The Forgotten Corners of Old London
The Forgotten Corners of Old London
January 18, 2013
Who knows what you might find lurking in the forgotten corners of old London? Like this lonely old waxwork of Charles II who once adorned a side aisle of Westminster Abbey, peering out through a haze of graffiti engraved upon his pane by mischievous tourists with diamond rings.
As one with a pathological devotion to walking through London’s sidestreets and byways, seeking to avoid the main roads wherever possible, these glass slides of the forgotten corners of London – used long ago by the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society for magic lantern shows at the Bishopsgate Institute – hold a special appeal for me. I have elaborate routes across the city which permit me to walk from one side to the other exclusively by way of the back streets and I discover all manner of delights neglected by those who solely inhabit the broad thoroughfares.
And so it is with many of these extraordinary pictures that show us the things which usually nobody bothers to photograph. There are a lot of glass slides of the exterior of Buckingham Palace in the collection but, personally, I am much more interested in the roof space above Richard III’s palace of Crosby Hall that once stood in Bishopsgate, and in the unlikely paraphernalia which accumulated in the crypt of the Carmelite Monastery or the Cow Shed at the Tower of London, a hundred years ago. These pictures satisfy my perverse curiosity to visit the spaces closed off to visitors at historic buildings, in preference to seeing the public rooms.
Within these forgotten corners, there are always further mysteries to be explored. I wonder who pitched a teepee in the undergrowth next to the moat at Fulham Palace in 192o. I wonder if that is a cannon or a chimney pot abandoned in the crypt at the Carmelite monastery. I wonder why that man had a bucket, a piece of string and a plank inside the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral. I wonder what those fat books were next to the stove in the Worshipful Company of Apothecaries’ shop. I wonder who was pulling that girl out of the photograph in Woolwich Gardens. I wonder who put that dish in the roof of Crosby Hall. I wonder why Charles II had no legs. The pictures set me wondering.
It is what we cannot know that endows these photographs with such poignancy. Like errant pieces from lost jigsaws, they inspire us to imagine the full picture that we shall never be party to.
Tiltyard Gate, Eltham Palace, c. 1930
Refuse collecting at London Zoo, c. 1910
Passage in Highgate, c. 1910
Westminster Dust Carts, c. 1910
The Jewel Tower, Westminster, 1921
Fifteenth century brickwork at Charterhouse Wash House, c1910
Middle Temple Lane, c. 1910
Carmelite monastery crypt, c. 1910
The Moat at Fulham Palace, c. 1920
Clifford’s Inn, c. 1910
Top of inner dome at St Paul’s Cathedral, c. 1920
Apothecaries’ Hall Quadrangle, c. 1920
Worshipful Company of Apothecaries’ Shop, c.1920
Unidentified destroyed building near St Paul’s, c. 1940
Merchant Taylors’ Hall, c. 1920
Crouch End Old Baptist Chapel, c. 1900
Woolwich Gardens, c. 1910
The roof of Crosby Hall, Richard III’s palace in Bishopsgate , c. 1910
Refreshment stall in St James’ Park, c. 1910
River Wandle at Wandsworth, c. 1920
Corridor at Battersea Rise House, c. 1900
Tram emerging from the Kingsway Tunnel, c. 1920
Between the interior and exterior domes at St Paul’s Cathedral, c. 1920
Fossilised tree trunk on Tooting Common, c. 1920
St Dunstan-in-the-East, 1911
Cow shed at the Queen’s House, Tower of London, c. 1910
Boundary marks for St Benet Gracechurch, St Andrew Hubbard and St Dionis Backchurch in Talbot Court, c. 1910
Lincoln’s Inn gateway seen from Old Hall, c. 1910
St Bride’s Fleet St, c. 1920
Glass slides copyright © Bishopsgate Institute