Forgotten Images: Before Aldwych and Kingsway

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.

Map showing part of the Kingsway & Aldwych development of 1905

Map showing part of the Kingsway & Aldwych development of 1905

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.

Plummer's Court, circa 1901 about to be demolished as part of the Aldwych and Kingsway development.

Plummer's Court

Sardinia Place, circa 1901 about to be demolished as part of the Aldwych and Kingsway development.

Sardinia Place

Sardinia Street, circa 1901 about to be demolished as part of the Aldwych and Kingsway development.

Sardinia Street

New Inn Banqueting Hall, circa 1901 about to be demolished as part of the Aldwych and Kingsway development.

New Inn Banqueting Hall

A Corner in New Inn, circa 1901 about to be demolished as part of the Aldwych and Kingsway development.

A Corner in New Inn

New Inn, circa 1901 about to be demolished as part of the Aldwych and Kingsway development.

New Inn

Hall's Yard, Little Wild Street, showing rear of Mission Chapel, circa 1901 about to be demolished as part of the Aldwych and Kingsway development.

Hall's Yard, Little Wild Street, showing rear of Mission Chapel.

Holywell Street (eastern end) , circa 1901 about to be demolished as part of the Aldwych and Kingsway development.

Holywell Street (eastern end).

Holywell Street (western end), circa 1901 about to be demolished as part of the Aldwych and Kingsway development.

Holywell Street (western end).

Houghton Street and New Inn Passage, circa 1901 about to be demolished as part of the Aldwych and Kingsway development.

Houghton Street and New Inn Passage

Wych Street, circa 1901 about to be demolished as part of the Aldwych and Kingsway development.

Wych Street

Wych Street, circa 1901 about to be demolished as part of the Aldwych and Kingsway development.

Wych Street

Corner of Wych Street and Holywell Street, circa 1901 about to be demolished as part of the Aldwych and Kingsway development.

Corner of Wych Street and Holywell Street

Windsor Court, circa 1901 about to be demolished as part of the Aldwych and Kingsway development.

Windsor Court

Sheffield Street, circa 1901 about to be demolished as part of the Aldwych and Kingsway development.

Sheffield Street

Little Wild Street, circa 1901 about to be demolished as part of the Aldwych and Kingsway development.

Little Wild Street

And finally, the one that got away, still standing in Portsmouth Street.

The Old Curiosity Shop, Portsmouth Street (said to have been the original of Dickens's "Old Curiosity Shop").

The Old Curiosity Shop, Portsmouth Street (said to have been the original of Dickens's "Old Curiosity Shop").

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.

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