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Circa 1896: reinventing the wheel

 

 

The images from 1896 are accompanied by the original text in Round London; the captions for the images from today are mine. All images from the work Round London are part of the author's collection.

 

I decided to upload the images in high-resolution so readers can zoom in on features that grab their interest. I would ask for the courtesey of an email request should you wish to use a picture.

 

 

Some time ago I unearthed in a second-hand bookshop the most amazing find: a somewhat worn work called Round London. It was a large tome, roughly A3 in size, with view after view of London street scenes and famous landmarks circa 1896, the year it was published.

 

Underneath every image was a long description outlining the scene for the reader, often accompanied by facts and editorial opinion. The commentaries were typically late Victorian mainstream in their outlook, but the inclusion of so many unusual views and locations shots of Whitechapel or the docklands area, for example made this more than just a late 19th Century coffee table book.

 

Stephen Inwood in his work on the late Victorian and early Edwardian city argues that it this period that laid down the template for today's modern metropolis. Certainly it was a period of staggering growth, with buildings and swathes of slums cleared for new construction and thoroughfares.

 

With all this in mind, I wondered what I would find if I were to visit the sights featured in Round London. How much of the late Victorian city remains? Are the outlines of the late Victorian urban vision still influencing the London of today? What about the function of the area? Has this changed too? 

 

And before we begin to feel superior in our innovative use of space, remember that our late Victorian ancestors could be as imaginative and daring as we are. Take the Millennium Wheel, the 'London Eye' for example... 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click on image to enlarge

 

 

 

Click on image to enlarge

 

 

 

Finally, it's worth remembering that London of the late nineteenth century was a dynamic, moving city; one filled with hustle and bustle. The images I've presented here are simply moments in time captured by the camera. But a new medium for recording daily life had been developed and was starting, ever so slowly at first to excite and capture the imagination of millions. It could capture reality and create new mythologies: back then they were called moving pictures, today we simply call it film. Here, just a few years later in 1903 are some of London's vivid street scenes capture for the silver screen. Another revolution is not far away: the introduction of the internal combustion engine and the inevitable demise of horse-drawn traffic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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