30 September 2016 | 14 °C

Secret | By: TimW

Finding The Panoramas Of Lost London

Finding The Panoramas Of Lost London
A dirty St Paul's Cathedral in 1942 (top), when the blitz was damaging its surroundings. A much cleaner St Paul's today (bottom).
A dirty St Paul's Cathedral in 1942 (top), when the blitz was damaging its surroundings. A much cleaner St Paul's today (bottom).
A beautiful shot of Lambeth Bridge taken in 1896 (top). Lambeth Bridge today... plus obscuring palm tree (bottom).
A beautiful shot of Lambeth Bridge taken in 1896 (top). Lambeth Bridge today... plus obscuring palm tree (bottom).
Tower Bridge in progress way back in 1893 (top). Tower Bridge in its modern day splendour (bottom).
Tower Bridge in progress way back in 1893 (top). Tower Bridge in its modern day splendour (bottom).
A rain-soaked Lamb's Conduit Passage, Holborn in 1912, then the site of an infants' school (top). Today, the site is by Conway Hall, which opened in 1929 (bottom).
A rain-soaked Lamb's Conduit Passage, Holborn in 1912, then the site of an infants' school (top). Today, the site is by Conway Hall, which opened in 1929 (bottom).
A deserted Chelsea Bridge in 1930, save for mother & daughter (assumed) on the right (top). Modern Chelsea Bridge senza mother & daughter (bottom).
A deserted Chelsea Bridge in 1930, save for mother & daughter (assumed) on the right (top). Modern Chelsea Bridge senza mother & daughter (bottom).
A bomb-damaged St James's in Piccadilly in 1940 (top). And back to its former self... (bottom).
A bomb-damaged St James's in Piccadilly in 1940 (top). And back to its former self... (bottom).
An old apothecary in Soho in 1910 (top). A snack bar sits on the same site today (bottom).
An old apothecary in Soho in 1910 (top). A snack bar sits on the same site today (bottom).

In his critically acclaimed book Lost London, which contains 500 photographs from 1870 to the end of the second world war, author Philip Davies shone a light on a city that was transforming rapidly. The book's success led to an exhibition by English Heritage, which owns the images, and a follow-up coffee table book, Panoramas of Lost London, which was published in November last year.

Here, we've visited seven of the sites and taken modern-day equivalent photographs.

This super-sized version of the project brings a whole new level of detail to life in the city. Over four chapters – work, wealth, poverty and change – ordinary lives and livelihoods jump off the page. There is much to recognise. The landmarks we all know – here represented by Tower Bridge, St Paul's and St James's, Piccadilly – are still there. A continuity of spirit remains in the levels of bustling trade and wall-to-wall advertising (News of the World, Bovril, Lyons) as shown in Victorian and Edwardian images.

But what is most overwhelming is the detailing of a world completely different from our own. In many pictures there is an organic sense of street life that simply doesn't exist today. The urban poor mill about outside whatever the weather (as shown in Lamb's Conduit Passage in Holborn, image seven above): lounging, gawping, smiling or weary. Severe poverty exists alongside late-Imperial grandeur but rarely in the same image.

The most striking change though is that much of the functional architecture of the city is unrecognisable from what stands today, from buildings cleared for town planning to the damage of the Blitz. Mostly, as shown by Lambeth and Chelsea bridges, the modern views are far more prosaic. Life today may be a good sight more comfortable, but with all the roads, cars, buses and street paraphernalia getting in the way, it looks far less romantic.

All old photos used with permission of Atlantic Publishing/English Heritage. Modern photos taken by the author.

Last Updated 16 July 2015

TimW

Article by TimW | 117 articles | View Profile

Lauren Wellicome

Is the entire book comparison photos, or just the Victorian photos? The comparison photos are absolutely fascinating! 

Mike Hewson

I could be wrong, but isn't the old view in image 5 actually the Albert Bridge?

roll the dice

its a super book...............

jamesup

Did wardor street get widened at some point? The buildings are different sizes.

Rob

It was nearly always foggy in the old photos. The air must have been terrible back then.

Jamez

Long Story. Made Fast. I did not know I was from The Island England .My Whole Life I always Had this (strange connection) Like something was missing. Come to find out On My Care takers Death Bed The Truith Came out. WOW RELIEF. My Feelings Thoughts Validated.
  My Question Is, is not some of the Blitz Damage Very Upsetting? Or Has time made forgiving easier? Me Being Taken From Home and Not Told Is hard for me to forgive And Missed Years I will never be able to make up. Thanks GREAT BOOK