London History: Random Photos

Before WW2, herds of sheep were kept in London parks to eat the grass to save having to use motor mowers. This is Hyde Park in the early 1930s, the sheepdog is swimming in the water to stop the sheep escaping.

The lift attendants in Selfridges Department Store, 1928.

Liberty, a famous London department store designed in a retro style and opened in 1875. (Still trading today)

The Monument to The Great Fire Of London. Opened in 1677, it is now dwarfed by much taller buildings. It is still open to visitors, if you can manage the 311 steps to the top!
(Link to the websire below)

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Tower Bridge under construction, around 1890.
(No safety equipment or harnesses back then.)

The iconic BBC building, Broadcasting House. Shown under construction in 1931.

The same building in the 1980s.

A milkman still making his deliveries through the rubble of The Blitz, in WW2.

A Jewish Synagogue in Whitechapel, 1960s.

Leadenhall Market in the City of London. It was originally opened in 1321 on the site of the centre of Roman London, and traded in poultry. The later reconstruction shown in the photo was done in 1881, and it is still open to this day, though no longer a livestock market.

Shad Thames, Bermondsey. The old wharves and warehouses were retained when the area was redeveloped into luxury apartments during the 1980s.

London NW1: Four Photos By David Bailey

The NW1 postal area in London covers the districts of Camden, Euston, Regents Park, and Primrose Hill. It was the postal district I lived in for twelve years before I left London for good. In 1982, the famous British Photographer David Bailey published a book of photographs, taken when he lived in the area. I found four of them today.

I had some dealings with him once, and have to say he wasn’t very nice on that occasion. However, he took some interesting photos.

(All photos by David Bailey)

The closed down bakery shop of the Aereated Bread Company.

People enjoying the snow on Primrose Hill.

Street scene, Buck Street.

St Pancras Station from Euston Road.

London Traders And Trades: Photos By John Claridge

During the 1960s, John Claridge took hundreds of photos in the poorer multicultural districts of East London that he knew well. I have featured his work before on this blog, and recently found some more of his interesting portraits. The areas he photographed have changed completely since that decade, and these have immense historical value.

The Groundsman at The Memorial Sports Grounds. He was responsible for the upkeep of the sports pitches.

A Kosher Chicken slaughterman.

A lady selling sweets from a small kiosk, posing with her new gumball machine.

Wrapping spices in a spice dealer’s large warehouse.

A Muslim butcher posing outside his shop.

This lady butcher wanted to be photographed with her finest cut of meat.

The workers on a street fish stall, setting up. They have just received their delivery from the north coast.

A newsagent outside his small shop. The headline to his right is announcing the death of Walt Disney.

Secondhand shoe-seller with a street stall.

A Jewish lady inside her strudel bakerry.

Shopkeeper poses outside a very small grocery shop.

Selling hot saveloys from a stall. For anyone not familiar with a saveloy, they are something like a cross between a hot dog and a larger sausage.

London’s Working Class: 1870-1901

The Social Reformer Charles Booth was a wealthy man who campaigned for better conditions for the poorest workers in London. He commissioned photographers to take photographs of some of them to illustrate their plight. Here are a few of the photos he used to try to raise money to help them.

Making stone pipes during the Victorian era. Many women were employed to do this job, because they were paid less than men.

This photograph shows a young Mother, exhausted from spending hours making matchboxes, a pile of which can be seen on the table. At her feet is a young, sleeping baby covered by a blanket. For such homeworkers engaged in the sweated industries there was no division between work and home life. Match-box making was amongst the lowest paid work. The industry primarily employed women and children who could expect to work an average of 16 hours per day. For every 144 boxes made they received 2 pennies. This photograph appears in an album with a number of other prints depicting sweated labourers and London’s poor. Such albums were often compiled by charities to raise funds and inform the public about the plight of those living and working in London’s poorest areas, such as the East End.

An Italian Woman in a court in Saffron Hill, Clerkenwell, c.1901. This area was known as ‘Little Italy’, and was home to very poor Italian immigrants, many of whom worked at very low paid jobs such as taking in washing.

Another Italian family in the same area. The man has a business selling ice cream on the streets from his hand-cart.

A child ‘Boot Black’. Many young boys worked 12-16 hours a day on the streets, polishing shoes for a few pennies.

John Galt, a missionary and amateur photographer took this photograph of Mrs Robinson making mattresses outside her East End home. He photographed her at work, stuffing the mattresses with straw. For each completed mattress she would receive one shilling. John Galt was a missionary with the London City Mission. This photograph was one of many he produced to show conditions in the East End and the work of the mission. His photographic intention was often to show that, contrary to popular middle-class belief, the people of the East End were worthy of salvation.

A pub in South London, 1900. Most working men were paid on a daily basis, and it was common for them to go drinking in pubs on the way home, spending money that should have been for the upkeep of their families. Many Victorian reformers campaigned against the excessive use of alcohol by poor people, and urged them to join Temperance Leagues.

London Then And Now: 1973-2013

A collection of photographs taken almost 40 years apart show how London’s streets have changed. (Or in some cases, hardly at all) In 1973, civil servant John Hutchinson photographed areas in London which were under threat of redevelopment. He feared the Victorian buildings that had survived the Blitz would be lost forever, so he set out to photograph them for posterity.

The modern photos at the same locations were taken by Rosie Hallam / Barcroft Media.

South side, Piccadilly Circus.

North side, Piccadilly Circus.

Romilly Street, Soho.

Covent Garden Market interior.

Tottenham Court Road, under redevelopment in 2013.

The Trocadero building, Coventry Street.

Gerrard Street, Chinatown.

Old Compton Street, Soho.

Rules, the oldest restaurant in London. Covent Garden.

The Palace Theatre, Cambridge Circus.

The Coliseum Theatre, St Martin’s Lane.

Covent Garden Underground Station.

Cecil Court, WC2.

London Nostalgia: Inverness Street

I don’t miss much about living in London. After all, I lived there for 60 years, knew every part of it well, and it holds few if any surprises for me. But I do miss the restaurants. For 12 years before I left the city, I lived in Camden Town, just a short walk from the street in the photo above.
(Which can be enlarged by clicking on it.)

During the day, there is a small street market there. At one end, there is a popular pub, ‘The Good Mixer’. Here you might see famous actors and pop stars alongside local people enjoying a drink. Nobody pretends to notice, and they are just part of the crowd. At the other end, it opens out into Camden High Street, and a short walk will take you to the quirky and iconic Camden Market, a mecca for both tourists and local people.

For me, the attraction of Inverness Street was that almost every building on it is a restaurant. In that one street you could sample Spanish Tapas, Brazilian food, French Bistro, Singaporean cuisine, Belgian specialities, or just enjoy a basic meal in Bar Solo. If you were not hungry, you could sit outside with a coffee or a glass of wine, and just watch the world go by.

And it is a real London street, not just for tourists. As well as the celebrities, you might well see someone falling-down drunk, off their head on some Class A drugs, or spot some Somalis on the far corner dealing drugs to a steady stream of customers. It is a street that is alive, and even more so when the market closes at night.

So, I am nostalgic for the food choices, the edgy atmosphere, the relaxed mood in the restaurants, the music played in them, and the eclectic mix of fellow diners. If you are ever visiting London, take the Tube to Camden Town, or ask a black cab to take you to Inverness Street. See for yourself how good it is.

So far, I haven’t found anywhere in Norfolk to compare with it, and I doubt I ever will.

40 Years Ago: Kensington And Chelsea In Photographs

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea includes many well-known districts of London, both rich and poor. From Chelsea by the river, to Kensington and Earl’s Court, up to Notting Hill and the edge of Kensal Green in the north. This is a borough where wealth and poverty live within sight of each other, often on the same street.

During the 1980s, photographer Peter Marshall explored the borough, attempting to show the contrasts in the districts.

From 1981-2001, I worked in North Kensington Ambulance Station as an EMT, and drove around all of these streets every day I was at work.

Exclusive Mews Houses in South Kensington.

Window display in Kings Road Chelsea, a street known for fashion retailers.

Kensal House, North Kensington. Once an award-winning development, it was built in 1937.

Freston Road, Notting Hill.

A man about to sail his model yacht on the pond in Kensington Gardens.

Stalls on Portobello Road street market, Notting Hill.

Chelsea Wharf on the River Thames, with newly-built luxury apartments visible in the background.

Street musicians busking on Portobello Road, Notting Hill.

Shops and cafes on Hogarth Road, Earl’s Court.

A park and housing in front of Lots Road Power Station, Chelsea.

Hyper Hyper. A once famous fashion shop on Kensington High Street.

The Coopers Arms, Flood Street, Chelsea. Margaret Thatcher owned a house on Flood Street, where she lived before becoming Prime Minister.

Kensal Green Basin on the Grand Union Canal. North kensington.

The owner poses outside his shop, Kenway Road, Earl’s Court.

The northern end of Ladbroke Grove, Notting Hill. The Ladbroke Grove train crash, one of the worst rail disasters in British history, happened just behind the pub on the top left of the photo. The bridge next to it crosses the railway lines where the crash occurred.

Sloane square, Chelsea. The famous Royal Court Theatre is at the centre of the photo.

A Council-provided Gipsy caravan site under the Westway flyover. Stable Way, Notting Hill.

Luxury houses and a luxury car, Hyde Park Gate, Kensington.

More Social Housing under construction in Meanwhile Gardens, North Kensington.

Then And Now: Brixton In Photos

Brixton is a district in South-West London. It was one of the first areas to become popular with West Indian immigrants in the 1950s, and over the decades has become one of the most multi-cultural boroughs in London. Famous for large markets, some on the street and another inside a purpose-built market hall, at one time it was also a hotspot for street crime, and heavy-handed policing as a result. In the early 1980s, those tensions erupted into open rioting that lasted for days.

Since then, there has been much investment in the borough, and the proximity to the centre of the city attracted wealthier residents, causing property prices to increase and a gradual process of gentrification. In 2021, Journalist Martin Godwin revisited the area, and compared modern Brixton with the same streets in 1981 and 1985.
(The photos can be enlarged by clicking on them.)

The Indoor Market.

A bleak 1960s Housing Estate, demolished to provide nicer homes for people and give a sense of community.

The main street, close to the train station.

A run-down area repurposed for social housing.

The Street Market.

Unwanted shops now open with new owners and thriving businesses.

Another Street Market. The goods sold in them have changed over the years.

Exclusivity At A Price

Kensington Palace Gardens in London has the most expensive property prices in Britain. Many of the grand residences there house foreign embassies and diplomats, as well as private homes of the super rich, most of them foreign nationals. At each end of the street are private security guards and armed police checking vehicle access, and most of the diplomatic residences also have armed police officers guarding them.

It is in an ideal spot in London, next to the royal residence of Kensington Palace, and Kensington Gardens, a public park. Also close to Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace, and the shops of Kensington and Knightsbridge. But even a millionaire cannot afford to live there, as the average price for a house is £20,000,000. Some of the larger houses are worth over £145,000,000. No less than ten grand properties on the street are owned by the Saudi royal family.

At a time when many Britons are using food banks, struggling to pay gas and electricity bills, and millions here are barely getting by on the basic minimum wage, I personally find this obscene.

This graphic from a newspaper (The Daily Mail) shows the street and some of the houses that line it.

London Street Scenes: 1920-1933

George Reid took over 700 photographs of London over the course of a decade, from 1920 to 1933. He died before his work was completed.

All photos are © George Davison Reid.

A busy street close to St Paul’s Cathedral.

Sailing Barges on the Thames.

Fleet Street. Once the home of every major newspaper in England.

Children sitting under Southwark Bridge.

Visitors walking up the steps into the Tate Gallery.

Whitehall, with The Cenotaph war memorial in the background.

Carters watering their horses at an animal’s drinking trough.

The view from Tower Bridge.

The Hippodrome Theatre.

Selling toys on the street near Trafalgar Square.