In October 1905 King Edward VII officially opened Kingsway and Aldwych; “The largest and most important improvement in London since the construction of Regent Street in 1820.” London County Council produced a special souvenir programme for the event.
This map from the programme give some idea of the scale of the works. The buff area of development covers many of the streets that were demolished.
The programme was written by Laurence Gomme, Clerk to the Council, who was also a keen historian. Gomme helped to found The Victoria County History series and The Survey of London and it was he who persuaded LCC to adopt the Blue Plaque scheme. Incidentally he also suggested naming the development “Aldwych” to reference the ancient nearby settlement.
The programme enthusiastically details the construction of the whole development but such an enthusiast for London’s history and architecture couldn’t let the new development open without also documenting what had been destroyed.
So Gomme provides us with numerous superb and unique images of many of the old streets and courts, immediately prior to their demolition in 1901.
I haven’t seen such a fine collection elsewhere and can’t find any equivalent on the net.
I’ll post more details in future posts but for now I’ll let these hauntingly beautiful images speak for themselves.
And finally, the one that got away, still standing in Portsmouth Street.
In a companion post Forgotten Images: Destruction & Construction in Aldwych & Kingsway I look at the demolition of the area and some of the subsequent construction work.
The author of this blog is a qualified and insured City of Westminster Tour Guide who runs unique walking tours and private tours in London. All my public tours are bookable through Eventbrite.