Some history on London


London Pubs

London Map

London Underground Map [1908]

Photographs of London

I am only an occasional visitor to London but have acquired some old photographs that have caught my eye. I will feature some of them here in random order because my knowledge of the city is rather sketchy. Still, hopefully there is something of interest.

London : Procession on Shepherdess Walk at Hoxton [c.1914]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

This photograph captured a procession heading along Shepherdess Walk at Hoxton. Clearly there is a religious aspect to the event so perhaps it was related to Holy Trinity Church a short distance away at the end of Alford Place, previously known as Edmond's Place. There had used to be an annual procession of the Guilds and various parish organisations at Hoxton,¹ so perhaps it was such an event?

London : Procession Banner at Shepherdess Walk at Hoxton [c.1914]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

I have included this zoomed-in image of the banner being carried during the procession in case it helps with identifying the event. Returning to the first image, the procession is heading southwards along Shepherdess Walk, having just passed Murray Street [seen to the right of the image]. This side of the road has been redeveloped but the long row of housing seen to the left has largely survived. The photographer would have been stood near the William IV pub on the corner of Edward Street, a thoroughfare now known as Micawber Street. In the photograph a row of shops can be seen along the eastern side of the road, between Murray Street and Edmond's Place. In 1902 the shop on the corner at No.62 was occupied by the corn dealer Charles George Austin.² By the time of this photograph, as seen by notices and lettering on the doors, the premises had changed into an emporium retailing oils, colours, varnishes and stains, along with china and general hardware. The manager of the store was William Thomas Dicks, who lived on the premises with his wife Elizabeth.³

London : Greenwich Observatory from Flamsteed House [c.1933]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

This inter-war photograph was taken from Flamsteed House, the original Royal Observatory building at Greenwich. The focus of the photograph is the so-called Onion Dome which was designed specifically to house the Great Equatorial Telescope. An earlier dome was a riveted iron frame covered with papier mâché. Taking some three years to produce to perfection, the casting of the 28-inch lens was undertaken by Messrs. Chance Brothers of Birmingham. Designed by Sir Howard Grubb, the lens cost around £4,500, though this included the work on the dome, all being completed in September 1893.⁴

London : Paddle Steamer "Gordon" Ferry at Woolwich [c.1910]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

Dating from around 1910, this photograph shows the "Gordon," a ferry paddle steamer that offered a free river crossing from March 1889. The vessel was named after General Gordon of Khartoum. The ferry was formally opened by Lord Rosebery, chairman of the London County Council. It was made a festive event, the streets leading to North Woolwich pier were profusely decorated. Flags were floated on steamers or waved from tall masts, with triumphal arches, along with other features of a gala day. A bridge crossing had been ruled out, so designs for the piers were drawn up by Sir Joseph Bazalgette, and the work carried out by Messrs. John Mowlem and Co. Once up and running, a sister vessel named "Duncan", after the Royal Artillery office turned politician, was launched during the following month. The vessels were 164 feet in length by 42 feet beam, each capable of carrying 1,000 passengers, as well as horses and vehicles. They were constructed by Messrs. Green Brothers of Poplar, fitted with double engines of 700-horse poer by Penn and Co.⁵ A third side-loading ferry called "Hutton" was later introduced. Although replaced during the inter-war years, paddle steamers continued to operate across the Thames until the 1963 when they were replaced by diesel-driven vessels.⁶

London : Church of Saint Alfege in Greenwich [c.1906]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

With carts and trams, this is a busy scene around Saint Alfege Church at Greenwich, a building supposedly erected on the site where the Archbishop of Canterbury was martyred in 1012, hence the dedication to Alfege. It is probable that King Henry VIII was baptised in the older structure that collapsed in a storm during 1710. The new church was designed by the architect Nicholas Hawksmoor, a former clerk to Sir Christopher Wren. Built by Edward Strong the Younger, the church was completed around 1716. Having worked closedly with Wren on some of London's churches, Hawksmoor went on to work with Sir John Vanbrugh. He was inspired by the ancient churches of Greece and the Middle East. The crypt of the church served as an air-raid shelter during World War Two. However, the church was hit by German incendiary bombs in March 1941 causing the roof to collapse and extensive damage to the interior. The church was restored by Sir Albert Richardson in 1953.⁷ The English Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis was organist at St. Alfege from 1540 to 1585. Part of the keyboard from his time at the church is on display within a glass cabinet inside the building. The composer lived nearby in Stockwell Street and was a favourite of King Henry VIII for whom he played the organ in the private chapel at the nearby palace sited where the Royal Naval College is today. Thomas Tallis became known as the father of English church music.

London : The Great Wheel at Earl's Court Exhibition Grounds [c.1895]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

Dating from around 1895, this photograph is looking south-west along Fenelon Road in Kensington and shows the Great Wheel erected in the exhibition grounds of Earl's Court. Dubbed the Gigantic Wheel, this attraction was constructed for the Empire of India Exhibition organised by Imre Kiralfy and held in the summer of 1895. Modelled on the Ferris Wheel used at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago two years earlier, it was designed by James Weir Graydon, a former naval officer. He went on to build more wheels at Paris and Vienna, the latter featuring in the classic film "The Third Man." Weighing over 1,000 tons, the Earl's Court wheel, constructed by Maudslay, Sons and Field at Greenwich, was larger than the Chicago design. Two fifty horsepower steam engines were used to rotate the wheel which could accommodate an incredible 1,600 passengers.⁸ The 40 cars of the Great Wheel carried over 2.5 million passengers before it was dismantled at the beginning of 1907⁹ but Graydon's Paris wheel survived until 1937 and the famous 'Riesenrad' at Vienna is still in operation.

There was already a fence of railway sleepers at the end of Fenelon Road, separating the thoroughfare from the West London Extension Railway. However, on the other side of the tracks massive fencing was erected so that patrons of the exhibition could not see some the working-class housing which, though multi-occupancy, were overcrowded. The thoroughfare was laid out not long after the Crimean War and, consequently, was originally named Alma Road. The buildings on the north side were the earliest properties to be erected and named Alma Cottages. The street was renamed Fenelon Road by 1871. In this view there are signs for two building contractors who once traded from this thoroughfare. On the north side there is a sign for G. S. Corringe, a builder and shop-fitter who also had premises on Avenue Road in Acton. Almost opposite was the premises of George Moyes. His sign stated he was a builder and decorator who also undertook sanitary work. The housing seen here on both sides of Fenelon Road were demolished shortly before the Second World War as part of a road-widening scheme which was to carry West Cromwell Road over the railway lines.¹⁰

London : Ivy Travers with cast of children for "Babes In The Wood" at York Hall in Bethnal Green [c.1957]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

I do not have an exact year for this photograph but it was bundled with other images from the mid-1950s. It shows Ivy Travers with a cast of children for her pantomime production of "Babes In The Wood" at York Hall in Bethnal Green. With a dance school based in Hackney, her troupe often performed at the York Hall swimming baths in Old Ford Road. I have seen an article for a similar production at the Poplar Civic Theatre in December 1949 ¹ but I do not think this photograph records that event. With fifty children, Ivy Travers also put of a production of "Aladdin" at the King's Hall at Hackney in 1962.¹² But I have not stumbled on an article for "Babes In The Wood" at York Hall. Daughter of the Pearly King Cockney Singing Comedian, Nat Travers, the musician and dance class teacher would put on a pantomime every year.¹³ Famous people who attended the Ivy Travers School of Dance include Anita Dobson, later publican of the Vic in "Eastenders" and Irene Peters, who later appeared in a wide range of television shows including "Man About The House" and as a dancer on "Top of the Pops." As a youngster, the West End musical singer and actor Sharon D. Clarke also attended the classes of Ivy Travers.

London : Cycle Shop of George Hall on Old Dover Road at Greenwich [c.1907]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

Dating from the mid-Edwardian period, this photograph shows the cycle shop of George Hall which stood on the north side of the Old Dover Road at Greenwich. The street number of the property seemed to differ over the years but only by a few digits. Trade directories for this era listed the shop at No.43. George Hall was recorded as a cycle engineer but from the shop sign one can see that he was a retailer of other modes of transport and even flogged sewing machines. That may be George Hall stood by the entrance to the shop. The two men to the right may have worked in the business. Two young lads are proudly stood with their bicycles. George Hall sold machines made by Rover, Swift, Rudge-Whitworth, along with the lesser-known Primrose and Sparkbrook brands. Despite the latter name suggesting a Birmingham firm, the Sparkbrook machines were manufactured in Coventry, a hotbed of bicycle production during this period. George Hall was born in Swindon and, like his father, worked as an engineer on the railways. Living with his parents at Dover, he worked as an engine fitter.¹⁴ It was there that he married Eva Mary Harvey in July 1885. He continued working for the railway after the couple relocated first to Cubitt Town and then to Greenwich where Eva became a school teacher. When George Hall was developing his business she was promoted to head teacher. Her daughters also pursued a career in teaching. Son Charles joined his father in the cycle trade. Perhaps he is one of the young men stood to the right of the photograph. He and his father employed Maud Swindell as a clerk and accountant. The family lived above the shop and employed Annie Pilbeam as a servant.¹⁵

London : Salvation Army Congress Hall at Lower Clapton [c.1909]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

The central part of this building made it to the 21st century. In 2021 Hackney Council approved plans to convert what had become known as the Portico Building into the Lower Clapton Group Practice. In this Edwardian view the building served as the Salvation Army Congress Hall. However, construction of the building was completed in 1825 as a new London Orphan Asylum. There are a couple of pubs associated with the opening of the building. The Duke of York was to lay the foundation stone in May 1823 and, prior to arriving at the site, he and Prince Leopold partook of a collation at the Mermaid Tavern in Hackney. At the ceremony for the laying of the foundation stone, the temporary platform on which the dignitaries were standing, collapsed. The royal guests managed to jump clear but several young children fell into the basement apartments that had been excavated. They suffered some injuries but a labourer, who was beneath the scaffolding, was crushed to death. The Duke of York scurried back to his palace but the tragedy did not stop Prince Leopold, the Lord Mayor and the Bishop of London celebrating the event and anniversary of the institution at the City of London Tavern.¹⁶ After all, it was only one of the lower orders that perished.

The Duke of York was supposed to officiate at the opening ceremony for the London Orphan Asylum in June 1825 but he threw a sickie so the Duke of Cambridge was invited to attend the event that included a sumptuous breakfast laid on by Mr. Kay of The Albion. The Morning Post described the occasion as "one of the most delightful scenes ever witnessed." Around 2,000 people were present "all dressed in the richest style of fashion." The newspaper reported that "it was a subject of general remark that so many beautiful women had scarcely ever been seen together." ¹⁷

When constructed the London Orphan Asylum was in a fairly leafy situation, the building was approached by an ornamental semi-circular carriage drive. However, the pressure on land led to the area around the building being developed for housing. The photograph was taken from the junction of Linscott Road and Mayola Road, laid over the carriage drive. If the photographer had performed a 180 degree turn the lens would have partly captured the Windsor Castle pub on Lower Clapton Road. Being enveloped by housing, combined with an outbreak of typhoid during 1866 led to the institution removing to a new site at Watford. In November 1881 General Booth announced that the Salvation Army would acquire the former Orphan Asylum for use as a Grand National Barracks for the Training of Officers, and as a Congress Hall. The building, originally built at a cost of £60,000 was secured for £15,000.¹⁸ A further £8,000 was spent on the building which opened in May 1882 to a packed audience. Indeed, despite being able to seat 4,700 in the hall, people could not squeeze into the building for future services and events. Even in the week the Congress Hall was described as "egg full." The press claimed that "the singing of popular hymns, accompanied by drums, tambourines and trumpets, and ejaculations of religious fervour where there are no restraints of formalism, is evidently more congenial to the masses." ¹⁹

London : Women Ticket Collectors at Victoria Railway Station [c.1915]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

Five women are posing for a photograph with a male member of staff, possibly the station supervisor or stationmaster. This is an important social history item as the women had just been appointed as ticket collectors due to a shortage of men in the First World War. This presented women with a foothold into the transport sector. A short article in the Daily News, published in June 1915, remarked that "The London, Brighton, and South Coast Railway station at Victoria is the latest to adopt the woman ticket collector, 13 having been put on duty at the barriers during the last two days. They had completed a month's training at the company's main station at London Bridge." One of the women, daughter of a railwayman, said: "I like the work very much because I am out in the open air all day. It is much better than working in a stuffy office." The women at Victoria Railway Station were on duty 10 hours a day, including two for meals and leisure. It was reported that "the company is treating them generously in the way of pay." ²⁰

London : Woodside Park Underground Station [c.1920]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

My dating of this photograph is very approximate. I have zoomed in on the original but it is not quite crisp enough to read the bilboard adverts on the far platform. Those would have been ideal for determining when the photographer snapped this picture. It looks like a 'normal' railway station but Woodside Park is a stop on the High Barnet branch of the Northern line, part of the underground network. However when the station opened in April 1872, it was known as Torrington Park and formed part of the Great Northern Railway, which had taken over the Edgware, Highgate and London Railway. The line to Barnet opened on April 1st, 1872.²¹ Just seven days later, there was an accident when an early morning train had just left Torrington Park station, and was passing along the embankment near to the bridge over Alexandra Road, when the engine ran off the metal rails, and ploughed up the ground for some distance. Fortunately the carriages remained on the metals and, although the passengers were shaken and frightened, there were no injuries.²²

London : Watching the Time-Ball Drop at Greenwich Observatory [c.1907]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

In this image from the Edwardian period the photographer has captured a crowd gathered to watch the time-ball drop at Greenwich Observatory. Some toffs have been driven to the site and cannot be bothered to clamber out to mix with the riff-raff. People still try to make it up the hill in time to watch the famous Time-Ball drop. To be honest it is a bit of an anti-climax for most people who hang around for ages waiting to see this daily event. However, in days of old it was an important visual time signal that enabled navigators on ships in the Thames to check their marine chronometers.

London : The Foot Tunnel at Woolwich [c.1912]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

Designed by Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice and built by Walter Scott & Middleton, the Woolwich Foot Tunnel was opened by Lord Cheylesmore, Chairman of the London County Council, in October 1912. The tunnel has been measured to 1,655 feet and is 69 feet deep, so is longer and deeper than the Greenwich foot tunnel. It advanced by around 10 feet per day when it was excavated manually around the clock.²³ In the old licensing days, the pubs of North Woolwich closed at 22.30hrs which often saw a mad dash through the foot tunnel so that another beer could be ordered at Woolwich where the boozers did not call time until thirty minutes later.

London : Earl's Court Square [c.1922]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

Dating from the early 1920s, this photograph shows Earl's Court Square from Bramham Gardens. The property to the left is No.292 Earl's Court Road. Mature plane trees shield a contemporary view of the thoroughfare. One tree on the south side was blown down in October 1987²⁴ during the storm that Michael Fish, BBC weather forecaster, claimed there was nothing to worry about. Development of Earl's Court Square was initiated in the early 1870s on agricultural land owned by the Edwardes family.²⁵ In 2024 the average price of a two-bedroom apartment in the thoroughfare was around the £1m mark. Check out the window cleaner midway down the street - working alone at around 40ft, with seemingly no ladder stop for slippage, that looked like a dangerous occupation. Trundling down the centre of the street is what looks like a Morgan three-wheeler. To the right of the image is a Rolls-Royce parked up. This is possibly a 40/50 with a Derbyshire registration dating from about 1921/2. On the opposite side of Earl's Court Square is a Unic taxi, a French-made model renowned for its reliability - hence a popular taxi vehicle. Walter Owen Bentley was once employed by the National Motor Cab Company, a post in which he was responsible for overseeing the maintenance of the company's fleet, thought to number 250 vehicles. The number plate of this Unic was H 4794, registered about 1910 in Middlesex.
Thanks to Johnfromstaffs for identifying the vehicles in this photograph.

London : Girls of Cassland Road School at Hackney [1956]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

A form or class of girls line up for a photograph, possibly taken at the start of the academic year at Cassland Road School in South Hackney. The school had long not changed its name to Cassland Secondary School after being known as Hackney Central School. However, the buildings were originally sited in, and called, Lauriston Road Central School when opened in March 1911. The school was moved in 1917. The headmaster at that period was Robert Owen Chew. After holding the post for 32 years, he was succeeded by Miss M. Beswick during World War 2 when the school suffered from aerial bombing. The school's name derived from the fact it was built on the former estate of Sir John Cass, a prominent educationalist.²⁶ I wonder who the black schoolteacher was in the centre of the photograph?

Photographs of London

London : Greenwich Pier [c.1894]
© Image from author's photographic archive. DO NOT COPY

There is a very different view of Greenwich Pier than that of the 21st century. Indeed, a photograph from a similar position today would not afford a view of the Old Royal Naval College. I must say that I like this vista a lot more than the cluttered riverside of today. The river certainly looks better for having sailing boats rather than the modern clippers. The Royal Naval College was built on a site once occupied by Bella Court, an ancient pile built by Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester. Rebuilt by King Henry VII, it became known as Greenwich Palace. This was demolished after the English Civil War and the site used for the Royal Hospital for Seamen at Greenwich. This institution closed in 1869 and the complex was subsequently converted into a training establishment for the Royal Navy.

Contemporary Photographs

London : Christ Church and Clock Tower at Highbury [2021]
© Photo taken by author on October 14th, 2021. DO NOT COPY

A view of Christ Church and the Clock Tower near Highbury Fields. The granite and cast-iron timepiece was donated by Alfred Hutchinson to the Islington Vestry in honour of Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee in 1897.¹⁰¹ Christ Church was erected to the designs of Thomas Allom in 1847-8 on a site donated by John Dawes. Based at Balham Hill, Thomas Allom had written "Constantinople and the Seven Churches" and "France in the 19th century" and his work was deemed to combine art and architecture to great effect. Built with Kentish ragstone and Bath stone dressings, the cruciform-shaped structure combines elements of Gothic within the decorated style of the early 14th century.¹⁰² Following the overheating of a furnace flue, the building caught fire in January 1866, causing considerable damage to the roof.¹⁰³ The nave was extended by two bays in 1872 and there have been several additions over the years.

Genealogy Connections

Click here to share your story or memories OR to send a genealogy query

Related Newspaper Articles

"While cycling in Kennington Road on Saturday afternoon a young fellow attempted to pass between a heavily-laden coal cart and a train going in the direction of Westminster Bridge. A heavy shower of rain having made the road slippery, his wheels skidded. He was thrown right under the hoofs of the horses attached to the coal van, and one of the animals stepped on his chest, and when medical aid arrived life was extinct. Some cards on the body bore the name Charles Whitelow, but no address."
"London Cyclist Killed"
Tamworth Herald : June 9th 1866 Page 8

1. "Holy Trinity, Hoxton" : Islington News and Hornsey Gazette; October 15th, 1909. p.3.
2. "Post Office London Directory for 1902" London High Holburn : Kelly's Directory Limited; Page 748.
3. 1911 Census Piece No.1349 : London > Shoreditch > District 16, Enumeration District 04 Schedule 53.
4. "Completion Of The Great Telescope At Greenwich" : Westminster Gazette; September 6th, 1893. p.4.
5. "The Woolwich Ferry" : London Daily News; March 25th, 1889. p.7.
6. "Thames Ferry Paddle Steamers Put Up For Sale" : Coventry Evening Telegraph; May 22nd, 1963. p.1.
7. "Greenwich Ceremony" : Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser; April 17th, 1953. p.4.
8. "The Great Wheel At Earl's Court" : London Evening Standard; July 8th, 1895. p.4.
9. "End Of The Great Wheel" : Morning Post; February 5th, 1907. p.5.
10. "£2,320,000 Road Scheme" : London Daily News; July 22nd, 1935. p.3.
11. "A Children's Pantomime" : East End News and London Shipping Chronicle; December 30th, 1949. p.2.
12. "Fifty Children in Alladin" : Holloway Press; January 12th, 1962. p.4.
13. "Children's Pantomime at Mile End" : East End News and London Shipping Chronicle; February 7th, 1936. p.8.
14. 1881 England Census RG 11/1000 Folio 62 : Kent > Charlton > Dover > District 1, Page 1.
15. 1911 Census Piece No.2714 : London > Greenwich East > District 28, Enumeration District 28 Schedule 292.
16. "London Orphan Asylum : Frightful Accident" : Sussex Advertiser; May 12th, 1823. p.4.
17. "London Orphan Asylum" : Morning Post; June 17th, 1825. p.3.
18. "The Salvation Army" : Eastern Argus and Borough of Hackney Times; November 26th, 1881. p.3.
19. "Congress Hall Clapton" : Eastern Argus and Borough of Hackney Times; June 17th, 1882. p.3.
20. "Women Ticket Collectors" : London Daily News; June 26th, 1915. p.8.
21. "The New Line To Barnet" : London Daily News; April 1st, 1872. p.6.
22. "Accident On The Barnet Branch Railway" : Week's News; April 8th, 1872. p.12.
23. "Woolwich Tunnel : Opening Ceremony By Lord Cheylesmore" : Shoreditch Observer; November 2nd, 1912. p.3.
24. "Earl's Court Square Garden" <>, Accessed June 4th, 2024.
25. "The Edwardes Estate: South of West Cromwell Road" at British History Online <>, Accessed June 4th, 2024.
26. "South Hackney School" at The National Archives <>, Accessed June 4th, 2024.

101. "The Highbury Clock Tower" : Islington Gazette; January 11th, 1899. p.2.
102. "Consecration Of Christ Church, Highbury" : Saint James's Chronicle; October 14th, 1848. p.3.
103. "Fire At Christ Church, Highbury" : Islington Gazette; January 23rd, 1866. p.2.

Whitbread's Bottled Beer Tariff

Young & Co.'s Pale Ale

Charrington Toby Lager

Navigate via Interactive Map

Click here to visit the website's podcast episodes on Spotify

Click here to visit the website's YouTube Channel

Click here for a Pub Quiz

Click Here for the Pub Jukebox

Click or tap here for more information

Click here to visit the W3C Markup Validation Service