— Victorian London – 1800s

These fascinating black and white pictures taken by photographer John Thompson show the reality of existence in the 1800s when photography was in its infancy.

In 1876 he set out with writer Adolphe Smith and together the pair spoke to, and photographed, people who would later appear in a magazine – Street Life in London.


The pictures, now stored at the Bishopsgate Institute, capture the lives of street beggars, chimney sweeps, street doctors and market sellers among many others.


Each picture caption is accompanied by the words written by Mr Smith and originally printed in the monthly magazine – and are as enchanting as the images themselves:


1. old women reduced by vice and poverty to that degree of wretchedness which destroys even the energy to beg


2. An Old Clothes Shop in St Giles: ‘As a rule, secondhand clothes shops are far from distinguished in their cleanliness, and are often the fruitful medium for the propagation of fever and smallpox.’

3. Caney the Clown once delighted at the pantomime but ‘since his exertions to please at Stepney Fair caused the bursting of a varicose vein in his leg, the mending of chairs brings him constant employment’


4. The Temperance Sweep: ‘To his newly acquired sobriety, monetary prosperity soon ensued and he is well known throughout the neighbourhood, where he advocates the cause of total abstinence’


5. The London Boardmen: ‘If they walk on the pavement, the police indignantly throw them off into the gutter, where they become entangled in the wheels of carriages, and where cabs and omnibuses are ruthlessly driven against them’


6. Cast-Iron Billy: ‘Forty-three years on the road and more, and but for my rheumatics, I feel almost as hale and hearty as any man could wish’


7. Cheap Fish of St Giles: ‘Little Mic-Mac Gosling, as the boy with the pitcher is familiarly called, is seventeen years old, though he only reaches to the height of three feet ten inches’


Via The Daily Mail

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