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In the 19th Century, London was the greatest city on Earth, a vast, bustling metropolis, the richest and biggest city on the planet, and the centre of an empire so vast that it was impossible for the sun to ever set on the whole of it.

In 1877 and 1878, the Scottish photographer John Thomson took a series of extraordinary photographs around London to show daily life in the metropolis.

Whilst London was then the richest city in the world's richest country, poverty was still rife.

Thomson worked with radical journalist Adolphe Smith on the project, which was one of the first to concentrate on working-class people.

It features child labourers working on the streets of London, as well the back-breaking jobs of many people in the capital.

The pictures were compiled into a book, Street Life In London, which is expected to sell for 6,000 at auction.

The hard-hitting collection s hows the grim reality of life for millions of poverty-stricken Londoners during the Victorian age.

Included in the 36 photographs are images of men hiring out donkeys in Clapham; Covent Garden flower women; an elderly lady holding a baby in the street; a young boy working as a shoe polisher; a group of British soldiers having a drink outside a pub; an umbrella seller; a chimney sweep and his boy assistant (young boys were small enough to fit up the chimneys); omnibus driver "Cast-Iron Billy"; and, appropriately considering it is 5th November tomorrow, a monster effigy on its way to a bonfire on Guy Fawkes Night.

In the year the photos were taken, Benjamin Disraeli was Britain's Tory Prime Minister; Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India on 1st January; Britain's Spencer Gore became the first person to win Wimbledon; and the first Test cricket match was held, between Australia and England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which then had an 8,000 capacity but now has a 100,000 capacity.

Londoners through a (very old) lens: Fascinating snapshot of the capital from road sweepers to flower sellers taken at the dawn of photography


The hard-hitting collection of London life in 1877 was taken by photography pioneer John Thomson

Was one of the first photo projects to focus on working-class people and not the aristocracy or landscapes

By Becky Evans
4 November 2013
Daily Mail



From road sweepers to flower sellers, these are the faces of everyday Londoners taken at the dawn of photography.

The fascinating snapshot into the past shows how real people lived towards the end of the 19th century.

The images - taken by photography pioneer John Thomson in 1877 - show the devastating poverty that faced thousands of people in the capital.



Faces of Victorian London: A 'temperance sweep' (chimney sweep) (top) and an elderly woman holding a baby, in a picture titled 'The Crawlers' are part of the historical document



Street sellers: Covent Garden flower women (top) and a 'dealer in fancy ware' with a wary-looking customer are some of the characters featured in the book


Window into the past: Pioneer John Thomson and journalist Adolphe Smith trawled the streets of London to take pictures such as this 'Water-Cart' for their book

Thomson worked with radical journalist Adolphe Smith on the project, which was one of the first to concentrate on working-class people.

It features child labourers working on the streets of London, as well the back-breaking jobs of many people in the capital.

The pictures were compiled into a book, Street Life In London, which is expected to sell for 6,000 at auction.

The hard-hitting collection shows the grim reality of life for millions of poverty-stricken Londoners during the Victorian age.

But it also shows some bizarre sights that have long been lost to history.

Included in the 36 photographs are images of men hiring donkeys out in Clapham and recruiting sergeants in Westminster.



Historic rarity: The book, which includes photographs titled 'Public Disinfectors' (top) and 'Carey The Clown', is up for auction in Gloucestershire


Forgotten treasures: 'November Effigies' shows an impressive-looking monster headed for the flames on Bonfire Night



Child labour: The book shows children at work on the streets of London, including an 'independent shoe black' (top) and 'Italian street musicians'

Donkey ride, anyone? Two likely looking entrepreneurs sit in the sunshine as they try to hire out novelty rides on Clapham Common



Extreme poverty: Some of images in Street Life In London (pictured bottom) show people such as the 'London Nomades' (top) living in shocking conditions

Thomson took the 36 photographs between 1877 and 1878 and published them in a monthly serial over 12 parts.

They were then printed in Street Life in London, with the work regarded as being hugely important for its use of photography as social documentation.

The book is going under the hammer on Thursday at Gloucestershire auctioneers Dominic Winter and is expected to sell for between 4,000 and 6,000.

John Trevers, a valuer and auctioneer at Dominic Winter, said: 'The book is famous in the sense it is one of the first social documentations shown in photographs.



'Dramatic Shoe Black': The reason for the title of this photograph may have diluted over the years, as there doesn't seem to be much 'drama' going on (but their shoes DO look clean)



Everyday London life: Workmen put up advertising posters (top), including one for Madame Tussauds, while army recruiting sergeants relax outside a pub


Cough sweets: A 'street doctor', wearing a corrective shoe and a large top hat, plies his wares on the streets with a sign reading 'Prevention Better Than Cure', with the treatment costing as little as a halfpenny



Scenes of relaxation: Three men drink from tankards outside a pub (top), and a group are shown sitting under the caption 'Hookey Alf Of Whitechapel'



Traders: A trio of 'Mush-Fakers [umbrella sellers and makers] And Ginger-Beers' (top) and the street locksmith

'Rather than photographs of the Royal Family or of pretty parks, this is real people at the bottom of society.

'It was around the same period as Charles D ickens was exposing the underclass and it must have been shocking to see the photographs at the time.

' One of the photographs shows a lady who looks very ill, she was dying.

'It really shows a grim London life and must have been very hard-hitting, this is a very important book.'



'You'll never guess who I had in my cab last night': Omnibus driver 'Cast-Iron Billy' (top, holding whip) chats to a friend, while London cabmen wait for customers


Costermonger: John Walker, a licensed hawker known as 'Black Jack', who made his living by buying goods for wholesale prices and selling it for more



Making a living: 'The London Boardmen' (top), who were jeered at in the street for being walking advertisements, and women working in a clothes shop


'A convicts home': Former policeman Mr Bayliss (top) ran a home for released prisoners. He is seen talking to Indian drummer Ramo Sammy, known as the 'tam-tam man'



For sale: A fishmonger (top) talks to customers at his stall and youngsters enjoy ice-creams from an Italian vendor

John Thomson made his name as one of the first photographers to travel to the Far East where he documented the people, landscapes and artifacts of eastern cultures.

He returned to the UK 1872 and moved to Brixton to live with his family where he published his photojournalism.

It was on his return he started documenting Victorian London. He later returned to Scotland, living in Edinburgh until his death from a heart attack in 1921 at the age of 84.


Refuse collectors: These 'flying dustmen' collected rubbish and dust from across the capital in their horse-drawn wagon


Day in the park: A nanny and a child pose for a picture on Clapham Common. The odd-looking contraption in the centre of the picture is a portable darkroom


Victorian street food: A shellfish vendor is surrounded by customers interested in trying his wares



By water or on land: Boatmen on the River Thames (top) who were known to work on the 'silent highway', and a picture titled 'Covent Garden Labourers'

1877

In 1877 Benjamin Disraeli was the Tory Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Queen Victoria, who had been on the Throne for forty years, was proclaimed Empress of India on 1st January.

The Satsuma Rebellion took place in Japan, in which a group of disaffected samurai revolted against the government.

Britain annexed the South African Republic.

For what is still the only time in history, the annual University Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge finished in a dead heat

The first Wimbledon lawn tennis tournament began, with Great Britain's Spencer Gore winning it. No women were allowed to take part.

The first Test cricket match is also held, between England and Australia, at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), which then had a 2,000 capcity but now has a 100,000 capacity. Australia won by 45 runs.

In October, a mining disaster in Blantyre, Scotland, killed 207 miners.

The Cotopaxi volcano in Ecuador erupted, resulting in a severe mudslide which wiped out whole villages, killing 1,000 people.

Sitting Bull lead his band of Lakota into Canada to avoid harassment by the United States Army under Colonel Nelson Miles.

The British Mediterranean fleet was sent to Besika Bay, off what is now Turkey


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Last edited by Blackleaf; Nov 4th, 2013 at 10:59 AM..