“London in 1891”
This view puts the observer right in the roadway. along with the traffic and the policeman. The road is the approach to Blackfriars Bridge, which is out of view on the right. The horse-drawn bus has just driven along New Bridge Street which runs south from Ludgate Circus. In 1891 a motor car would have been a very rare sight indeed. Almost all of London’s traffic was horse-drawn. As well as the two horses pulling the four-wheeled double-deck bus, there are several Hansom Cabs in the background along with several horse-drawn carts – usually called ‘vans’ in those days.
The policeman is presumably on point duty although he seems to have little traffic to worry about. You could stand at the same position today and take a similar picture. The only trouble would be that the traffic would be nose-to-tail and finding a gap in the vehicles to enable you take the view of St Paul’s would be almost impossible.
As has already been mentioned the road to the right leads to Blackfriars Bridge – which is a road bridge. Running parallel to that is another crossing – Blackfriars Railway Bridge – taking trains to and from South London. Their journey north is via the railway bridge seen in this painting and then under Ludgate Hill, towards Farrindon Station and then thence to the Thamelink station connecting with St Pancras International Station.
Returning to the bus for a moment, it is quite full with passengers, some of them sitting upstairs and one with an umbrella up. Many of the modern bus routes in London still follow those started in the mid-1800s. Quite which route this one is cannot be seen from the painting although on the side of the bus is ‘ISLINGTON’ in large letters. Along the top deck is an advert for ‘The Star’ – a newspaper which continued being being published until 1960.
Behind the passengers on the top deck of the bus can be seen a narrow building which is easy to recognise. It is the Black Friar pub. It is one of the few Art Deco pubs in London. The building on the far left no longer exists and there is a small open space on its site. The carriages behind the policeman are at the western end of Queen Victoria Street. Most of the offices lining that street have been rebuilt since the painting was completed. Right in the centre of view is the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral which, due to the offices being higher today, it is unlikely that any of the dome can be seen from this position.
On the far right, where the curved wall of a building is to be seen, was the entrance to the old Blackfriars Station. Of recent times the whole corner has been modernised with a new station providing an interchange with the station on the viaduct and the underground platforms of the District Line. That new station has also been designed with a curved frontage matching the one in the picture.
Not all of of London remains the same as in 1891 but in this case it is surprising how many places in the scene remain unchanged from the late 19th century.