Photographs, Negatives, Slides and Plates of London
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. A sister vessel named Duncan was launched during the following month. 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 1960s.
With carts and trams, this is a busy scene around Saint Alfage 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. 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.
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. The 40 cars of the Great Wheel carried over 2.5 million passengers before it was dismantled in 1906-7 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.
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 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. 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.
Historically, the Railway Bell at Penge was part of Kent but later formed part of South London. The building was not a million miles away from the Crystal Palace. An industrial unit stands of the site of the public-house which was demolished sometime in the mid-late 1970s. However, the inn sign post survived into the 21st century. The Railway Bell was a fine-looking hostelry that, at the time of this photograph, was operated by Ind Coope & Allsopp Ltd. The apartment block to the rear, which I assume is Blakewood Court, is still under construction which may help a local expert date this photograph more accurately. The railway line was between the two sites and is the reason for the pub's name. Penge railway station, a short distance from the pub on Oakfield Road, was opened by the London and Croydon Railway in 1839. This was a different station to that opened in 1863 by the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway.
There is a very different view of Greenwich Pier than that of the 21st century. Indeed, a photograph from a similar position 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.
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. The Great Equatorial Building was constructed in the late 1850s.
Five women are posing for a photograph with a male member of staff, possibly the station supervisor or master. 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 girls, 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."
An Edwardian view of The Angel at Bermondsey Wall in the days when barge-builders worked the shore accessed from the stairs next to the pub. The building was once surrounded by the workshops of barge-builders, grain warehouses and a sea of housing. The pub now stands in isolation but at least it has survived. Affording superb views across the river, it is thought that J. M. W. Turner painted The Fighting Temeraire from the tavern's balcony. If this story is accurate then the plasterwork within the building was still drying alongside the artist's oils for the building was, according to the corner panel, erected in 1837. A survivor of the Battle of Trafalgar, HMS Temeraire was towed to the breaker's yard during the following year. A panel on the corner of the pub states that: "The Angel, rebuilt c.1837, in its present form is by far the oldest tavern sign in Rotherhithe. It is recorded in the 17th century and may go back to the Middle Ages." Certainly, the old tavern was referenced by Samuel Pepys in 1682 when he no doubt enjoyed a tipple or two at "the famous Angel."
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.
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. 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.