Lost London: Photos Remind Us How Different London Was In The 1980s

By M@

Last Updated 12 June 2024

Lost London: Photos Remind Us How Different London Was In The 1980s
Angel underground station with island platform
Angel underground station when it still had an island platform. September 1988

A new book lifts the lid on 'lost London'... but lost not that long ago.

Are you old enough to remember London with no parking restrictions, when Potters Fields was... all fields... and where Angel station still looked like this ☝️. Thing is, you don't have to be all that old. New book Lost London by Tim Brown looks at capital life (mostly) in the 1980s and it is simultaneously a familiar yet alien place. All the photos in his book are his own, and they've not been publicly seen before.

Paternoster Square, in its deeply unpopular 50s office block phase. The Elisabeth Frink sculpture's still there, but all else has changed. June 1987

Many books and articles have been written about 'lost London', but they usually focus on the more historic structures like Old St Paul's Cathedral, the Coal Exchange or the Euston Arch. Here we find buildings and street scenes swept away more recently.

Here, for example is the view looking down Ludgate Hill towards Fleet Street in 1987 👇. Demolition work has begun to enable construction of City Thameslink and the offices above it, but parts of old London such as the famous old rail viaduct still cling on.

Ludgate Hill in the 1980s
Ludgate Hill, before construction of City Thameslink. The old railway bridge still spans the roadway. December 1987.

Covent Garden was another area undergoing radical change. The fruit market had closed in the 1970s, and the plaza area was reborn as a tourist centre in the early 1980s. But many old structures remained that have since vanished.

Covent Garden in the 1980s
The old floral hall at Covent Garden. Part of this structure was saved and is now in Borough Market. May 1987
Potters Fields, SE1, in the 1980s
Potters Fields on Tooley Street, before they built City Hall and the other shiny office blocks. April 1987
Heron Quays in 1987
Canary Wharf has obviously changed much since the 1980s. This was the view from Heron Quays in July 1987, before the towers came.

One of the biggest changes, visible on many of these photos, is the change in office architecture since the 1980s. The difference is most stark on London Wall, where these large concrete chunks have been replaced by shiny glass edifices. The last surviving remnant, Bastion House, is due for demolition soon.

London Wall in the city of london in 1987
London Wall in July 1987

Transport is another area where great changes have taken place. The author — a former tube driver — includes numerous images of familiar platforms or stations looking not quite how we see them today.

Island Gardens station on the DLR
The old Island Gardens DLR station, before the extension of the route under the Thames to Greenwich. 31 August 1987.
Liverpool Street station in the 1980s
Black cabs line up outside Liverpool Street Station. It's hard today, less than 40 years later, to work out where this view is taken from. May 1987

Lost London is a delight from cover to cover. Even if you don't remember London in this era, you'll enjoy looking at the photos of familiar places twisted in regressed time into something less-than-familiar.

Lost London by Tim Brown is out 15 June 2024 from Amberley Publishing. (First link is to Bookshop.org, which supports local bookshops and also gives us a small commission on any sales.)

Lost London book

See also: The East End in Colour: 1980-1990 by the same author