The Ghosts of houses Past – Lost London 1870-1945 by Philip Davies
An absolutely brilliant book comprising 500 black and white photos of streets, houses, pubs and shops, schools and churches of London that vanished between the years 1875-1945. The photos were taken as an historical record for the Survey of London. Images show mostly every day life of ordinary people. Those in the poorer areas are particularly poignant. They highlight the poverty for those unfortunate to have lived in the East End where life expectancy was 30 compared to 55 in the West End . Many early photos show that the arrival of a photographer was an event that had half the residents come out to be included. Note how clean the streets were even in the poorest areas. The oldest images have an added feature as they often include ghosting due to the long exposure times. Many images depict working life, for example one women’s job included shooting dried peas at the windows of workers who needed to get up early for work. I found the shops and pubs interesting and enjoyed reading some of the advertising plastered across the shop fronts. Many display prices as unlike today prices remained static. Whole chunks of Georgian London with streets of uniform housing were demolished due in part to a change in house styles. As well the arrival of cars had an enormous impact with whole swaths of London demolished to accommodate the growing need for new roads. The inclusions of images of grand homes and huge opulent commercial buildings such as the lost mansions of Mayfair demonstrates that the loss extended across the class divide.
Another great pictorial work of London. Unseen London has colour photos from celebrated photographer Peter Dazeley with text by Mark Daley. It contains photos of more than fifty buildings, forty of which are still in use. Some are open to the public and others are not. They cover a wide selection and include two underground facilities, three sporting venues and three theatres. The section titled hidden Levers is really interesting with the inner workings of Tower bridge and the Thames Barrie. Crossness Pumping Station looks like a great place to film a doctor Who episode. The baroque ornamentation and exuberant use of colour including chinese temple red in the main pump room is an inspiration for steam punk aficionados everywhere.