18 Remarkable Photos From The Londonist Archive

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By M@
18 Remarkable Photos From The Londonist Archive

Londonist turned 18 in October 2022. Editor-at-large Matt Brown has been there for 17 of them. Here, he picks out 18 of his favourite photographs from a generation of exploring London.

1. The roof of St Pancras station (2015)

Looking down at King's Cross from the roof of St Pancras

I've been lucky enough to get up on some mighty impressive roofs over the years. I think my favourite was the vast arched structure over St Pancras. Here's the view from the southern end, looking down towards King's Cross. Those are among the scariest steps I've ever walked down. Watch the video here.

2. The Piccadilly Circus lights (2009)

The LED lights of Piccadilly Circus in extreme closeup with the pavement below

The lights are all super-sized flatscreens now, but back in 2009 the famous advertisements were picked out in red, green and blue LEDs. This is the view from a hidden balcony. To get the precipitous shot, I dangled my camera over the edge and put it on a timer (making sure the strap was tightly wound around my wrist, so as not to endanger anyone below). See more photos here.

3. Stand on the handrail (2019)

Writing on the steps of an escalator says Stand on the handrail

This photo is an example of why it pays to keep your eyes open and constantly scan your environment. You never know what you'll spot. This was taken on the escalators at Kentish Town tube station. As you'd expect, it went pretty viral when we tweeted it out (with some accusations that it was photoshopped... it wasn't). I returned to Kentish Town a couple of days later and the naughty step had been switched round to a less exciting message. More on the escalator misprint here.

4. A walk through MailRail (2014)

Looking along a tunnel with a floodgate in the foreground. Looks a bit like an old mine shaft

Today, the MailRail underground railway is well known, thanks to the visitor attraction at the Postal Museum. Back in 2014, the idea of opening part of the line to the public was still a literal pipe dream, though early planning had begun. I was given a tour of the complete circuit around the Mount Pleasant site, including this look at a sturdy flood door.

5. A bird in the hand (2017)

A green parakeet flies towards an outstretched hand

There's an area of Kensington Gardens where the parakeets are particularly tame. The noisy birds will readily land on a shoulder, head or outstretched hand if they think some food might be offered. I got this shot on the first attempt, simply by balancing an apple in the crook of my elbow and holding out my hand.

6. A precipitous drop (2016)

Two feet stand on a rung with a precipitous drop below

Have you ever climbed to the top of the Monument? The 311 steps of Wren and Hooke's giant column lead to one of London's oldest viewing galleries. But you can go higher (if you talk to the right people). The Monument is topped by a flaming golden crown, which rises a couple of storeys above the public area. It's possible, via a circular ladder, to climb up inside and poke a camera out of the top. My photo here looks down instead — not the sharpest, but then I was in fear of my life.

7. A lofty sunset (2014)

A sunset over London viewed from a skyscraper. A person in silhouette stands on a balcony

To mark the completion of the Leadenhall Building (AKA The Cheesegrater) a crowd of journos were invited for a tour. We were lucky enough to get up onto the building's roof just as a gorgeous sunset manifested over the West End. Also up there: a bright red falcon nesting box designed by Richard Rogers.

8. A little-known tunnel

A tunnel full of pipes and wiring

This might look like just another random tunnel, but it's a bit special. This is one of two service corridors that run beneath the Thames Barrier, perhaps London's two least-known river crossings. While touring the Barrier, I also learnt that the famous sail-like roof structures are actually made from pine.

9. Strange reflections (2021)

A weird shot with buildings reflected upside down and people apparently walking on a ceiling

After the long spring lockdown, I was so keen to get out and about again that I went for a 10-hour ramble around Greenwich and Docklands. This was the final photo (of dozens) I took that day, and by far the strangest. We're on Bank Street, Canary Wharf, where a mirrored ceiling allows for some truly bizarre imagery.

10. FIT PM (2019)

A car with the registration plate FIT PM parked on double yellow lines

I spotted this parking infraction in late 2019, not long after Boris Johnson had become Prime Minister. Could it be — as the number plate suggests — the PM's car? Of course not. Johnson would never be so inconsiderate as to park on the pavement AND on double-yellow lines.

11. An Elephant at the bottom of the garden (2018)

The towers of Canon Street station with lots of greenery and a sunset

The good people of Historic England have a superb view to look out on. The office overlooks a spacious roof garden on top of Cannon Street station. Seen here at twilight, the garden appears to stretch on all the way to the cluster of high-rises at Elephant and Castle.

12. Impromptu album cover (2022)

On the roof of Excel, two figures in black stand in the middle distance, engaged in conversation

The ExCeL exhibition centre must have one of the largest roofs in London. And, of course, I've been up there. This shot has the feel of a Pink Floyd album cover, helped by the fact that a Saharan dust cloud had turned the sky beige to match the roof.

13. Down in the sewers (2015)

A man in a white boiler suit and yellow harness films inside a sewer

I've been (un)lucky enough to visit London's sewers on four occasions. The most memorable was this visit to the Fleet Sewer (formerly the River Fleet) in a section beneath Camden Town. The feculent flow is so strong here that we had to wear harnesses and ropes through one section. Here we see Geoff Marshall, taking a break from his usual train geekery to capture the joys of the sewers (a risky business; his expensive kit came out with a shitty patina).

14. More strange reflections (2018)

An old church beside a glass office block. But instead of a reflection of the church we see the gherkin

Sometimes you look in the mirror and just don't recognise who's staring back. This peculiar reflection shows the church of St Andrew Undershaft not quite reflecting in the glass wall of the Scalpel building. The church's odd name comes from a giant maypole that once stood nearby. It's now dwarfed by much loftier neighbours.

15. Wellington Arch (2016)

A metal hand holding a wreath emerges from the floorboards

I was invited up on top of the Wellington Arch during its restoration in 2016. This offered once-in-a-lifetime views of the incredible statuary, known as the Quadriga, which sits on top. Here we see the Angel Of Peace's hand rising through the floorboards, clutching a wreath. More peculiar shots of the monument can be found in our write-up.

16. The perils of late-night travel

Train times, including one to Bedford that appears to be 1124 minutes away

As a Thameslink passenger of more than two decades, I've taken quite a few photographs of impossible service patterns. Their information display is much better these days, but I do miss head-scratchers like this one. And the time they invented a whole new 25th hour in which to run trains.

17. Fourth plinth selfie

A statue of a man in a hat, with the artist in a similar hat taking a selfie from a cherry picker

The most recent photo in this set comes from September 2022, when Samson Kambalu's sculpture Antelope, depicting Malawi hero John Chilembwe, was unveiled on the Fourth Plinth. I was lucky enough to stumble by just as the artist was posing for a selfie with his creation.

18. Driving the train

A tube driver pressing a button in his cab

Londonist Editor Will chose this final shot. The Jubilee line turned 40 in 2019, and he was invited to take a ride up front in the driver's cab. In fact, he went one better than that, and got to 'drive' the cab between Westminster and Southwark. And by driving we mean pressing two buttons and letting the train do the rest. (That's the regular, qualified driver in the picture.)

Last Updated 11 October 2022

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