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A new exhibition of old London photographs opens today at the Wandsworth Museum. It’s a combination of historical images of Central London and a selection from the areas in and around Wandsworth, such as Putney, Battersea, Tooting, Balham, Earlsfield. Many of the images are from the Museum of London collection which reminded me of their exhibition of old photos last year. Much as I enjoyed that, I think I prefer this selection which features images from about 1850 to 1950. They are all black and white and are by, among others, Roger Fenton, William Field, Christina Bloom, George Davison Reid, Arthur Cross, Fred Tibbs (the policeman-photographer) and Henry Grant.

There are at least 60 photos in the show. Here is a selection of some I particularly enjoyed.

Portrait of London, Wandsworth Museum

© Museum of London

This very early picture of Trafalgar Square is from 1857 by Roger Fenton. Note, no Landseer lions yet.

Portrait of London, Wandsworth Museum

© Museum of London

A heart-breaking image of a “Crawler” in St Giles, by John Thomson, 1877. This particular woman was looking after a baby in the street while its mother was at work. They were paid pennies, or possibly scraps of food. Many photos like this were taken in support of Henry Mayhew’s work on the London poor.

Portrait of London, Wandsworth Museum

© Museum of London/By Kind Permission of The Commissioner of the City of London Police

This dramatic image is by policeman Fred Tibbs in 1941. It’s the bomb-damaged Salvation Army building in Victoria Street. Its collapse was possibly not unexpected, only not right at that very second. Great work, constable!

Portrait of London, Wandsworth Museum

© Museum of London

Children playing and loitering on Bankside, 1893, by Paul Martin, when the area was largely derelict.

Portrait of London, Wandsworth Museum

© Henry Grant Collection/Museum of London

Tower Bridge Beach, 1952, by Henry Grant. The authorities dumped several hundred tons of sand here to make a popular leisure spot for Londoners, only usable when the tide was out, of course.

Portrait of London, Wandsworth Museum

© Museum of London

St Paul’s Church, Covent Garden, 1920. “The handsomest barn in Europe”, by Inigo Jones, 1633.

Portrait of London, Wandsworth Museum

© Wandsworth Museum

Aqueduct (left) and old Putney Bridge from the tower of St Mary’s, Putney. 1881. Note the toll booth on the opposite bank. This bridge was replaced just five years later by Bazalgette’s stone bridge which stands today, one of the busiest in London.

Portrait of London runs until 12 August. Admission is £4, which also gives you a £1 discount to the De Morgan Centre next door, not to be missed either.

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