Edwardian Postcards Of London

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 18 months ago
Edwardian Postcards Of London

Whether they take the form of Princess Di's face or a full English breakfast, postcards are still on the 'to buy list' for today's London tourist.

In Edwardian times, of course, the medium was still a relatively novel concept — with scenes of London life printed en masse. These images, which feature in London as it Was - A Picture Postcard View,  show how the landmarks of yesteryear appeared to thousands across the country, and the world.

A pageant of crowded yachts, steamers and boats of all sizes are gathered at Tower Bridge in this busy River Thames scene. The roadway is lifted to allow tall ships to pass through.
A detailed view of the entrance to Tower Bridge, packed with open-topped motor buses and horses with their carts taking Edwardian Londoners to their places of business. It seems incredible that the British weather had to be borne by sitting in these open vehicles.
Brought into sharp focus against the murky backdrop, are the Blues and Royals (Royal Horse Guards and 1st Dragoons), a cavalry regiment of the British Army and part of the well-known Household Cavalry.
The importance of Euston Station grew significantly in the mid- and late-1800s as passenger demand increased. Two hotels could be found adjacent to the station, which later amalgamated into the single Euston Hotel, which flanked Euston Grove, as seen here. The elegant Victorian building offered travellers a place to stay close to the station, but was demolished as Euston was rebuilt and expanded in the 1960s. A busy bus station now occupies the site.
Just as today, hundreds of commuters line every platform awaiting trains, at Paddington station. Except back then, the straw boater game was far stronger.
We can't imagine anyone buying a postcard of Shepherd's Bush station now. This particular station was built for the new Central line which opened in 1900, just a year before Queen Victoria's death.
This 1905 image of Hyde Park shows just how busy it was on a sunny summer day where countless carriages vie for space in this traffic jam of horses, all attended by liveried drivers and footmen indicating the wealth of their owners.
Buckingham Palace in this early Edwardian view looks quite serene and grand. The rebuilding of the prominent east wing we are familiar with today did not commence until 1912-13, and here the Victorian wing on 1847-50 is still present. Note also the missing Victoria Memorial which was not built until 1911. Elegant carriages trot onto The Mall on either side of the picture.
The Kingsway tramway subway constructed in Holborn in 1898 after the area had been cleared of slums. It was built using the cut and cover method championed by the early Underground, but closed in 1952 when the trams left the centre of London. The tunnel still exists today, and is Grade II listed.
A beautiful view looking over Downing Street (on the middle left) towards the towers of the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. The green tree canopy on the right is St. James’s Park with the dome of Central Hall looming on the horizon on the extreme right.
The Court of Honour at the Franco-British Exhibition of 1908 in White City was a very impressive architectural statement and a great area in which to gather and enjoy the sights and amble around the lake. The oriental style of the exhibition buildings and their whiteness combined to make a very impressive and exotic ensemble.
A rare birds-eye view of the Franco-British Exhibition taken from a balloon high above the stadium. The sprawling exhibition site made up of white buildings can be seen in the background. The stadium was built for the exhibition and was also used for the 1908 Olympic Games. It later became the White City stadium and survived until 1985.
Oceanic House on Cockspur Street is still standing today, and now Grade II listed. Seen here soon after its completion in 1907, this lovely animated postcard view is looking towards the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square. Although a short London thoroughfare, Cockspur Street is very strategically located and now forms part of the A4.
An image from 1907 showing the Greenwich Royal Naval College as seen from the Thames. The Sir Christopher Wren-designed buildings were originally a hospital built in 1696, which then became a Naval training college.
The Empire Exhibition was held at Wembley Park between April 1924 and October 1925 as a means of strengthening the bond between Britain and the rest of the Empire, which had been slipping since the end of the first world war. One major aspect of the exhibition was the building of a new ‘Empire Stadium’. This would later become Wembley Stadium, with its iconic towers seen here. It would go on to host many important sporting events, including the 1948 Summer Olympics and 1966 World Cup. The stadium was replaced in the early 2000s.
This astounding image of The Mall shows almost its entire length looking towards Buckingham Palace in the far distance. The Mall has long been used for major national ceremonies such as state visits, coronations and funerals, and is a great gathering place especially at the Buckingham Palace end. The surface of the road today is coloured red to give the impression of a giant red carpet leading to the palace.
London Zoo is the world’s oldest scientific zoo. It was opened on 27 April 1828 and was originally intended for scientific study. However, it became popular as a place to visit. This coloured postcard shows a familiar scene of a family enjoying an elephant ride at the zoo.
A view over the rooftops of central London from the Monument, looking north along Gracechurch Street. Many of the spires and towers of the original churches of the City stick up above the rooftops.
The long stretch of Regent Street seen here has a motor car and carriages competing for road space with one hansom cab doing what seems like the Edwardian equivalent of a three-point-turn in the middle of the road. Curious boys seem to have spotted the photographer and are looking directly towards the camera.
This photograph shows the Royal Palace Hotel in Kensington which was demolished and rebuilt as the modern Royal Garden Hotel. The gentry of the area can be seen riding the liveried carriages along the street.
An example of the charabanc (often pronounced “sharra-bang”) which were a type of hourse-drawn vehicle and early motor coach. They were almost always open-topped, carrying their passengers in the open air. This particular example is waiting outside Copp’s Coaches & Bus Office.
Established in 1694, the Bank of England is the second oldest central bank in operation in the world. The Threadneedle Street frontage seen in this evocative 1903 image shows the lovely original John Soane building which was destroyed in the 1920s. This was considered one of modern architecture’s greatest losses. It dated from 1780s.
London Bridge looks quite new in this scene from 1902. That's because by 1896 the bridge was the busiest point in London and one of its most congested, with up to 8,000 pedestrians and 900 vehicles crossing at peak hours. As such the bridge was widened by some 13 feet using granite corbels before the turn of the century. Eventually the bridge was taken down brick-by-brick and rebuilt in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, being replaced by the modern structure in use today.
Founded in London by wax sculptor Marie Tussaud as early as 1835, Madame Tussauds has become one of London’s premier tourist attractions, displaying lifelike waxwork models of celebrities and royalty. As you can see in this image, it has always attracted crowds to its building on Marylebone Road.
A lovely panoramic view of Westminster Bridge looking northwards to the Palace of Westminster dominating the north bank of the Thames. It replaced the Palace of Whitehall in the 1850s, with the Elizabeth Tower its most famous attribute. The original Scotland Yard building can be seen as the last building on the right.
A view of the Neoclassical Somerset House showing the façade as seen from Waterloo Bridge, which is one of the three main frontages of the building, alongside those on Strand and the huge, impressive riverside.
Regent Street along its northern stretch looking towards All Souls Church in 1907. The Langham Hotel built between 1863-65 is the building seen on the left. It was at the time the largest and most modern hotel in London.
The Natural History Museum building designed by Alfred Waterhouse, which opened in 1881. Today this South Kensington site is one of London’s busiest and most popular attractions – one of three museums clustered around Exhibition Road. This frontage is along Cromwell Road, however.

See these photos, and more like them, in London as it Was - A Picture Postcard View, out now.

Last Updated 27 November 2017