891

‘The Bank of England from Mansion House’

1891

B. W. Kilburn

bank of england

The Bank of England, shown to the left, was the work Sir John Soane and constructed on an immense scale over a period of fifty years starting in 1790. Unfortunately it was almost completely demolished in the 1920s. The Neo-Classical building to the right is the Royal Exchange. Thomas Gresham’s mid 16th century building on the same site was destroyed during the Great Fire in 1666. Its replacement was also destroyed by fire in 1838. The third, and current, building on the site was constructed to the design of William Tite in 1844. It’s now used as a shopping centre. The statue just visible in front of the Royal Exchange is of the Duke of Wellington. It was cast in 1844 from cannon that had been seized during various conflicts.

‘London Bridge in Coronation Dress’, 1902

‘London Bridge in Coronation Dress’

Underwood & Underwood

1902

london bridge coronation

This is an interesting stereograph for a couple of reasons. It shows the late Georgian London Bridge  decked out in the summer of 1902  with bunting. The occasion was the coronation of Edward VII following the death of Queen Victoria the previous year. The stereoview also shows the bridge undergoing modification. The carriageway was widened by 13ft at the start of the 20th century by inserting corbels into the sides of the bridge. Evidence for the on-going work can be seen in the various bits of metal temporarily attached to the sides of the bridge.

‘The Heart of the West End’, 1905

‘The heart of the West End – Piccadilly Circus, Coventry St. in the distance, London, England’

H. C. White & Co.

1905

piccadilly west end

The scene has remained pretty much unchanged over the course of the last one hundred years. The London Pavilion in the background opened in 1859 and stands on the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue and Coventry Street. The famous Shaftesbury Memorial fountain was completed in 1893 and features a statue of Anteros by Alfred Gilbert (although the statue is often mis-named as Eros, Anteros’s brother). I wish we still had horse-drawn omnibuses even if they probably aren’t the fast way to get around London! It seems that absolutely everyone wore hats in those days.

Two Views of London Bridge

‘London Bridge, London, England’

Strohmeyer & Wyman

1896

old london bridge 2

‘The Great London Bridge’

Universal Photo Art Company

c.1900

great london bridge edit

Plans for replacing the 600-year-old bridge over the River Thames in London began at the end of the 18th century. A design competition was held and the winner was John Rennie. Work started on Rennie’s bridge in 1824, 30m upstream from the old medieval bridge which continued to be used until the new bridge was completed in 1831. The medieval bridge was only then demolished. Rennie’s bridge was 283m long, constructed from Dartmoor granite and cost a fortune. The carriageway was widened by 4m at the beginning of the 20th century by which time it was becoming obvious that the bridge was sinking into the riverbed. The bridge was sold in 1968 and the outer casing stones and parapet were shipped to Lake Havasu City in Arizona where they were assembled over a pre-constructed framework. A new bridge over the Thames opened in 1973. Made of concrete it has none of the beauty of its predecessor. The late 17th century Monument to the Great Fire of London can be seen on the horizon in the second stereoview. 62m tall it stands 62m from where the fire broke out at Pudding Lane in 1666. Now overshadowed by office blocks, it is one of the few structures shown that still survives.