Above: View looking east at Aldwych in December 1928. Photo copyright Getty images.
“A Moment in Time”
There must be thousands of millions of photos of London that have been taken ever since the medium was invented in the 1840s. Most of the pictures have very little of interest in them; many are of interest for a particular reason; and just a few – like this one – have a timeless charm that have the ability to interest anyone who views them, regardless of whether they are interested in the history of London or not.
This view is very easy to identify. We know it was taken in December 1928 – when the Aldwych had only been in existence in its present form for about 20 years. We are looking east, with the photographer probably standing in the road, in the Strand, with his back to the junction of the Strand at the north end of Waterloo Bridge. Whether he needed to mount his camera on a tripod – bearing in mind that the date is 1928 – is not known. We can see that it was a dull misty day and in 1928 camera film was not as fast as it is now.
The building on the far left, with the wall-clock, was then newspaper offices – standing very close to the north side of the Strand. It is now in use as a five-star hotel. The offices are seen facing onto Aldwych which, apart from something that looks like a small cart beside the pavement, there is no other traffic at all. Behind the top of the bus we see a building which is the western extremity of Bush House. That building was later demolished and replaced with a modern office block. Looking along Aldwych we see a light-coloured corner building which is the Novello Theatre (still there) and beyond it is the curved building with pillars on the outside which is the Waldorf Hotel (also still there, now part of the Hilton group of hotels).
The pedestrians in the picture seem to be strolling across the roads so there was probably a general blockage of traffic. One of the reasons the traffic is not moving is because a flock of sheep are being driven through London and are in the process of crossing Strand.
A number 15 bus is being held up on its route from (according to the sign board) Barking to Westbourne Green. The complete list of places mentioned on the sign board are ‘Westbourne Green, Paddington Station, Marble Arch, Regent Street, Strand, Cannon Street, Bank, Aldgate, Barking’. There is still a number 15 bus but its route has been considerably shortened – running only between Poplar and Trafalgar Square. Much of the route described on the sign board has been taken over by other routes.
The bus driver waits patiently while the sheep – being sheep – seem to wander slightly as they cross the Strand. Although you might think that this photo is rare, there are other similar photos of sheep being driven along Strand in existence. Today, any farmer needing to move his sheep would have a suitable lorry for transport without the need to worry about any liability that might arise due to the scenario in the above picture.
It is probably now illegal to drive sheep along a Central London, not because of the sheep running around but because the air pollution probably contravenes some animal bylaw – never mind that the humans have to put up with that pollution on a daily basis!