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Forgotten Images: Before Aldwych and Kingsway

23-April-2012
23-April-2012 0:00
in Planning
by Peter Berthoud

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
Plummer's Court

Sardinia Place
Sardinia Place

Sardinia Street
Sardinia Street

New Inn Banqueting Hall
New Inn Banqueting Hall

A corner in New Inn
A Corner in New Inn

New Inn
New Inn

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

Holywell Street (eastern end)
Holywell Street (eastern end)

Holywell Street (western end)
Holywell Street (western end)

Houghton Street and New Inn Passage
Houghton Street and New Inn Passage

Wych Street
Wych Street

Wych Street
Wych Street

Corner of Wych Street and Holywell Street
Corner of Wych Street and Holywell Street

Corner of Wych Street and Holywell Street
Windsor Court

Sheffield Street
Sheffield Street

Little Wild Street
Little Wild Street

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

The Old Curiosity Shop, Portsmouth Street
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.

 

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