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  • Writer's picturePeter Berthoud

London in a Nutshell

An antique memento is unfurled to reveal London's top sights in 1903.


A loosely coiled strip of paper, about the length and size of a tape measure, with images of London printed on the inside surface.



43 Images of sights in London. Each site is named in the table below.

The unfurled Nutshell contains 43 tiny images of London circa 1903 and is nearly 3 feet long. The tiny coiled reel came to me in a metal film canister, this can't have been the original packaging but it has done a good preservation job.


In these pictures the highways belong to horses, Regent Street's shops have awnings, trees grow outside the National Gallery, Buckingham Palace lacks a balcony, Marble Arch is not yet completely marooned and the Hotel Cecil dominates the view of Embankment. These are all the views:

​London in a Nutshell

​Imperial Institute

​British Museum

​Mansion House

​Kensington Palace

​Old Curiosity Shop

​Royal Exchange

​South Kensington Museum

​Gaiety Theatre

​Old Houses Holborn

​Holland House

​Law Courts

​Liverpool Street

​Kensington High Street

​Somerset House

​Cheapside

​Brompton Oratory

​Marble Arch

​The Bank

​Albert Hall

​Piccadilly Circus

​St Pauls

​Rotten Row

​National Gallery

​Tower

​Crystal Palace

​Regent Street

​Tower Bridge

​The Mint

​Piccadilly

​St Pauls From River

​Ludgate Circus

​Westminster Abbey

​St Pauls

​The Strand

​House of Parliament

​Albert Memorial

​Embankment

​Clock Tower Westminster

​Buckingham Palace

​Trafalgar Square

​Horse Guards

​Roman Catholic Cathedral

​Hyde Park Corner

Reg. No 477,742

Nutshell View Co.,

88 Chancery Lane,

London, W.C.

I am very fond of this little "Nutshell", with its unevenly sized, badly trimmed photos and truncated captions. Together these little pictures were the summation of the greatness of the capital at the beginning of the 20th century, or at least a summary of the images of London that a visitor wanted and was willing to pay for. Pictures of places they had visited, pictures of places to visit "next time", pictures of places to imagine, pictures to keep in a "safe place".


As with so many mementos or souvenirs the object and its quality are of secondary importance. We store our keepsakes safely chiefly to remind us of the moment and circumstances surrounding their acquisition.


A few pennies spent on a blustery/rainy/gloriously sunny day in a shop near Buckingham Palace/at a stall in Piccadilly Circus/from that strange man on the steps of the National Gallery. A gift from a far distant friend/a lover/a future spouse/a child/a dear departed one. A lucky find in a gutter/a bet won/on the floor of a bus on the way home from ...


Ephemeral objects are as reliable as fine treasures when it comes to storing and provoking the individual and collective memories vested in them.


Nutshell wound inside metal film canister.







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