Victorian London In Photos: 1861-1899

I found some very early photos of London online. The photographers were not credited, but there were some explanatory captions.

Working sailing barges on the River Thames in the centre of London. 1862.

A factory making boilers for steamships. This was taken in South London, in 1863. The factory owner was John Penn. He is to the centre-right of the photo wearing a top hat, and you can tell him by darker trousers and watch-chain.

Lower Fore Street, Lambeth. This was a poor district by the shore of the River Thames in South London. The photo was taken in 1865, by which time almost 300,000 people were living crammed into the shoreline area there.

The construction of the London Underground Railway at Paddington, 1866.

A Punch and Judy show attracting crowds in Waterloo Place, Central London.It is believed to have been taken some time in 1865.

Leather Tanners working on skins in Bermondsey, South London. That was the leather tanning district of London, and also happens to be where I am from originally. The photo was taken in 1861, just 91 years before I was born.

St John’s Gate, Clerkenwell. This photo was taken some time during 1865.

A view of The Strand, Central London. The photo was taken in 1889, and many of those buildings still remain today.

Gray’s Inn Lane. This is the part of London known for housing the offices of lawyers and barristers. The photo was taken in 1885, and four years later, the houses shown were demolished to make the road wider.

London Bridge packed with traffic and pedestrians, 1875.

Boat builders working on the southern shoreline of the River Thames at Lambeth. This is an early photo, believed to have been taken in 1861. The same year as the outbreak of the American Civil War.

37 thoughts on “Victorian London In Photos: 1861-1899

  1. (1) I just spotted Marge LaFarge on the sailing barge!
    (2) A watched boiler never…
    (3) Golf was popular on Lower Fore Street. However, the fairway left something to be desired.
    (4) Overheard at the construction site of the London Underground Railway:
    Worker #1: “Tube B or not Tube B?””
    Worker #2: “Ah! That is the question!”
    (5) Are you sure that’s a Punch and Judy show? I think it’s a waterloo because people are lining up to empty their bladder.
    (6) “Who’s the leather for this time? House of Harlot? Hoxton Dungeon Suite?”
    (7) St. John is so negligent! He forgot to close the gate again! (Sigh!)
    (8) Was anyone ever actually stranded in Central London?
    (9) The lawyers of Gray’s Inn Lane should have sued the city.
    (10) Is that the same London Bridge that is now located in Lake Havasu City, Arizona? And if so, do the people of London consider it a bridge too far?
    (11) Overheard:
    Shipwright #1: “The Americans are engaged in a civil war now.”
    Shipwright #2: “If we’d kept the colony, our relatives would be in the same boat.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. (8) A Strand is an ancient name for a shoreline pathway or promenade. London’s Strand is next to the river, hence the name.
      (10) Yes, that’s the same bridge.
      (3) That was a funny one, David. 🙂
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I love looking at Victorian photographs, especially ones of old streets. The one of Gray’s Inn Lane is of particular interest to me: those houses look like they date back to the 17th century! How I wish I could sneak into the photo and look inside those houses. I wonder if they had much of the 1600s features? What a shame they were demolished! There’s a website/blog called Spitalfields Life which has loads of Victorian street photos. Like this one, some have housing/buildings that were from the 16th and 17th centuries ( nearly all of them gone now sadly ). I think you’d find it interesting. I sometimes can sit and gaze at such photos for 30 mins at a time, looking at the windows, wondering what was behind them, who lived there etc. Here’s the url:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know about Spitalfields Life, it’s a great site. I have used many of the links on there to find photos for similar posts to this one.
      The few remaining 16th century houses in High Holborn date from 1567, and survived the Great Fire. I suspect those in the photo above are from the same time period, as Grays Inn is very close to High Holborn.
      Best wishes, Pete.


  3. Apologies for stating the obvious: you should compile an illustrated b&w history of London c. 1860 – 1980, including the photos of your own childhood homes. Your selections are always fascinating and often moving.

    (I was suddenly reminded of 30 years ago when I lived only 3 mins walk from the former Rillington Place which you and I know had been sanitized and renamed Ruston Mews. The now fully gentrified “private and gated mews” properties are now worth three quarters of a million pounds each – cue eyeroll. Don’t tell the owners but it’s still Rillington Place to me!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. People would not have been that clean back then, even the wealthy people. The smells of the tanneries are familiar from my youth, (ammonia mostly) and they were disgusting.
      Best wishes, Pete.


    1. They would have been taken on very large plates or negatives, Liz. The size of the original images allowed for a lot of detail captured during a long exposure. You can tell from the photo of London Bridge that the exposure was long, as some of the movement is blurred.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Amazing photos, Pete. I also love these old photos. It goes to show that London was a bustling city and all was happening then as well. I had an exam in the area of Gray’s Inn Lane some years back, and it has changed enormously, although there are some lovely old buildings. Thanks for sharing your finds, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

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