London In Lockdown: This Book Recalls The Empty Streets

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By M@
London In Lockdown: This Book Recalls The Empty Streets
Trafalgar Square, looking towards the National Gallery, with nobody in it
A deserted Trafalgar Square.

March 2020 began like any other year, but disaster was looming...

For many of us, central London was rarely glimpsed in 2020. The pandemic trapped millions in suburban homes for long periods. Even when restrictions eased, we were discouraged from using public transport unless essential. Large numbers were furloughed and had no business in town. Tourism was all but absent.

Looking down The Mall toward Buckingham Palace. No traffic or pedestrians can be seen.
The Mall, devoid of traffic

Central London was uniquely quiet. Not since ancient times had fewer people walked the daytime streets. This is the unprecedented year captured by David Ramzan in his book London in Lockdown.

Ramzan chronicles time of upheaval with over 90 colour photographs. Most show very familiar parts of the capital, normally thronged but now almost entirely absent of people.

Seven Dials, with Union Flag bunting but few people
The normally heaving Seven Dials area

Alongside the photography, Ramzan explains the history of disease and pandemic in London — from Roman times to the Black Death and Great Plague, and then on into the 20th century. The text provides historical context to put the most recent pandemic into perspective. Many of the photographs are taken at sites with connections to earlier plagues.

An empty Covent Garden with a Christmas tree
Covent Garden, at Christmas time. Only a handful of people trouble its cobbles

This is a poignant yet historically underpinned account of a remarkable year (or two) that none of us shall ever forget.

The cenotaph lined with wreaths and an empty Whitehall
The Cenotaph, memorial to lives lost in war, stands alone during another time of loss
A view along Moorgate with only a single bicycle to animate it
Moorgate becomes Lessgate
A view of Ludgate Hill with the dome of St Paul's at the top. No traffic can be seen
Looking up Ludgate Hill
High Holborn, with the famous timbered buildings on the right, looking towards the distant skyscrapers of the City
High Holborn, one of the city's great through-routes, lays silent
Buckingham Palace and the Victoria memorial, again with no people present
The gates of Buckingham Palace are free of tourists
View towards Hawksmoor's Christchuch steeple in Spitalfields, with boxy office buildings on the left
Brushfield Street in Spitalfields Market

London in Lockdown by David C. Ramzan is published by Amberley. Also on Bookshop.org, or your local independent bookshop.

The cover of Lockdown London featuring an empty street and the year 2020 illuminated on the corner of a building

Last Updated 21 September 2022

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