This website uses cookies to provide a rich user experience. Please consult our Cookie Policy to learn about what cookies this website uses, or to control the cookies you receive. You need do nothing if you are happy to receive cookies.
Look and Learn History Picture Library Image from the history picture library

Subject: ‘London’

All of these articles and images are available for licensing: click on an image to see further details and licensing options; contact us about licensing textual content.

London Underground began with the Metropolitan Line in 1863

Posted in Historical articles, History, London, Railways, Transport, Travel on Wednesday, 19 March 2014

This edited article about the London Underground first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 597 published on 23 June 1973.

Metropolitan Railway opens,  picture, image, illustration
A station on the Metropolitan Railway opened in 1863 by Pat Nicolle

Snorting, plump-bellied horses clattered along the London streets. With their harnesses jingling and the springs of their carriages creaking, they paraded through the busy thoroughfares with the dignity of true, thoroughbred carriage horses.

Clearly, they were the lords of the highway. And their fashionable passengers sitting in open carriages behind them, dressed in their finery for all to admire, oozed with aristocratic refinement.

At intervals, however, a horse’s well-fed, dappled belly found itself poised over one of a number of holes, covered with gratings, that had begun to appear in the road. And at regular periods, there would be an eruption like a miniature volcano from the hole. Thick, sooty smoke, scalding steam and showers of sparks would belch forth from it.

If an unfortunate horse happened to be passing over the hole at the exact moment of the eruption, it received a hot blast on its belly that made it bolt in terror. A gentle jaunt became a steeplechase, and the passengers found their sedate carriage transformed into a rocketing projectile.

Meanwhile, just below the road, the device which had caused the horse’s discomfiture would be spinning along the track of London’s first underground railway. The culprit was a steam locomotive which created a great deal of smoke. To enable this to escape, “blow holes” were cut in the tunnel roof, and the resulting eruptions frequently caught horses unawares.

However, even the horses got used to it in the end, and the problem was later lessened by the introduction of improved locomotives.

Nevertheless, Londoners were pleased with their underground railway. It had been opened in 1863 and ran for 3 ¾ miles from Bishop’s Road, Paddington to Farringdon Street in the City.

Read the rest of this article »

The Pre-Raphaelites wanted truth and naturalism in their Art

Posted in Art, Artist, Famous artists, Historical articles, History, London on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

This edited article about the Pre-Raphaelites first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 594 published on 2 June 1973.

Day Dreams,  picture, image, illustration
Day Dreams by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

With most movements in Art it is possible to say when they started, who were members of that movement, what their aims were, why they had the name they did, and when they ended. One of the most interesting things about the Pre-Raphaelite movement in Art is that it’s difficult to answer any of those questions. The one thing that is known with absolute certainty is when it actually began. The rest is confused and often contradictory.

Firstly, let us try and find out exactly why they were called the Pre-Raphaelites. There are a great many theories about this, but these are the three most common. The poet and painter, Rossetti, was impressed by a life of the poet Keats that he had just read and said that he thought that some of the early painters “surpassed even Raphael himself”. Raphael was one of the most famous painters of all time, who died in Rome in 1520. Another painter named Ford Madox Brown claimed that the name ‘Pre-Raphaelites’ was a common art term at the time and the brotherhood just adopted it. Holman Hunt and Millais, two of the founding members of the movement were once criticising a painting by Raphael called ‘The Transfiguration’, when someone who overheard them jokingly commented that if they didn’t like the picture then they must be ‘Pre-Raphaelites’. This last story is so undramatic that it is probably the true reason for the adoption of the name.

Now we know what their name was, let us look at the people who made up this movement and try to find out what their beliefs were. In 1848, three men came together in the home of Millais at Gower Street in London and founded what they called the ‘Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’. Apart from Millais, already an artist of some distinction, they were Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt. These three painters were generally dissatisfied with the dull state of Victorian art and vowed to try and change it by their collective skill. They enlisted Thomas Woolner, a young sculptor, Rossetti’s brother William Michael, another young painter named James Collinson (who was probably only included because he was to marry Christina Rossetti, who herself became a fine poet) and a friend of Hunt’s named Frederick Stephens who had never painted a picture. These were the seven men who planned to revolutionise Art.

Read the rest of this article »

The Palace of Whitehall in London about 1680

Posted in Architecture, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, London, Royalty on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The Palace of Whitehall about 1680,  picture, image, illustration
A reconstruction of the Palace of Whitehall in London about 1680 by Peter Jackson

This detailed architectural drawing is a reconstruction of the Palace of Whitehall around 1680, a few years before the Glorious Revolution. The Palace was a treasure house of the ancient and the modern, with many buildings dating back to mediaeval times alongside the magnificent new additions of the Tudor and Stuart period. The original residence had been bought by the Archbishop of York in the 13th century, but once it was acquired by Cardinal Wolsey its splendour was not long in the making. Henry VIII acquired it after the vainglorious prelate’s demise, and it served as the monarch’s palace until 1698 when it was almost entirely destroyed by fire, save for the magnificent Banqueting House built in 1622 to the designs of Inigo Jones, its interior painted by Rubens a decade later. It stands at the centre of our reconstruction, while to the right can be seen the Horse Guards barracks and at the top the Holbein Gate, the entrance to the Palace of Whitehall.

Many more pictures relating to Whitehall in London can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The Old Palace of Westminster in London about 1530

Posted in Architecture, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, London, Politics on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Old Palace of Westminster, picture, image, illustration
The Old Palace of Westminster about 1530 by Peter Jackson

This historically accurate drawing shows a reconstruction of the Old Palace of Westminster in the reign of Henry VIII. It is a bird’s eye view from the north east showing the Old Palace itself, with its waterfront and the Westminster jetty or landing stage. There was no bridge over the Thames at Westminster until Labelye’s Westminster Bridge was completed in 1750. To the right can be seen the clock tower in what is New Palace Yard, and in the background rises the impressive Gothic majesty of Westminster Abbey, and in the distant corner the Holbein Gate. Westminster Hall sits at the centre, the oldest extant building of the Old Palace, which still stands today at the heart of Britain’s history and political establishment, over 900 years since it was built.

Many more pictures relating to the City of Westminster, London, can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Old St Paul’s Churchyard in London around the year 1600

Posted in Architecture, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, London, Religion, Trade on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Old St Paul's Churchyard
Old St Paul's Churchyard next to Old St Paul's Cathedral in C17 London by Peter Jackson

Old St Paul’s Cathedral was a Gothic church which dominated the City of London and the skyline of the capital. Its fabric, however, was in a dire state of repair and during the 16th century various depredations took place, including a wholesale stripping of the cathedral’s interior ornaments after a mob was incited by evangelical Protestants, who preached a ranting sermon from St Paul’s Cross in 1549. Many subordinate buildings were demolished and the stone sold off to developers, including the builders responsible for Cromwell’s new London palace, Somerset House. Other properties were sold or rented out as commercial premises, and booksellers colonised the formerly sacred site.

Many more pictures relating to St Paul’s Cathedral, London, can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

Aubrey Beardsley’s genius flowered in black and white

Posted in Art, Artist, Famous artists, Historical articles, History, London on Monday, 17 March 2014

This edited article about Aubrey Beardsley first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 592 published on 19 May 1973.

Beardsley with Whistler,  picture, image, illustration
Beardsley showing Whistler some of his drawings

Every now and again the world of the Arts produces a young man who flourishes early and reveals a unique and heady genius. Like a rare butterfly on a warm summer’s day, they dazzle the imagination and then perish, leaving behind only a memory of their talent and a legacy of their art for later generations. John Keats and Thomas Chatterton – poets of great brilliance who died young – are two tragic examples that come instantly to mind.

In the world of Art, the finest example of the precocious hot-house orchid – the short-lived genius – is certainly the late Victorian illustrator, Aubrey Beardsley. The critic Arthur Symons has said: “Beardsley ended a long career at the age of twenty-six.” Bearing in mind that he produced very little noteworthy art before the age of twenty, the comment of Symons becomes even more remarkable.

Beyond the fact that he was born in 1872 and was a sickly child, there is virtually nothing of interest in the life of Aubrey Beardsley until we reach the year 1890. Because of his ill-health, Aubrey played very little with other children and was forced into the company of adults. He also read prolifically and widely, developing tastes far in advance of normal young people of that period. This led to his strange maturity which many of his later contemporaries commented on as sitting oddly on his young shoulders.

Round about 1890, the painter Whistler met a tall, painfully thin young man with a large, beaky nose. Dressed impeccably, almost in the dandified manner of the famous Beau Brummell who had died some 50 years earlier, the youth introduced himself as Aubrey Beardsley and produced some sketches. The irascible artist was impressed with the potential that the drawings revealed, but was also critical of the masses of flowing lines and intricate designs that covered every inch of the pictures. He said: “He (Beardsley) has far too much hair on his head and even lets it flow all over the paper.”

Despite his comments, Whistler was aware that the young Beardsley had real talent, and he encouraged him accordingly. After a year or so of scratching around on the fringes of the artistic circle that was so influential in London at that time, Beardsley had a couple of successes that were to prove crucial. The young and enterprising publisher, J. M. Dent offered him a contract to provide 350 designs for a new edition of Sir Thomas Malory’s “Morte D’Arthur.” This led him to discipline his wayward art and become pre-eminent in his mastery of the medium of Indian ink. Apart from one venture into oil paints, which is in the Tate Gallery, Beardsley devoted himself to black and white illustrations for nearly everything he ever drew.

Read the rest of this article »

The Victorian Department Store sold every conceivable thing

Posted in Historical articles, History, London, Trade on Monday, 17 March 2014

This edited article about Victorian shops and shopping first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 592 published on 19 May 1973.

Whiteleys,  picture, image, illustration
Whiteleys in Queensway was London’s first department store, by Peter Jackson

The narrow street was so crowded that it took Jim Jones some time to find what he was seeking. He was on the short side, so had to keep jumping up for a quick look at the stalls. Finally, beside one where rabbits were on sale, some hanging from a cross-bar between two wooden supports, he spotted a table piled high with tins of corned beef.

It was only three years since the first consignment of these had reached Britain from the United States in 1870, and housewives in poor areas were very grateful. The meat sold at 4d. a pound, something like 10p. in today’s terms. Jim’s parents were quite well off, for his father was a shoemaker in an age when people walked far more than they do today, and this helped trade considerably. But by using tinned beef, Mrs. Jones had the money she saved to spend on little luxuries, like butter. This was expensive at two shillings a pound, but it was so much nicer than a substitute invented in 1869 called butterine, the ancestor of today’s margarine!

Most food in Britain a century ago was still sold on market stalls. Saturday was the big shopping night, when wages had just been paid. Some families did their shopping on Saturday afternoons, for at last half-holidays had become fairly general.

The number of food shops was growing. Mr. Sainsbury had opened a grocery shop in Drury Lane, London, in 1869, and his was not the first. A Mr. Harrod had started a grocery shop in 1849, which was later to become the most famous big store in the world.

The very poor in Britain’s cities and in the countryside led wretched lives, trying to eke out some sort of an existence on ten shillings a week or less, but things were improving a little for them by 1873, including their standard of health. Yet, basically, they survived on a meagre diet and dressed in third-hand clothes.

Standards of food in shops and on market stalls, and of drink in public houses, varied wildly. An exception was manufactured goods which made that aspect of shopping easier, for everything of a particular kind was factory made to a uniform standard. Skilled workers, men earning 28 shillings a week or more, often used the Co-operative Societies – the Co-ops. These had been started in the 1840s, the very first being at Rochdale in Lancashire. In these shops, food standards were high. Not for their customers was there the risk of buying butter, one half of which consisted of the melted fat of cats and dogs, a typical money-saving device of the day by crooked dealers. And Co-op customers shared in the profits!

The 1870s were a turning point in British shopping, one splendid sign of the times being the opening of the first fish-and-chip shop in Oldham, Lancashire. Our friend, Jim Jones, would have known all about them by the time he was in his ‘teens, for the great event happened in 1870 and the idea caught on quickly.

On a higher level, the age of the big department store had begun. The stores were not the sort of shops that Jim’s mother could have visited, except on special occasions, for their prices would have been more than she could afford. But some of Mr. Jones’s more prosperous customers no doubt used them.

Read the rest of this article »

Shopping and boozing in 18th century London

Posted in Historical articles, History, London, Trade on Friday, 14 March 2014

This edited article about eighteenth-century London first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 590 published on 5 May 1973.

C18 shopping,  picture, image, illustration
The Unlucky Glance, depicting a group of people in a shop in New Exchange, London

“Poison detected!” announced the pamphlet dramatically. “Frightful Truths and Alarming to the British Metropolis,” it continued, and Mrs Smith’s heart sank. It was hard enough shopping in London in the 1750s without having another scare about what went into bread!

The anonymous doctor who had written the pamphlet claimed that all sorts of things that could make a person ill went into the bread, and there was no doubt that a lot of alum was used in the flour to make it white. Nobody ever proved or disproved the alarmist doctor’s claims, for no one would have done anything about it anyway in those free-for-all days.

It was typical of what Londoners were up against, for in the middle of the 18th century, when Mr and Mrs Smith and their son Tom lived off Piccadilly, the countryside was gradually being driven back by the spread of the town, which meant that the food, in those days before health inspectors and refrigeration, was getting steadily worse because of the distance from the country, that it travelled. The Smiths being country-born were appalled by the state of the milk by the time milk-maids, some of them grubby and anything but romantic, had brought it in open containers through London’s filthy, smoky streets.

But shopping for most goods was fun. London contained half a million people or so, 15 times as many as the next biggest British cities, Bristol, Glasgow and Norwich, and nearly a quarter of all the houses were shops. Of course, only some of them were shops as we know them today. Anyone who could collect a few goods together could sell them from his front room and call it a shop. With these semi-shops, the real ones, and the many street markets, London was a commercial paradise.

Read the rest of this article »

The Beargarden in the entertainment district of Southwark

Posted in Animals, Architecture, Famous landmarks, Historical articles, History, Leisure, London, Sport on Friday, 14 March 2014

Bear Garden,  picture, image, illustration

The Beargarden in Southwark, London

The Beargarden was an enclosure in Southwark with a purpose-built theatre-like stadium for the baiting of bears. The exact location of this famous entertainment spot has been difficult to find, and it is thought that the original Elizabethan beargarden may have moved around the time of the building of the Globe Theatre in 1599. The theatrical impresario and entrepreneur, Philip Henslowe, bought the prestigious Mastership of His Majesty’s Game in 1604, since he had already been engaged in staging bull and bear baiting as well as pursuing his more famous theatrical career of staging plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. He continued to provide the sport in the famous old Beargarden well into the Jacobean period, until in 1614 he decided to demolish it and build the Hope theatre, which was used for both plays and animal baiting. Half a century later Samuel Pepys called the sport “a rude and nasty pleasure” after visiting the very same venue in 1666.

Many more pictures relating to Southwark can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.

The Rose Theatre at Bankside in Southwark, London

Posted in Actors, Architecture, English Literature, Historical articles, History, London, Shakespeare, Theatre on Friday, 14 March 2014

Rose Theatre,  picture, image, illustration
The Rose Theatre, Southwark by Peter Jackson

The Rose Theatre was one of four theatres on the south side of the Thames in Southwark, that district notorious for leisure and lascivious pleasures, whence the revenues went to William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester, and undoubtedly paid for the establishment of his New College at Oxford, as well as Winchester College itself. It was the first London theatre to stage any play by Shakespeare, and yet its success was short lived. It was built by Philip Henslowe, whose diary from the period remains the most important historical primary source for the study of the Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre. It was the smallest of the London theatres, but despite later enlargement by Henslowe himself, seems to have been unpopular with many theatre-goers. An outbreak of the Plague closed all playhouses for two years, and when they re-opened the Rose failed to increase its popularity. The Privy Council’s decree in 1600 that there should only be two theatres in the district signalled its demise, along with the building of the Globe in 1599. The Rose was abandoned and closed in 1603 when its lease expired. It was probably demolished around 1606.

Many more pictures relating to Southwark can be found at the Look and Learn picture library.