Lost London, in photographs
February 25, 2009 6:59 AM   Subscribe

User El_Greco of the SkyscaperCity Forum presents "Lost London", an absolutely stunning photographic thread of old London architecture.
posted by 6am (21 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Fascinating stuff. The first batch look like they have been extracted from the online exhibition of early photographically illustrated books at the British Library.
posted by bokeh at 7:15 AM on February 25, 2009

These are amazing, but does it show the shallowness of my imagination that I imagine Bill Sykes and Nancy running around alleys?
posted by Summer at 7:17 AM on February 25, 2009

bokeh beat me to it.
posted by steef at 7:17 AM on February 25, 2009

nah! I'm not sure what I imagine...I just have this mixed feeling of awe and dread looking at the spooky lost old alleyways and dead ends. keep digging on the thread as theres pages and pages of stuff (from other users too) and interesting discussions and comparisons of then and now.
posted by 6am at 7:19 AM on February 25, 2009

Yeah, I'm not too fond of "found on the Internet" when these could be easily sourced. The first ones even have the British Library stamp on the bottom right!

Also, at least for those first few, thats not "Lost" London. St. Barts church looks exactly the same as it always has.
posted by vacapinta at 7:20 AM on February 25, 2009

There's a lot more to that thread than just the British Library pictures.
posted by 6am at 7:38 AM on February 25, 2009

Boy, oh, boy: if I could travel back in time I'd go to "H. Spencer: Bacon Dryer" and never come back.

I find the lack of people in these photos eerie and pretty weird. I wonder if they were all shot very early in the morning or something.
posted by AwkwardPause at 7:42 AM on February 25, 2009

More lost corners, recently on AskMe
posted by nax at 7:57 AM on February 25, 2009

Wow. What a loss these buildings are. Even some of those signs. Everything was so irregular in the 19th century - less symmetry, fewer straight lines. More evidence of the maker in everything. Fantastic. Absolutely beautiful.
posted by fire&wings at 8:06 AM on February 25, 2009

It's sad that garden city fanatics did worse than the blitz ever could. Most disappointingly though, you'll still hear people wanting to knock down old buildings for the purpose of 'progress'. Makes me want to sharpen a copy of Jane Jacobs' best and decapitate them with it.
posted by Sova at 8:20 AM on February 25, 2009

6am, I wasn't complaining, but the original sources usually have more pics and a better interface. Like the Jack the Ripper Photo Archive, and PortCities: London.
posted by steef at 8:30 AM on February 25, 2009

I find the lack of people in these photos eerie and pretty weird. I wonder if they were all shot very early in the morning or something.

Look for blurs. Only the people who knew they were being shot and stood still will show up.
posted by stbalbach at 8:48 AM on February 25, 2009

Man, everything looks so much cooler in old photographs. Do you think there's a possibility of getting some sort of sepia-toned classes to make the modern era look as cool?
posted by stet at 8:48 AM on February 25, 2009

For anyone really interested in digging up cool old pictures, Internet Archive is an untapped goldmine. For example:

Old and new London (line drawings)

That's probably not the best example but there are a lot of books like it. Just try searching through 1+ million books to find them is the problem.

Personally I'd like to see pictures like this of Paris. Yes London recalls Oliver Twist, but Paris - Revolution! barricades! Zola!
posted by stbalbach at 8:56 AM on February 25, 2009

Great pictures, thanks. Incredibly, the entire fa├žade of Sir Paul Pindar's house was moved to the V&A.
posted by patricio at 9:01 AM on February 25, 2009

This is quite fascinating, although the comments about pulling down modern buildings irk me a bit - while the loss of beautiful old buildings is a horrible waste, I;d hate everything to look neo-Victorian. Architecture's like any other art, it needs to change and evolve to suit the world it's in. Plus I much prefer modern social housing to the rickety-looking homes of the poor in some of those first pictures.
posted by mippy at 9:15 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

These pictures are awesome, thanks.

It's surprising to see the crowds out in force in some places, milling around and getting on with life without a clue we'll be pointing and gawking at them a century later, heh. And there's definitely something about the scale and proportions of the surrounding buildings that makes St. Pauls loom much more successfully back then than it does now. And I love seeing these little foreign interventions and wondering what the neighbours made of it all. In a lot of cases it's creative reuse and adaptive interventions like that that have more promise of weaving in new prerogatives whilst sustaining the existing buzz than sterile preservation or wholesale developments both of which put too much emphasis on how things look at the expense of how things are lived.
posted by doobiedoo at 9:52 AM on February 25, 2009

The really striking thing is how pervasive the coal haze is. Anything more than a hundred yards off is half lost to visibility, and everything that isn't regularly cleaned turns black. It's not hard to understand why London was referred to as The Smoke.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:30 AM on February 25, 2009

Great stuff, thanks for posting.
posted by dhammond at 2:30 PM on February 25, 2009

It's easy to forget that really good quality cameras and photos existed over 100 years ago, maybe even 150 years ago. Amazing picture quality on those.
posted by zardoz at 11:27 PM on February 25, 2009

"It's sad that garden city fanatics did worse than the blitz ever could."
Yes, all these buildings, even the ones which are still standing today, were destroyed by the forces of brutalism during the famous period before the second world war during which inner London was turned into a Garden City.

You utter prat.
posted by genghis at 2:54 PM on February 26, 2009

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