Original Photos: London 1800’s

In 1876 photographer John Thompson and writer Adolphe Smith walked the streets of London talking to anyone they came in contact with, John Thompson took the photos and Adolphe Smith wrote the stories of these everyday people for the then:
“Street Life in London” magazine.

The photos are stored at the Bishopsgate Institute, and the words used to describe the photos are the writings of Adolphe Smith.

London Nomades

London Nomades (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

William Hampton of the London Nomades, a group of travellers who were staying on vacant land in Battersea: ‘Why what do I want with education? Any chaps of my acquaintance that knows how to write and count proper ain’t much to be trusted into the bargain’

Street Doctor

Street Doctor (Photo credit: LSE Library)

Street Doctor: ‘Vendors of pills, potions and quack nostrums are not quite so numerous as they were in former days’

Women selling flowers on the pavement in Coven...

Women selling flowers on the pavement in Covent Garden, 1877 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sufferers from the floods

Sufferers from the floods (Photo credit: LSE Library)

Survivors of Street Floods in Lambeth: ‘As for myself, I have never felt right since that awful night when, with my little girl, I sat above the water on my bed until the tide went down’

If you would like to see more and different photos of London in the 1800’s there is a very good article in Mail Online, the article is an interesting read, and while your reading think about what it must of been like to live in the 1800’s.

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58 Responses to Original Photos: London 1800’s

  1. Lynn says:

    I have really enjoyed them.I love anything about London!!

  2. niasunset says:

    I enjoyed too dear Mags, this was so nice post, Thank you, with my love, nia

  3. I can’t even imagine what it would’ve been like back then? The sepia tone in the photographs always makes that time period seem even more depressing, dirty and dark. It’s great to have those images, though, to document the reality. I think even Hollywood makes it more agreeable than it was.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi A Gripping Life,
      I think you are spot on about Hollywood, they do tend to sometimes not stick to the facts, about things like this. πŸ™‚

  4. In the second photograph, did you see the extremelyTALL platform soles on the shoes of the street doctor? Goodness Gracious — they’re the height of shoes Elton John wore in the 70’s!

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Laurie,
      Yes I did notice the shoes, very observant of you. Oh yes I remember those shoes of Elton John, and you are right, the are very similar. πŸ˜€

    • I noticed those shoes, too – but it looks to me like one pant leg is shorter than the other. Perhaps he was born with one leg shorter than the other and had one shoe made with a platform to compensate for the shorter leg?

      • magsx2 says:

        Hi Barbara,
        You maybe right, I just had another look at the photo in flicker and when you put your mouse over the shoe it does mention a shorter leg, it is a very interesting photo I think, with the different signs around the path as well.

  5. The life of a flower seller in Covent Garden certainly wasn’t anything like the chirpy flower girl Audrey Hepburn portrayed in My Fair Lady! Thanks for this thought-provoking collection of pictures.

  6. Hey Mags – nice wee step back in time. Rather suspect it was pretty grim for many.

  7. Windsmoke. says:

    Like Laurie & Barbara i to noticed the platform shoe i suspect the poor fella has one leg shorter than the other and probably walked with a limp :-).

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Windsmoke,
      Yes it seems you are right, he does have a short leg, it is good though that shoes like this were being made at that point in time.

  8. It’s always very interesting to see old photos! Thank you for sharing!

  9. Nice selection of photos. Thanks for another nice post Mags.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Waldo,
      Thank You. It makes you wonder what people will be saying about our photos in 100 years time as well, everything changes so quickly or seems to. πŸ™‚

  10. Elyse says:

    Mags, you find the best stuff. I fell in love with London because I felt you could feel history in the very sidewalks — these pictures show that there are many layers to the indentations on the stone!

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Elyse,
      I would love to go to London, as you say so much history everywhere.
      “These pictures show that there are many layers to the indentations on the stone!”
      Very nicely said, and so very true. πŸ˜€

  11. Stepping My Way to Bliss says:

    Thanks for sharing these, Mags. I love photography and these are in amazing shape for their age. ~~Bliss

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Bliss,
      The photos have been very well preserved, you can see every detail, someone has done a great job of keeping these photos in such a good condition.

  12. munchow says:

    Thanks for sharing another wonderful piece of information. I didn’t know anything about John Thompson, and here is a whole bunch of strong images for more than 100 years ago. Fantastic. It’s really hard to imagine how it would be to live back then, isn’t it?

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi munchow,
      Yes he was a very well known photographer in his time, and it’s a great collection of photos that he did for this magazine, it would be very interesting to go through this magazine now, what a fantastic read that would be, and to see all the photos in the collection.
      Did you know the John Thompson travelled to many different parts of the world? Yes even back then, and his photos are fantastic from China to Cambodia, if you are interested in seeing some of his other work, and reading about his life, Wikipedia has an excellent article on John, and shows some of his photos taken in the 1800’s. Here is the link if you would like to read more.
      John Thomson (photographer) Wikipedia.

  13. Linda Vernon says:

    Fantastic post! I absolutely love studying old pictures like these that tell us what life was like really like back then. (so many of them are staged) but the way it really was — now that’s like looking back into time.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Linda,
      That is a great way of putting it and that is exactly what old photos are looking back into time. You are so right so many photos are staged, I particularly liked this set from the magazine because these people were also interviewed, and I thought that was the icing on the cake. πŸ˜€

  14. Arindam says:

    Hi Mags this was an great informative post. Thanks for sharing one more part of history which we were not aware of. Thanks for taking us to London of 18th century πŸ™‚

  15. It’s hard to imagine what a tough life the Nomades had, or anyone else living in such poverty. But to their credit, they were always out, selling, whether flowers or potions.

    The photo of the old woman in the Daily Mail link was the one that got to me: Described by Adolphe Smith as an ‘old women reduced by vice and poverty to that degree of wretchedness which destroys even the energy to beg’ Such a poignant comment. It made me sigh.

    Excellent story and photos Mags.

  16. aFrankAngle says:

    An interesting look at a different time. Thanks!

  17. El Guapo says:

    Neat pics. There were comments above about staging, but the cameras then weren’t able to expose the film enough without a long exposure, so subjects had to hold their position a little while.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi El Guapo,
      That is very true, I didn’t think of that, yes they had to stand very still for photos back then. It is hard to go back to that time and try to understand what life was like, I often wonder what these people would think today if they could travel to our time. πŸ™‚

      • El Guapo says:

        There was a Twilight Zone episode with Buster Keaton where they played that out. While it was funny, Buster was mostly confused and overwhelmed.
        I don’t think they would do as well in our time as we might do in theirs…

  18. Fascinating photos, Mags.

  19. I could pore over old photos like these for hours…thanks so much for posting!

  20. reb says:

    Great documentation of a different time …a different life. We find their lives pretty grim, but when you live in the midst of it, and don’t know any other life …hopefully, they didn’t suffer all that much. Wondering what they people looking at our lives, a few hundred years from now, will think…

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi reb,
      That is so true, they didn’t know any other life. I too wonder about future generations and when they look back onto our lives what they will think, and I also wonder how different their lives will be as well. πŸ™‚

  21. starlaschat says:

    I look forward to checking out the link. I thought the pictures were great a snap shot of time. It’s amazing I wonder the digital photos we take today if they will be lost if somthing happens to tecnology. Just a strage thought thinking back about how old photos are a good way to look back into time. :+)

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi starlaschat,
      There are people that still do up photo albums, and keep their photos on a separate hard drive as well, so many different ways of storing our photos these days. The main problem today, I don’t think the photography paper is anywhere near as good as it used to be, the paper the photos are on these days seem to be very thin.

      • starlaschat says:

        That’s a really good point Mags the photo paper is a lot thinner. When I was looking at these photos on your blg it made me realize what an important thing photos are and that you can really see a lot of about an era just in a photograph! It really amzaing :+) I find it interesing getting a little peek back in time.

  22. timkeen40 says:

    There is nothing like a picture to take you back in time. The famous saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words. As a writer, I have to say that a picture is worth a thousand stories. I can see so many scenarios from so long ago in these.

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi Tim,
      They are a beautiful set of photos, and I think it’s great you can see stories in each one, I hope I have given you a bit of inspiration. πŸ™‚
      Thank You very much for visiting and taking the time to comment.

  23. I think in the first picture the guy was describing bankers:)

  24. Selma says:

    I think it would have been a very tough life back then. There is a story in every photo and it’s so brilliant that they’re still in such good condition. Thanks for this, Mags!

  25. dearrosie says:

    I love old photos like this. I hadn’t heard of John Thompson and writer Adolphe Smith’s London photos. I’m going to follow one of the links above.

    I also noticed the platform shoes and wondered whether one of his legs was shorter. That poor guy has a serious leg problem – the platform is several inches thick.

    I love the quote from the first photo:
    “Any chaps of my acquaintance that knows how to write and count proper ain’t much to be trusted into the bargain”

    • magsx2 says:

      Hi dearrosie,
      John Thompson did a lot with photography in his life, a lot for someone living in that time period, his photos are fantastic, the ones that he took around Asia are just magnificent.
      I also thought the quotes were good, it also gives a very good insight on how people spoke as well. πŸ™‚

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