London’s streetscapes have changed constantly through its history. These photographs record the look and feel of architecture in the late 1800s that was about to be demolished, or was under threat.
The Society for Photographing Relics of Old London was formed when the Oxford Arms – a traditional galleried pub – was about to be pulled down as part of the new Old Bailey development in 1875. The society subsequently campaigned to record disappearing sights, hurriedly commissioning photographs to capture buildings for posterity.
Between 1875 and 1886 they produced photographic records of further buildings under threat, which were issued with descriptive text by the painter Alfred Marks. The focus was architectural, not social; the photographs deliberately exclude signs, notices, people and traffic, to concentrate on the appearance of the bricks and mortar.
No trace of the Oxford Arms remains. Almost all of London’s old inns were gutted and refurbished in gin-palace style in the 1880s pub boom. The only galleried tavern remaining in the capital is the George Inn in Southwark.
Few of the streets in the other images remain recognisable today, either. The shop in Macclesfield Street, Soho is now a Chinese restaurant, while the one in Brewer St is a coffee bar. Other places shown here are No 37, Cheapside; old Houses in Bermondsey Street, Southwark; and Cloth Fair.
- Article by:
- Mary L Shannon
- Poverty and the working classes, London
London Labour and the London Poor is a key work in the development of investigative journalism. Dr Mary L Shannon describes how Henry Mayhew conducted numerous interviews with street-sellers, sweepers and sewer-hunters, in order to share their stories with the reading public.
- Article by:
- Michael Collins
- Country, Science and nature
With reference to collection items in the British Library and beyond, photographer Michael Collins shows how the portable camera obscura was used as a drawing aid by landscape artists of the late 17th and 18th centuries.