Friday, November 4, 2011

London from the Sky

The Occupy London stand-off at St Pauls continues, the church having seen sense and recognised that forcefully evicting peaceful protesters from near a place of worship might not garner the kind of attention they would wish. More to follow on that, I'm sure. But this week my eye has been taken by a remarkable set of aerial photographs taken of London in 1909.

The photographs are remarkable for several reasons. First of all, that someone was able to get 500ft in the air back then to take them, eight years before the first official aerial survey of the capital. The photographer was Norman Lockyer, who is widely recognised as the man who discovered helium, and used that discovery to ride a helium balloon above the city armed with a Victorian box camera.

Secondly, as the pictures, show, particularly the one above of Buckingham Palace, is how London's major landmarks have barely changed. The same goes for the shot below of Trafalgar Square.

But then you look closer and you think, 'Where's all the traffic?' The streets are comparatively deserted. London has always been traffic-choked, whether from horse and carts or cars, but these pictures seem to show that a modern Londoner might have found the city eerily quiet compared to today. Or at least alive with different noises. There would have been the cries of street vendors, human sounds, rather than mechanical ones. In contrast, on the picture at the top of this post, of Westminster glistening in the sun, the Thames looks far busier than it is today, a reminder of when the river was the lifeblood of the city, a thriving artery and London was a major port.

My particular favourite is the the one below of Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea Football Club, now one of the wealthiest clubs in world football but back then only four years old, with only one stand for spectators. The club still play at the Bridge, albeit in rather more comfortable surrounds, but it's still next to Brompton Cemetery. Fans from opposing teams will testify to the fact that the cemetery often boasts a better atmosphere given the funeral silence that accompanies most Chelsea games, even when they're winning.

The photos, a set of 70, are about to go to auction and remarkably, are only expected to fetch £500. I might even go along myself and buy them.


Dan - Friday.

1 comment:

  1. Good luck on the bidding, Dan. If you succeed, I hope you'll post more.