Around St Paul's

Historical Eye

Circa 1896: around St. Paul's


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Ludgate Circus circa 1896: There cannot be the least doubt that the Ludgate Hill Viaduct, shown in this picture, is one of the most serious disfigurements in the City of London ... Truly the London, Chatham, Dover Railway bridge lies flat across the street only 18 feet above the roadway, and is a miracle of clumsy ugliness, entirely spoiling approach to one of the finest buildings in London. The photograph on which this view is reproduced was taken from the centre of Ludgate Circus – a spot which certainly ranks next to the space in front of the Mansion House in point of volume of traffic. At Ludgate Circus converges seemingly interminable traffic of Ludgate Hill, Blackfriars Bridge, Fleet Street, and Farringdon Street, and therefore the constables on duty have anything but an easy task. In this view will be seen the slender spire of St Martin's Church.St Martin's Church has now been closed some years, owing to its insanitary condition.


Ludgate Circus today: The entire right hand section of the street has been taken up by modern buildings and an urban railway/Tube station, Blackfriars. The trains no longer travel over the iron bridge, but underneath the road instead. The parameters of the streets are almost identical, I would suggest. The tall building on the left, which comprised offices and the King Lud pub in 1896, now houses a Leon cafe and a Santander  bank branch. Further up the road, the spire of St Martin's is still visible, although the tower is obscured by a rather bland office and commercial block. Thankfully, the view of St Paul's remains fairly uncluttered. Approaching the cathedral from this direction is undoubtedly the best route a visitor to St Paul's can take, with the spectacular façade never failing to impress. It is also worth noting that St Martin's is restored and well worth visiting.


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Ludgate Hill circa 1896: This view was taken from St Paul’s Churchyard looking down Ludgate Hill from the west front of the cathedral. In the foreground are seen the statue of Queen Anne, which was erected in 1886, when the fine or railing of wrought Lamberhurst iron, which gave such a picturesqueness to the old statue, was removed and replaced by an ordinary fence. The present statue of Queen Anne and her satellite figures of Britannia, France, Ireland, and the American Colonies, are rather coarse copies of the fine marble originals by Francis Bird, which are now preserved at Holmhurst, near Hastings. The statue is historically interesting here, as commemorating the frequent state visits of Queen Anne to the cathedral to return public thanks for the repeated victories of the Duke of Marlborough. Ludgate Hill, down which we are looking, is one of the most interesting and famous of the city streets. It is somewhat steep, and during winter months horses have very great difficulty in getting up it, although it is paved with wood. noting that St Martin's is restored and well worth visiting.


Ludgate Hill today: A great deal has changed, of course, although much is still present. For example, the bollards to the left-hand side have somehow survived, as have the two ornate lamps on the right and left. The fence around Queen Anne is painted white, while the statue has been damaged by erosion and corrosion. Apart from St Martin’s church – its spire almost concealed by a horrid 1970s construction – few of the buildings facing the streets in 1896 are still present. The site of Goodman the dentists is now a corporate block, with shops on the ground floor, including a Marks and Spencer’s food outlet. Look on the left-hand side and you'll see a bus. Now compare this with  the shot from 1896; in almost exactly the same location is a horse-drawn omnibus (I wish we still used that term). Note that the top floor in 1896 is open to the elements.

Then and now 1896

'The London, Chatham, Dover Railway bridge lies flat across the street only 18 feet above the roadway, and is a miracle of clumsy ugliness'

Fleet street and the Strand

Westminster and Lambeth


Around Trafalgar Square


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Marble Arch and Kensington Gardens

Piccadilly Circus to Oxford Street


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Around St Paul's